Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Terms of Endearment

This morning I was thinking about the different ways I am addressed throughout the day, living in Russia.

On the street, I am called "devushka," which means "girl" or "young lady." It really used to annoy me every time I heard someone calling me "girl." It felt like people were either too rude to call me by a proper title or were scolding me as if I were a schoolgirl. But then I started to imagine that it can be translated more like "miss" or "ma'am," and then I can pretend that people are being polite. Still, it is going to be weird a few years down the road when people start calling me "woman."

In work situations, Russians use the first name and patronymic. I like all Russian renditions of my name, and I also like when Russians try to pronounce my American name. Most of them can't do the "th," so it sounds very French or something. :)

Last names are used in certain situations. I don't generally appreciate being called by my last name or by my last name followed by my first name. It makes me feel like I'm in gym class or in the army (not that I would know), where everything is impersonal and there is a lot of shouting.

People that I know generally call me by a Russian version of "Liz." Most Russian names have a common nickname or two that get used quite often, and those are the names that you come across in circles of friends.

Okay, while, I'm talking about the Russian language, here's one area that always trips me up:

There are certain polite conversational phrases that require a short response. “Nice to meet you.” “Nice to see you.” “Merry Christmas.” Now in English, we usually use the catch-all “You too” or “Same.” But in Russian, there are many variations of “you too” to allow for different cases (direct object, indirect object, etc.). And I usually use the wrong one.

Also, sometimes the answer should be “me (or I) too” instead of “you too”! Such as, “I’m glad to see you.” In English, we would say “you too,” meaning “I’m glad to see you too.” But in Russian, you should say “Me too,” meaning “I’m also glad (to see you).”

I should stop there, or I’ll ramble on and on about grammar when I should be doing other things.

Now, what about “I love you”? Is it “Me too” or “you too”?


  1. I just say I love you too! HA, no shortened version there.
    Love this post...it's soooo true! We are learning that more and more as we learn the language.

  2. Плюс, у нас к именам еще могут добавляют всякие суффиксы, что еще более расширяет диапазон вариантов :)

  3. Да, я собиралась об этом писать, и забыла!


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