Monday, September 28, 2009

Those Russian names

Perhaps the Russians would say the same thing about us with our Matthew's and Joshua's and Sarah's. But isn't the stereotype true, that Russian first names repeat far too much?

In my cell phone, the numbers that I recorded from my first few years here have simply the first name written in Russian or English with no other identifying characteristics. Once I got to the second and third occurrences of the names, I started adding last names and other clues to help me remember which one it was. However, even the first initial of the last name isn't very helpful. Obviously I know my friends' voices; but nevertheless it is helpful to know in advance who is calling. +/-

So now those numbers are lost to me...the ones that are listed only as "Nastia" or "Olga." I will probably never remember which one.

I had a dilemma the other day. I was falling asleep in front of a movie, having a case of the Sunday-afternoon sleepies.

Suddenly my cell phone rang, displaying a first name which is unisex in the Russian language. Uh-oh. I guessed it was a male friend of mine, but when I answered, it was a female voice. The situation grew even more mysterious...

She used her last name, but it still wasn't ringing a bell. And it felt rude to ask. So in my drowsy state I went along with the conversation. She was asking for the phone number of a mutual acquaintance. Okay, that gave me a few more clues. I promised to send her the number.

Later, I went through some names in my head and came up with a possibility of who it could have been. It was someone I hadn't seen for 3-4 it makes sense that I wouldn't have expected her to call. But I certainly should have displayed more enthusiasm upon hearing from her. Oops!


  1. That's why you need those patronymics!

    Russian names remind me of Elizabethan names. A lot of repeats. The multicultural quality in US names is nice, but I am not so sure about the "creative" streak in vogue....or the a-sexual names: Taylor, Tyler, etc. Although in the US you can pretty well guess what age someone is by their name. Usually.

    I have a little girl in our RE program whose name is Dorothy. Her mother's name is Brittany, so that is eternally confusing. On a more classic note, quite amazingly I have a team of three college girls teaching this year whose names are: Margaret, Lucy and Jane!

  2. V...........................September 28, 2009 at 6:10 PM

    Quite a few names here in the US represent a certain time frame. For instance, when I hear the name Brittany, I think of someone who wasn't born more than 15-20 years ago. On the other hand when I hear the name Norma, I know it's someone who is at least 40-50 years old. Usually, it is the case.

    African Americans have their own set of names (I sometimes wonder if they just come up with those names as they go...) such as: Latifa, Sharifa, Bonifa, Tanisha, Jamal, etc.

    Liz, that's why the Russians are so creative at giving nicknames to each other, particularly during the school years. When you have 10 Sergeys in a class, a nickname for each one of them helps.

  3. Имя Андрей не так уж часто встречается! :)

  4. Да, кстати,"Андрей" у меня один в тел. книжке. :)

    Annie, the patronymics repeat too...they're just variations on the first names!

    It is definitely true that names are associated with certain generations...

    My brother and his wife were joking about calling their baby "Obama." Luckily it's going to be a girl!


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