Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

A "Happy New Year" card from Russia
Photo by Violette79

My dear friends,

I want to thank my readers for visiting and commenting this blog. I'm very thankful to my students - you were phenomenal and helped me to stay in a great intellectual shape!

In case you've missed it, here are the top 3 posts of all time:
  1. Why Russians Are Not Smiling
  2. Russian Diminutive Names
  3. Russian Accent

Happy and prosperous New Year 2013!

Sincerely yours,
Eugenia

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Sculptures

Moomen in Snew, Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Photo by Rincewind42

Snow, more snow, even more snow! This is what you need if you want to build a snow village. In my hometown in Siberia, big trucks start bringing snow from suburbs to the city's main square starting from early December. As the permanent snow cover falls on in November, getting enough snow to build a little snow village is not a problem.

Snow can be as tough as stone, but first you have to tamp it down. Municipal workers put large wooden boxes in the place where the snow village is supposed to be and fill them up with snow. After some time, the snow in the boxes becomes more dense, and the workers continue to add more. Eventually, you get perfect snow cubes (parallelepipeds, being geometrically correct) of about three meter high. Now it's time for creative work. Snow artists take shovels, knifes and I don't know what else and make sculptures.

Every winter snow artists have a competition. The best snow sculpture is normally awarded a substantial prize, so artists try their best to make something beautiful, unusual and sophisticated. I saw a large number of witches (actually, a specific Russian witch named Baba Yaga), Moomins, huge snow cats, squirrels, mice, bears, wolves, steam trains and so on. However, there are the two New Year sculptures that are traditional: Ded Moroz (The Grandpa Frost) and his grand daughter Snegurochka (Snowgirl). Unlike Santa, Ded Moroz wears a long coat and long beard. Snegurochka also wears a long coat and a braid.

Beside sculptures, there are a few ice slides and little cottages in the snow village. An ice slide was my favourite winter entertainment when I was a kid. The last time I risked a slide was when I was 20. It was a New Year's party, and my friends came up with the idea to go to the ice slide. Well, I tore my nylon tights, but the delight of sliding down with a whoosh was worthy.

Normally, snow villages are decorated with lights. Winter is a dark season, so Christmas lights help the festive mood. Sometimes there is music, which makes it even better. Throughout winter, snow villages are favourite places to go.

Little by little, the temperature goes up, and snow starts melting. In order to avoid flooding, municipal services destroy snow villages and take the snow back to the suburbs. Usually it happens in mid March or even later, and by then snow sculptures become dirty and miserable.

Perhaps, snow villages are impractical and irrational. They eat up city budgets and take a lot of time and effort to build and maintain. But they bring magic to our lives, and municipal authorities know and respect that. Without these snow festivities, a New Year holiday would be just an ordinary day, dull and boring. This is why every year, no matter how hard living is, every Russian city erects its snow villages with a large Christmas tree and Ded Moroz and Snegurochka.

Friday, December 14, 2012

How Does It Feel When It Is That Cold

Early in the morning today I called my parents in Siberia (we have 12 hours time difference, so it's not that hard to figure out what time it is there). I've been living in Ontario's southernmost city since September 2011, but I still remember what Siberian winters are like. And the talk with my mom just refreshed my memories.

It was negative 36C/33F in Barnaul today. Many cars refuse to start, public transportation is also unreliable. There is a good risk of getting stuck in a bus station while waiting for a bus, and the weather won't make the waiting comfortable. Smaller towns experience disruptions in food supplies, suburban buses has been cancelled. Electric trains, which are the most popular public transportation for many people who commute from suburbs to the city, also stopped running. But life goes on, and people stay warm in their homes. With the central heating system, Siberian houses are always well-heated, at about +25C.

Some people who have never lived in a cold place, think that cold is when it is snowing. Siberian people know that it is never cold when it is snowing. The real cold is when it is sunny, no wind, and the mercury plummets to the very bottom of the thermometer. Snow is good, snow means nice winter weather. Sunny frost is what is really dangerous.

When it is below minus 30C, it becomes harder to breathe – your nostrils stick together, because your breath is humid. Your eyelashes become icy, as well as your hat, and scarf. If you cover your face with a hand (which is in a mitten), your mitten will become icy too.

For pedestrians, a normal strategy is to walk quickly from one door to another, from one shop to another. Frost urges everyone to move faster, but running is a bad idea, because you will need to breathe in faster, so your nose won't have enough time to warm up the air, and you may hurt your throat. Talking while outside is also not a good idea – you may draw in more cold air with your mouth.

Paradoxically enough, when the temperature is that low, people rarely catch cold – the frost kills everything, including viruses and bacteria. The flu season starts later, when it becomes warmer.

Cold air makes synthetic clothes cling together, and plastic becomes stiff too. This is why Siberians value wool, fur and other natural materials so highly.

Cold weather is beautiful. The view of a frosty sunset is breathtaking. But taking a picture of it may be problematic, because your camera may refuse to work, and if you have a DSLR, its lenses may freeze and stop moving. Mobile devices are also no good in a weather like that. First, it is just impossible to use a touchscreen when your hands are in mittens. Second, mobile batteries lose their charge very quickly when it is about minus 30. I used to wear my mobile phone somewhere in an inner pocket, so it wouldn't freeze and would remain charged for a longer period of time.

I hope the wave of cold weather will be over soon in Siberia, and people there will enjoy their New Year parties. My parents like to take a walk to an ice sculpture town at night, on December 31. In Siberia, almost every city and town, no matter how big, boast of ice sculptures during the winter. I'll talk about them next time.


It was -35C when Paul Philippov took this photo of me

Friday, August 10, 2012

Perfective and Imperfective Aspects

Once I heard a joke: you can say that you ate a pie in any language, but only in Russians you may let other people know whether you left anything for them. This joke express the idea of distinction between perfetive and imperfective aspects pretty accurately. If there's nothing left in the dish, you can assume that it was a perfect pie and it was eaten entirely. Here you have to use a perfective verb “съесть” [syest'], since the action was completed. However, this is not the only meaning of the perfective aspect, and the more you think about it, the more confusing it gets. Let's try to make a complex thing simple.

The first thing about the verbal aspects is: every verb in Russian has an aspect. It means that every verb is either imperfective or perfective. There's no verb in Russian that doesn't have an aspect. There's no verb in Russian that could be both perfective and impervective (well, actually, there are a few perfective verbs that are absolutely like their imperfective counterparts, but it is not important here).

The distinctive feature of all perfective verbs is that they represent an action as a whole, and this action exists in the limited space of time. The idea of the limit is quite abstract here. It could be the idea of getting something done (съесть - to eat something to the last crumb, прочитать - to read a book to the rear cover, вымыть – to clean or wash something entirely etc). It also could be the idea of stopping doing something without getting any noticeable result. You have stopped doing something, thus, you are not doing it anymore, therefore, use a perfective verb (Я поела суп– I have being eating a soup for some time and then stopped eating and started doing something else; я почитала книгу – I have being reading a book for some time, but I'm not done with the book, I have just switched to another activity; я помыла руки – I just state that I have washed my hands, but I can not give any guarantees that they are absolutely clean). Also, the idea of the limit may refer to the beggining, and there are a bunch of perfective verbs that represent the starting of doing something (Она запела – she started singing; они побежали – they started running; он приуныл – he became sad). In every example that I gave above, the action is represented as something whole that happened (or will happen) once, non-repeatedly.

Imperfective verbs, on the other hand, represent an action as something that happens regular or as a process. Russian imperfective aspect is a mix of English indefinite and continuous tenses. Thus, он пьёт пиво could mean that either he is drinking beer at this very moment (hey, leave me some!) or he normally doesn't refuse the idea of getting some beer in proper circumstances. The exact meaning should be clarified from the context.

Why do Russians (almost) never get confused when choosing a right aspect? For the same reason why native English speakers have (mostly) no difficulties with choosing between definite and indefinite articles. When you hear your native speech from the earliest childhood, you just use the grammar intuitively. Start to think about it, and you won't be able to say a word.

Does it mean that there's no way for non-native speakers to master the aspect usage? No, it doesn't. Like with any other grammar rule, practice will make you perfect. But before your brain gets enough statistics through listening, reading, writing and speaking in Russian that the right aspect just comes to the end of your tongue automatically, you have to perform some analysis for each verb you use in your text (or at least, when you feel unsure). Is an action you describe with a verb a process or is it something that happens on a regular basis? If yes, then use imperfective. Is it something that happened once (or will happen just once), it has its beginning and/or its end? If yes, then use perfective. It should work in most cases.

It's Not Rocket Science
Photo by Krissy Venosdale

Saturday, June 2, 2012

What Do You Call Your Loved Ones?

Russian has many ways of expressing your affection for someone. One of the most common is adding a diminutive suffix to someone's name. This is the way that loving parents address their kids, or close friends (usually girls, because it sounds really girlish) or lovers address each other.

  • Mashenka (Машенька) – the affectionate form of Maria (Masha)
  • Olechka (Олечка) – the affectionate form of Olga (Olya)
  • Dimochka (Димочка) – the affectionate form of Dmitriy (Dima)
Once I knew a local rock band, where the male musicians addressed each other with the most cutesy names possible. They looked quite brutal all in black leather and steel, but they called each other “Volodienka”, “Maksimushka”, “Zhenechka” just for fun, because it sounded very comical.

Another way to let other person know about your warm feelings is to use specific affectionate words (or “tender words” as we call it in Russian) like solnyshko(солнышко, sunny), radost' moya (радость моя, my joy), lapochka or lapushka (лапочка, лапушка, sweety, honey). This is how lovers may refer to each other in private or with close friends. Addressing your loved one with these words publicly may be considered immodest and frivolous, since showing private feelings in public is not encouraged in the Russian culture.

Words like dear (дорогой) or sweatheart (милый) sound a little bit too formal. It would sound unnatural if I called my husband “my dear” when waking him up in the morning. However, those are the right words to use at public events.

Quite often close relatives and lovers use animal names to address each other like zaika (зайка, little hare), kiska (киска, kitty), rybka (рыбка, little fish) and so on. These names are also formed with the affectionate suffixes. Actually, any animal that seems cute enough may give a name for the affectionate nickname. I once read that some members of the Tsar's family called each other “seledka”(herring) and even started their letters with “My dear herring.”

Herring
Is herring cute? I don't think so. Yet it can become an affectionate nickname.
Photo by Jacob Bøtter

It is not uncommon for people to invent special nicknames (home names) for each other, and only the closest circle, or even just the two will know what those names are and where they came from. It gives a wonderful feeling of being even closer to someone, being someone special to them. My parents gave my sister and me nicknames, but they were used only within our family. When I was a teenager and my sister was about to get married, my parents warned me not to call her with her home name when her fiancé could hear. One of the reasons for this precaution was because her nickname sounded funny, and another reason was that home names were only for our immediate family, and not for strangers.

What words and names do you use to address to someone you love?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Am I Equal to Myself?

When acquiring a new language you learn much more than just new words for familiar things. You acquire a new way of thinking about the world and a new way of seeing things. “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” Ludwig Wittgenstein said when discussing the idea of linguistic determinism. What are the exact ways the language determines our vision of the world is the topic of numerous researches. What I would like to discuss here is does a speaker represent himself or herself differently when speaking different languages?

Since my birth I was surrounded by Russian speakers and the Russian cultural environment. No doubt the Russian language has had the greatest impact on the way I see the world and communicate with it. I’ve been using the Russian language to represent myself to society since I started talking. With all the capacities available in Russian I expressed my likes and dislikes, I set up social distance when communicating and follow other people’s settings and so on by choosing the specific language means. Let’s call the individual language preferences in self-representation “linguistic identity”.

Now I have moved to Canada, and the only person who can speak Russian with me is my husband. Since I like meeting new people, I take every chance to socialize in the new place. Obviously, I have to use English and its means for building, developing and maintaining relations and for representing myself to others. I’ve found that my English identity is not quite equal to my Russian identity.

I can partly attribute the difference between my two identities to my limited vocabulary; however, I suspect, the problem lays much deeper. In English, for example, I am less judgmental than in Russian. In Russian, many words initially include the judgmental meanings, and you can’t help but judge about things. I think, I’m less discriminative in many aspects when speaking English. Sometimes I feel that I miss gender - and status- specific grammatical features in English that I broadly use in Russian. In fact, it’s another me, who speaks English.

Do you think we indeed develop another identity when learning a new language? Or do you think the impact of the language is overrated, and it makes no difference for your self-representation what language you speak as long as you do it fluently? Please share your opinion with me in your comments.

Here is a short thought-provoking video of Rob Bryanton who talks about the complicated relations between language and mind.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Same Letter For Five Different Sounds

In an ideal world, each language has its alphabet absolutely similar to its sounds, i.e. an alphabet system where one sound would correspond directly and solely to one letter and vice versa. In reality, however, the alphabet is one thing, and phonetic system is another. Quite often, one letter may refer to many different sounds, depending on what position it takes in a word, and one sound may be represented by a bunch of letters.

In the Russian language, the most interesting case is the letter “Г” (like G in 'go'), which may represent five different sounds. Here they are:

1. [g] when it comes before the vowels а, о, у, э, i.e. letters that does not imply palatalization of the preceding consonant. Also when comes before voiced consonants. Examples: гол [gol] (goal in a football or hockey), гул [gool] (hum), гром [grom] (thunder).
2. [g'], soft g, when it comes before letters that imply palatalization of the preceding consonant, like и or е. Examples: ген [gen] (gene), гимн [gimn] (anthem).
3. [k] when the last letter in a word or when comes before unvoiced consonant. Example: рог [rok] (horn), ЗАГС [zaks] (registry office in Russia)
4. [v] in the endings of adjectives and pronouns in Genitive. Example: его [yivò] (him/his), злого [zlòva] (of smb. angry)
5. [ɦ] in some idioms/ interjections. Examples: Прости Господи [prasti ɦòspadi] (Lord have mercy, lit. Lord forgive me), ради Бога [radi bòɦa] (for God's sake).

While the first three sounds comes from the very nature of the Russian phonetic system (the regular opposition of hard and soft sounds and the rule of un-voicing the voiced consonants in the end of words), the latter two sounds are nothing else but tradition. The г ->в change is irregular and works only for adjectives and pronouns. In Russia's South and Ukraine, [ɦ] is common, so in the idioms, which mostly refer to the God, it's the influence of the Southern dialect, however, besides the idioms, Russians normally pronounce [g] in the words mentioned above.

The good news is that other Russian letters are more predictable and represent less sounds than Г. Happy language learning!

The Russian letter Г/G drawn by Ankita. All the things in the picture start with Г: Глаз (an eye), Галстук (a tie), Галоша (a rubber shoe), Гвоздь (a nail).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring and Flowers

We, Russian women, are quite romantic. Most of us like being presented with flowers. And March 8th is the right day to give us a bunch of flowers, because it is the International Women's Day, which is an official holiday in Russia.

In Russia, it is still cold and snowy in March, however there is a special scent of Spring in the air, a scent of melting snow, that puts everyone in a romantic mood. This is why most women dream about flowers in March. Gently coloured flowers like tulips, narcissuses or snowdrops are the signs of changes for good – for better weather, for Summer leisure, for something new. The traditional flower of the March 8th is mimosa (acacia dealbata), however, any flowers would be appreciated.

Mimosa
Photo by Roger Ferrer Ibáñez

I studied at the department of philology, which is usually dominated by female students. We have only a few guys there. It was late afternoon, March 7th, and we were enduring a long and exceptionally boring lecture on first aid treatments. It is mandatory for all students to learn first aid at the university. Suddenly the doors opened, and one of our guys entered bringing a large basket of snowdrops with him. During the next 15 minutes he managed to give every girl in our department (roughly 60) a bunch of snowdrops, and, of course, the first flowers were for the lecturer. It was a very nice gesture by him. He turned the boring, endless lesson into the memorable event. Should I say that since then our hearts were attracted to the guy?

Pulsatilla flavescens
Photo by Tatiana Bulyonkova

There is one little thing that you should know if you are going to present flowers to a Russian woman. In Russia, you may present only odd amount of flowers. Even amount of flowers are for funerals. If you give a Russian lady two or four flowers, she may feel offended, because you compare her to a corpse. I don't know why it is so. Some women think this is just a stupid prejudice, but is it a good idea to learn by practise if your lady shares the prejudice? I don't think so.

I wish everyone very good spring weather, love and inspiration! And happy Women's Day to all ladies!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rediscovering Pączki

When the Soviet Union collapsed and small businesses started blossoming in post-Soviet Russia, a private bakery opened near my parents' house. Every day when coming back from school I could smell the scent of fresh bread, one of the most seductive scents in the world. I saved my pocket money to buy a delicacy called “ponchik” (пончик, a type of doughnut) there. Since then the word “ponchik” has become a synonym for ingenious joy and delight for me.

A few days ago, my husband spotted an advertisement in a local Canadian newspaper inviting everybody to join in a Pączki's Day. Many European (and particularly Eastern European) bakeries are celebrating Pączki's Day this Tuesday by offering a good choice of doughnuts, or pączki. It turned out that the word for this kind of doughnuts came to Russian from the Polish. The polish letter “ą” sounds like a nasal [on], so pączki is nothing other than my favourite ponchiki!



Russians don't celebrate Pączki Day (Fat Thursday), but we eat pancakes (блины, bliny) throughout the week, instead. This Sunday is Maslenitsa (масленица), when many people enjoy eating an unlimited amount of pancakes with various jams, sour cream, caviar and much more. There are many various recipes for bliny, but what makes Russian (and Ukrainian) bliny different is that they are normally bigger, thinner and made without yeast.

Bon appetite all, who have Pączki's Day or Maslenitsa this week!

Blini
Photo by Andrei Zmievski

Bliny
Ingredients:
  • Flour - 1 cup
  • Milk - 3 cups
  • Baking soda - 1/2 ts
  • Sunflower oil - 2 tbs
  • Eggs - 2
  • Salt and sugar to taste.

Mix eggs with 3 cups of milk. Add salt and flour and mix thoroughly. Pour vegetable oil into a saucer. Heat the pan. Grease it. Pour thin layer of batter evenly. Cook until light brown, about 2 minutes, flip on the other side with a thin knife and cook another 30 sec. Serve with butter, sour cream, caviar or jam. Enjoy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hard Worker

Morphemes are the parts that form words. For example, in the word “disagreeable” there are three morphemes: the prefix dis-, the root -agree-, and the suffix -able. Each morpheme has its meaning and contributes it to the entire meaning of the word on the whole. In Russian, it works more or less the same way. However Russian also has a special morpheme, the ending (flexia), that adds the specific grammatical meaning to a word and links words together. These ever-changing endings cause many troubles to students, yet it is amazing what a beautiful system endings form and what a great job these small particles do.

An ending carries grammatical information about a word. If it is a noun, ending shows:
  • whether it is a single object or represents many similar objects (singular or plural);
  • 2) if it is a subject of the sentence (Nominative case);
  • 3) the relations the noun to other words, where it is not the main subject of the sentence.
Sometimes, a noun's ending indicates its gender, but you always should double check it with your dictionary.

For adjectives, ending links an adjective to a corresponding noun by putting an adjective into the same number, case and gender.

A verb's ending shows if the action described in the sentence takes place in the past or present/future, if a speaker is talking about himself/herself, you, or another person, and also if the action is real or the speaker just expresses his or her will or wish. All these things are shown with just two or three letters!

Endings link words together into one sentence, helping you to understand the relations between those words. Because endings bind words unambiguously, Russian has flexible (almost free) word order. In English, you have to put words in a proper order to form an intelligible sentence. In Russian, the word order is not that strict because endings allow you to understand how words are interconnected.

The ending is normally the last morpheme in a word, but it is the very heart of the Russian grammar system. Most morphemes carry only verbal meaning (like dis- for negation or -able for capability), while endings ensure narration and code grammatical information about words.

You might think “Well, that's nice. But how am I supposed to memorize all these endings and start speaking Russian?”. Well, my answer is, do just like all Russians do – use Russian in your everyday life. There's no way to learn the complicated (yet logical) system of Russian flexias other than just speaking.

Links
Photo by Ruby Gold

Monday, January 9, 2012

Language Mutates

The Russian language is changing. It is changing really fast. I don’t mean new (imported) words or new slangs -- these mostly harmless things come up regularly and disappear soon. I don’t mean the popular linguistic game with the alternative spelling called scums’ language (язык подонков). Russian language is changing deeply at the level of meanings. Let me explain.

Language is a very dialectical thing. Its development is the result of two opposing trends. They are, on one hand, acquiring and adapting ever-changing reality and, on the other hand, remaining unchanged. Both trends are equally strong and equally important. Because language is flexible and productive, we can invent not only new things, but also their names. We discover the world around us and rearrange our environment, we make simple ideas more and more complex. Yet language serves our needs with amazing efficiency. To be capable of describing reality adequately, language needs changes. However, if it could change limitlessly and freely, we wouldn’t understand each other. Language is a convention between people about words and rules. Why is a cat “a cat”? Only because all English speaking people agree to label this animal with that word. If one part of a society changes rules too frequently, it will no longer share the same conventions with the rest of society, so a Babylon-2 disaster will come about in short time. Keeping the balance between the two needs -- the need for changes and the need for immutability -- is what any (spoken) language manages very, very well.

Some changes are really useful, like, say, adapting new words from other languages (these days, mostly from English) along with new things, like “Internet”. But some changes really upset me. Let me give you an example from a very interesting article of my colleague Irina Levontina. There is a word “накануне” (na-ka-noon-eh) that means a night/day before some event. There is another word, “вчера” (fche-rah), that means yesterday. The first word has one remarkable nuance -- it should be used only when you mention some event. In the sentence “I hadn’t napped the night before the exam” it would be proper to say “накануне” (the night before the exam). What I hear on TV is that journalists use this word instead of “yesterday” without referring to any specific event. They probably think that it sounds more official, but, in fact, they are using this word incorrectly. “The thunderstorm that hit Moscow the night before can come again today” they say. The night before what? Why not just say “yesterday”? It seams that a lot of Russian speakers do not see the difference between the two words any more. It is a slight and subtle mutation, but there are a lot of them in modern Russian.

Why am I talking about all this stuff here? Because I’m trying to find a right answer to the question: when learning a foreign language, should a student learn a classic (stable) version of the language and be able to read books in this language or should (s)he try to speak on one language with the street? What language would you prefer to learn - the one of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy or the one your Russian friend is speaking?

pushkin ang birds
Photo by hnumus

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year’s Resolutions Vs. Wishes

Have you heard about New Year’s resolutions? If you are from North America, you certainly have. In case the tradition of annual resolutions is not so popular in your country, this is a commitment that a person makes to one or more personal goals. “Next year, I will learn another foreign language” is a good example of a New Year’s resolution (and one of the most popular ones). What makes resolutions different from everything else is that they should be something that you could strive for as a person.

In North America, you are supposed to try hard to achieve your goals, but Russians hardly make any resolutions at all. We wish each other good health, joy, peace and happiness, and a lot of things (normally, less abstract, like a pile of money, a new car, a new romance and so on) to ourselves. It doesn’t mean that a person who wishes for a new car has a plan on how to get it or is going to work hard to achieve this goal. This is a desire, and, in a big part, a hope for good luck.

The concept of luck is very important in the Russian culture. During the ages of economic instability and multiple social and political crises, many people in Russia have learnt that success is often not a result of hard work, but rather of good fortune. Why commit your time, energy, or mental capacities for anything that could be smashed in a moment by forces that are much, much stronger than you? Just to mention a few, poor weather can destroy your yields, corrupted authorities can acquire your business, and financial crisis can annihilate all your savings.

However, if you can not take control by rational means, you always have a bunch of irrational tools, like signs and superstitions of all kinds. I know many well-educated young men and women who read their horoscope regularly. Many online and printed media in Russia offer their suggestions on the way you should spend New Year’s Eve in order to attract Good Luck and scare away any misfortunes. Just this morning, my mom told me, half joking, that I made an awful mistake by choosing a chicken for New Year’s Eve dinner, because eating chicken during New Year’s Eve this year may attract bad luck.

Ancient Russian pagan beliefs, like fortune-telling and card-reading are popular too. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Святки, Svya:t-ki) that start in Russia on January 7th is the best time to probe for fortune and make specific magical rituals. At the age 13-15, my friends, teenage girls, and I tried to tell our fortune with the help of a wax candle and water. The shape of a wax drop in the water was a hint - what it reminds you of is what will happen to you next year. Looking deep into the reflections of two mirrors and watching for subtle shadows was also a popular fortune-telling technique. Of course, coffee grounds would meet success among us, but it was hard times in Russia, and the best you could get was instant coffee, which has no grounds.

Language is an obedient servant of the mind. There’s no direct translation for “New Year’s resolutions” in Russian. The closest is “новогодние обещания” (New Year’s promises), though “новогодние желания” (New Year’s wishes) is more common.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

Bees Wax Candles
Photo by Chris Campbell