Putting Up With All of That Noise

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Акустическое загрязнение: noise pollution

Ah, spring. The sound of birds chirping in the morn --

What? What did you say? Can you speak a little louder? I can't hear you! Hello?! Huh? Please speak up! Say what? Louder!

This is life in my apartment these days. Tragically, a 19-story mixed-use building will be constructed about four inches from my bedroom window. Right now, the boys are digging the foundation pit. Or that's what they say they are doing. When I look out the window at 3 a.m. on Sunday, all I see is a very large vehicle roaring back and forth under my apartment, doing nothing but sending up gas fumes and a racket just to keep me and my neighbors awake.

When I tried to describe the din, I discovered that my Russian lexicon of noise was somewhat lacking. I have since rectified this and would like to share my findings with my fellow Expat Muscovites so that you, too, will know the right words to scream at various officials who are entrusted by the public -- and supported by our tax rubles! -- to enforce noise and construction regulations.

Шуметь (to be noisy, to make noise). This is the lowest level of auditory interference, a word you can use to describe high-spirited children -- дети шумят (the kids are making noise). But this word might be applicable with the addition of a few choice adverbs: "жасно шумят! (They're making a terrible racket!) Невыносимо громко шумят! (They are making unbearably loud noise!)

Греметь. This is a great verb for describing any deafening, booming, thundering, clanking noise. Гром гремел (There was a crack of thunder). Колокола гремят (The bells are pealing). If pealing bells doesn't suggest a loud noise to you, imagine all 21 bells of the Ivan the Great bell tower Kremlin ringing at the same time, including the 64-ton Resurrection Bell. Now imagine that sound two inches from your bedroom window. Got it? This verb can be used with бульдозеры (bulldozers), экскаваторы (excavators) and отбойные молотки (jackhammers).

Грохотать. Another excellent verb for describing thundering, roaring, rumbling, clattering and crashing. Ночью грохочут грузовики (Trucks roar during the night).

--тучать. This is the verb for pounding and hammering. If грохотать is the sound of a kettle drum roll, стучать is the snare drum counterpoint. Рабочие стучат молотками (Workers are pounding hammers).

"рещать. This is the verb you use for cracking and crackling. It is also the verb you use to describe the effect of construction work on your apartment house. Из-за стройки трещит дом (The construction work has caused cracks in the house). And the verb you can use to describe the effect of the construction on your head: Всю ночь голова трещала (I had a splitting headache all night).

The best noun to use is грохот (din, crash, roar, thunder), which can be applied to virtually any loud and disturbing noise. In Russian, noise стоит ("stands"). Всю ночь стоит страшный грохот стройки (All night there is the terrible din of construction).

But all this, my neighbors tell me, is mere лирика (sentiment). These are words you use for emotional coloring. When you call the cops or the noise hotline, it's good to use a few of these vivid verbs, mention sleepless infants and elderly folks, and ask for a commission to investigate those new floor to ceiling cracks in your apartment. Then you get down to business. Они превышают допустимую норму шума (They are above the permitted noise level). Шум доходит до 100 децибелов (The noise is up to 100 decibels). If the beleaguered bureaucrat on the line is skeptical, say: Приезжайте и измеряйте! (Come and measure it!)

Sometimes, my neighbors say, you get results. Sometimes, they warn, you do not. If worse comes to worst, you have one other option -- затычки для ушей (earplugs).

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based interpreter and translator.