THE WORD'S WORTH: A Brush Up on Brush Offs for the Streetwise

There he is, right behind you.

You are nearly breathless after briskly treading two gigantic Moscow city blocks in a desperate hope to lose him. He came up to you as you were perusing the cheap liqueurs at a kiosk. You felt his hot tobacco breath - eau de Belomorkanal - on your neck, as he begged you to make your acquaintance.

Not knowing what to do, you ignored him, but he did not budge. You turned and he confronted you, asking why you would not talk to him.

You faked him out with a quick sway to the left and took off up the crowded street. But tobacco face was still there, wanting to know if you wouldn't at least join him for a cup of coffee - and then maybe if that went well, for a five-course obed - at the Cafe Aist.

Where did this guy come from? And how do you get rid of him?

For most women in Moscow, the Assault of the Soviet Man is an inevitable fact of life. Whether on the street or next to you on that flight to Irkutsk, these guys are eager, willing, and a "No, thanks, I'm busy until Christmas" to them means "I'm just being coy."

So what do you do?

Be polite but firm. Do not leave any doubt in their minds that you are not interested in conversation, food or anything else. Never say "maybe some other time" - they tend to take that literally.

When that swarthy type swaggers up to you with lust in his eyes and a "Davaite poznakomimsya," (Let's get acquainted) on his tongue, respond quickly and decisively with "Izvinite, ya speshu," (Excuse me, I'm in a hurry) or, if you're really flippant, "Ya ne takaya, ya zhdu tramvaya" (I'm not that kind of girl; I'm waiting for a tram), and keep moving.

If he persists - "Nu devushka, nu davaite," (Oh, come on) - give it to him straight: "Ya proshu vas, ostavte menya v pokoye!" (I beg you to leave me alone!)

This will do it for many men. But the real muzhik will have to make sure you mean what you say.

This time, let him really have it: "Kak vy mne nadoyeli!" (You're really boring me!)

You can also try "Ne prikasaites ko mne!" (Don't touch me!) or "Otstante ot menya!" (Get away from me!)

And if you're really desperate: "Ya seichas militsiyu pozovu!" (I'm going to call the militia!)

Never swear. Period.

And never address him using the informal ty form of the verb, which is practically an invitation for intimacy. If he tries it on you, just lob back a cool "Ya s vami eshcho ne pila!" (I have not drunk with you yet!), a gentle reminder that life's most important moments are sealed over a bottle of vodka.