Articles by Michele A. Berdy

Wrapping It Up: Russian Style

One of the tricky places in Russian is the cognate zone: that place where English and Russian words that sound alike and have the same root hang out and dream up ways to confuse you. These so-called cognates are sometimes also false friends and fair-weather friends.

What's a √аврик? Can I Have One? Russian Slang 101

Time for a pop quiz! What is гаврик? a) a nickname for Gavriil; b) a sleeping mat for dogs, a conflation of гав (bark) and коврик (small rug); c) a silly person; d) a hustler; e) all of the above; f) none of the above; g) some of the above; h) will you just tell us already?

Slipping the Russian Mind

You're standing in the entryway of your apartment building, glancing at the utility bills you've just taken out of your mailbox. You see your neighbor step out of the elevator, but before you have a chance to say hello, he steps backs into the elevator and pushes the button of his floor. As the doors shut, he shrugs his shoulders and says sheepishly: —клероз! (Sclerosis!)

Russians to World: Gimme Some Elbow Room

In the world of linguistics, the notion that perception is shaped by language and language is shaped by environment is not entirely well-regarded.

One Russian Adjective, Many Crowning Moments

I am going to close my mind to the horrors of the past few days†and cast my gaze on the far more benign sphere of Russian adjectives.

Lies, Damn Lies and Translation: Mucking With Quotes in Russian

Normal people have normal hobbies. They garden. They hike through the woods. They collect stamps. I am not a normal person.

Hands Off the Merchandise: Don't Be Chummy With Your Russian Honey

While I was walking in the park the other day, I saw a particularly attractive little dog, whose wiggling, tail wagging and walking toward me seemed like a clear indication of friendly intentions.

A Fixer-Upper The Russian Way

Russia and Russians have a reputation for doing things big: big land, big hearts, big feats Ч the biggest, tallest, largest, longest whatever, from aquariums to hotels. Appropriately they have a few words that are huge, too. I mean words that encompass an enormous range of meaning, like this one: благоустройство. It's a whopper of a word.

Soviet-Era 'Parasites' Return to Today's Russian

I like a stroll down memory lane as much as the next guy, but lately a spate of possible "new" laws seems a bit too close to the "old" laws for comfort.

Bug Off! The Russian Way

As one of those people who responds to obnoxious behavior†with either astonished silence or lame rejoinders, I'm always very impressed with people who have a clever comeback.

Giving Life and Bouncing Back in Russian

If you hopped on a plane, bus, or train last weekend to travel to a country with few Orthodox Christians, you might have forgotten the Easter rituals.

Russia Discovers America, Snarkily

Most of the time when America comes up in the Russian news or conversations these days, it's not in a nice way. There is an accusation, a slur, or a wild claim. I mean, these days if a cat got hit by a KamAZ in Kazan, it's Barack Obama's fault.

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by Russian, in Russian

Language acquisition is a weird process. Sometimes I understand a phrase and even use it and then suddenly realize that I don't have any idea what the actual words in the phrase mean.

Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome In English and Russian

Here's a good question: "My neighbor keeps calling me пиндос. Is that good or bad?" It's good if you're a pony. But if you're an American — not so much.

Office Affairs and Chit-Chat Around the Russian Water Cooler

Imagine that you are a foreigner who has been studying English. You've mastered most of the grammar Ч except those pesky articles and absurd tenses Ч and your listening comprehension is pretty good.

At the Russian Root of the Matter: Fun with Etymology

Of all the many things I love about Russian†is etymology: tracing a word from its origins to its present meaning and usage.

Trump to Putin: What'd You Call Me?

Now that we know a little bit about Barack Obama's views on the Russian president, what does Vladimir Putin think about the possible next American president?

Putin: Not Completely Stupid or Completely Not Stupid? Or Neither?

I feel a rant coming on. Actually, I've been working up to a rant ever since the Russian press got hold of Jeffrey Goldberg's enormous piece called "The Obama Doctrine" that was published in the Atlantic magazine.

Mark and Lev: Local, Innovative and Delicious

Recently opened in Gorki 2 about 15 kilometers out Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, Mark and Lev brings farm-fresh food and Russian cuisine to a new level.

The Fine Art of Drinking to Your Health, the Russian Way

On various recent holidays, did you raise your glass and pronounce “на здоровье,” proud in the certainty — buttressed by films, books, your own ears and a number of your Russian friends — that you’ve just made the classic Russian toast “to your health”?

How to End Arguments in Russian the Slangy Way

Let's take a pause in our analysis of the language of treaties, propaganda and diplomacy for something useful for a change Ч like a couple of Russian slang words that every foreigner should know.

How to Discuss a Syria Cease-Fire in Russian

I haven't been very hopeful about the negotiations in Syria, particularly last week when Syrian President Bashar Assad was quoted as saying, "Regarding a cease-fire, a halt to operations, if it happens, it doesn't mean that each party will stop using weapons." I mean, isn't the definition of a cease-fire when each party stops using weapons?

He Who Speaks Bad Russian, Stays Long

How hard is Russian? Really hard. So hard that a kid who is гуманитарий (someone interested in the humanities) almost flunks his school Russian test. He now has репетитор по русскому (Russian language tutor).

Moscow Demolition: A Primer in Russian Propaganda

If you've been on a 36-hour flight or locked in a cabin in the woods, you might have missed the news that almost 100 buildings were destroyed in Moscow overnight. But it wasn't a war or terrorist attack. It was the Moscow government putting your tax rubles to work.

Russia's Long Romance with Patriotism

Love of one's land, people and way of life has certainly existed in Russia for as long as there have been Russians. Patriotism, however, is a relatively new word.

All the Russian Words You Need to Talk About Icy Roads

The official Russian response to the report on the Litvinenko inquiry released last week was, predictably, offhand and dismissive, referring to it as "некое расследование" (so-called investigation ).

All the Russian Words You Need to Discuss the Litvinenko Inquiry

The official Russian response to the report on the Litvinenko inquiry released last week was, predictably, offhand and dismissive, referring to it as "некое расследование" (so-called investigation ).

Rush for Moscow Exhibition Sparks Serov Jokes

This Saturday in frigid weather, lines to an exhibition of paintings by Russian artist Valentin Serov in Moscow were several kilometers long and people were literally breaking down the doors to get in.

Shifting Gears, Russian-Style

Last week German Gref, the head of Sberbank, created a sensation at the Gaidar Economic Forum Ч and not by scaring the pants off everyone in the audience with his scathing picture of the state of the Russian economy.

What to Call Russia's Last Man Standing

The holidays are over, and you are hoping that the price of vegetables has fallen from their are-you-out-of-your-flipping-mind peak on Dec. 31, when eggplants hovered around the 1000-ruble per kilo mark and cucumbers cost as much as platinum. You stop in a grocery shop.