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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: Remember to Say Your Pleases and Thank Yous




Somehow in the spring, as the weather gets better and the days get longer, it is easier to believe that we really do have much to be thankful for. Perhaps too many of these columns have been about how to effectively complain or how to deal with people who are rude. It is no doubt high time for a quick look at blagodarnost' (gratitude).


All students of Russian, of course, and even many people who don't speak the language know the word spasibo (thank you). Many, though, do not know that the word stems from the phrase spasi vas Bog (God save you), just as many people do not realize that the English word "good-bye" comes from "God be with you." The Russian verb for "to thank," incidentally, is poblagodarit'.


Spasibo is common enough, although perhaps not as common as it should be. Further, one often hears spasibo ogromnoye or bol'shoye vam spasibo, both of which mean "thanks a lot." Personally, I have always been partial to the phrase vy menya ochen' vyruchili (you really helped me out a lot). Vyruchit' has at its root ruch, from the word ruka (hand), and therefore is similar to the English expression "to give someone a hand."


When you get bored with spasibo, you may want to try something like ochen' vam blagodaren (I am most grateful to you) or even ochen' vam priznatelen (I am most beholden to you). These expressions are a little bookish, of course, but in the right circumstances can work wonders. Older people and the particularly cultured will especially appreciate them.


When writing letters, you should know the expression zaranee blagodaren (thank you in advance). People giving speeches need spasibo za vnimaniye (thank you for your attention).


The standard response to spasibo is pozhaluista (you're welcome). Perhaps even more common and conversational, though, is ne za chto (it's nothing). Textbooks might introduce you to the phrase ne stoit blagodarnosti (no need for gratitude); I can't say that I have ever heard anyone say this, however.


In Russia, as everywhere, there are neblagodarnye lyudi (ungrateful people). There are also times when merely saying spasibo is not good enough. Russian has several expressions like iz spasiba kashi ne svarish' (you can't make porridge out of "thank you") and iz spasiba shuby ne sosh'yosh' (you can't make a coat out of "thank you"). To emphasize the point, we can add spasiba v karman ne polozhish' (you can't put "thank you" in your pocket).


The important thing is not to let the neblagodarnye lyudi get you down. Keep on plugging away at doing nice things and keep in mind another Russian expression: za neblagodarnykh Bog blagodarit (God says "thanks" on behalf of the ungrateful).