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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: Choosing Words Need Not Break Your Back




One of the all-time winners of great opening lines came from a book on Russia that was written by a Dutch journalist: In Russia, everyone is a farmer in a small flat.


My apologies to all native Dutch speakers if the translation is a rough one, but anyone who has been stuck behind a row of zhigulis loaded with tomato saplings on the way to the dacha knows that the sentiment rings true.


These same saplings, before they get stuck in May Day traffic, are first nurtured from seeds on the window sills of countless Moscow kitchens.


When the ground thaws, the real work begins, and it doesn't stop until the winter freeze.


I do not speak from experience. No flat-based farmer am I.


In fact, my house plants have come to expect only a monthly watering.


Nonetheless, come fall I usually fantasize about the seasonal practice of going to the potato, or *"ІЃ?" _Ж ЩЖ????Щ?, when students were shipped out of town to the nearest collective farm to help dig up the annual spud harvest.


I imagine all the giddy young recruits gathered to receive their daily assignments.


The farm director might line them up in a row to send everyone out in the fields, or ??????Ѓ?" Ѓ? ???∞- ??* ???...Ѓ ?Ж∞??Ж?".


Depending on the nature of the work, he might Ѓ"?*?Ѓ?" Ѓ? ?"L...?І??, or measure them up with a glance to see who might best be suited to digging.


And thus they were off, to merrily and selflessly L_??" ??Ѓ_? _Ж ??ґ?L?, or to break their backs for a stranger - ??ґ?©, Щ????-© Ѓ? ??Ѓ?Ж?Ж..., or a stranger who forced them to work.


??Ѓ?Ж?Ж?" comes from the verb ?Ж?Ж?", to plow, which is used to express hard physical labor.


For example, you may say ? ?Ж?? ЩЖЩ ...??ЖІ", or I work like a horse.


Similarly, you can also work like an Ѓ?ЖЩ, or donkey. But you can express working like a donkey with a much greater economy of words.


Indeed, in this land where everyone is a farmer in a small flat, there is a verb which expresses to work like a donkey: Ѓ?Ж?Ѓ?".


If ploughing is not your game, there are a variety of other verbs to express hard work. ?ЩЖ...-?Ж?", for example, means to work hard, as does ЩЖ...-?Ѓ?".


You may also ??ІЩЖ...-?Ѓ?", or work on the side.


Or you may prefer to find someone to work for you, or _Ж©?Ѓ ?*...??*ЩЖ, Щ????-© _Ж ?*∞? ∞?І*? ЩЖ...-?Ѓ?".


Slap a different prefix on and ??ЃЩЖ...-?Ѓ?" can also express hard work, but unless you are a masochist, do not confuse this with ??ЃЩ?...??"??, which means to have fun.