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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: If You're a Teapot Try to Avoid Large Wardrobes




One of the truest signs that spring has arrived in Moscow is the sudden boom in traffic. At last the Ladas and Zhigulis have been freed from the snow bank under which they spent the winter, and they are free to clog the streets of Moscow.


It is only natural, then, that this sudden increase in traffic leads to a corresponding increase in traffic accidents - another sign of spring.


Should you fall victim to one of these seasonal scrapes - or, even worse, be the culprit - there is a good chance one term will come up during the ensuing negotiations about who should pay for what: chainik.


Teapot? What possible use could a chainik, or teapot, have in the middle of a traffic accident? In this case a teapot is not just a teapot, but a novice or inexperienced driver. Taken out of the kitchen, this inanimate object can refer to a human being not only on the roads, but on the ski slopes as well, or just about any sporting activity. The teapot's great versatility lends a generic air to the simple apology: "Prostitye, ya chainik, " or, Pardon me, I'm a teapot. These three words can mean anything from, "Sorry to have taken out your tail light," to "Oops, I didn't mean to step on your skis."


The chainik example opens up a world of possibility for inanimate objects eager to be lifelike. Take, for example, the shkafchik. This ubiquitous wardrobe is found in most Russian flats. But take it out to a nightclub, and the shkafchik takes on a whole new meaning, referring to those large, hulking, no-neck type thugs with whom contact is not strongly recommended. You might also see them hovering around celebrities in a protective fashion.


The plow, or sokha, is another inanimate object that can be used to describe a person. On ot sokhi, literally meaning he is from the plow, is the equivalent of a country bumpkin - an innocent village boy in the big city. Once this former farmhand leaves the village, he is often teased for his humble roots. His more worldly city companions might make fun of him for being from u chorta na kulichikakh, meaning the middle of nowhere. More literally, the expression means where the devil bakes Easter cakes, which is an out of the way location, indeed. If they were feeling particularly rude, they might say that he is from mukhosransk. This less than polite expression refers to the very place where flies relieve themselves.


If the farmhand is smart, he'll ignore these taunts and move on. If he's big enough he might find work as a shkafchik. And if the work is steady, he may even be able to save up for a new car, and before you can say "u chorta na kulichikakh," this shkafchik ot sokhi will be a chainik.