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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: Business Name Game Is a Sign of the Times




Walking past Belorussky station the other day, I was pleased to see two cafes that I had never noticed before.


There is, to be fair, little that can be pleasing about a cafe within a 50-meter radius of any train station. But I judge these establishments not by their interiors, menus, or service f in fact, I did not set foot in either of them. No, I am judging them by their names alone.


The first, <i>Na Pososhok</i>, plays off the travel theme. What could be more inviting than a station cafe called One For the Road? The owners of the beer hall across the street were probably kicking themselves for not coming up with the name first. But what they did come up with f the classic <i>Est' Vremya</i>, or There's Time f may prove to be equally inviting. In fact, it may invite people to miss their trains.


These names are, perhaps, not extraordinary. But it is nonetheless refreshing to find a cafe or store owner showing a little creativity. When I first came to Moscow there were only two types of shops: <i>gosudarstvenniye i kommercheskiye.</I>


"<i>Ty kupila eto v gosudarstvennom ili kommercheskom magazine?</i>" was the running question among my female co-workers at the time, all of whom ran out to shop during their coffee break. Did you buy that in a government or a commercial store?


By commercial store, they meant the handful of private shops selling anything from thigh-high leather boots to coffee mugs. I remember one shopping excursion when I bought a box of mango tea, a monopoly board and some mosquito netting all in a store the size of my kitchen. But these "commercial" shops were still few and far between. Everything else was a "government" store.


But then the era of privatization began (or, as some called it, <i>prikhvatizatsiya</i>, or stealing), and the city's shops were no longer owned by the government, but by an <i>Aktsionernoye Obshchestvo</i>, or union of shareholders.


Take the shop around the corner from me. They went from <i>Khimchistka No. 47</i>, or Dry Cleaner No. 47, to <i>AO Khimchistka No. 47</i>. Strangely enough, this AO no longer engaged in dry cleaning at all, but it took several months before the owners figured out that they could actually change the name to reflect what they actually sold: perfume.


Not everyone was so slow-witted. I recall one cafe on Prospekt Mira that lured our dining party one evening with its name: <i>Zaidi i Poprobui</i>, or Come and Try. This we did en masse, only to be robbed at knife point by the group sitting next to us.


The police officer who came around to let us out after the waiters locked us in for not being able to pay our bill did not fail to see the irony of the restaurant's name.


You got what you wanted, he said with a chuckle. <i>Vy zashli. Vy poprobovali.</i> You came. You tried.