Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE WORD'S WORTH: Should You Boss, Gas, Or Dress Your Salad?




There is nothing like a game of Scrabble with non-native speakers to heighten your appreciation for you own native tongue. After several recent games with my worthy opponents f all of whom speak English in varying degrees of fluency f I once again expressed gratitude that I never had to learn English the hard way.


Just take the word run: You can run up a bill, or you can run up a hill. You can be on the run f as in dodging the law f or you can have the runs. How versatile three little letters can be.


But there are several words in Russian that can give their English counterparts a run f so to speak f for their money. And for me, <i>zapravit'</i> is as versatile as a pair of black loafers.


In its imperfective form, <i>zapravlyat'</i>, it can mean to direct, as in to be the boss. While this does not necessarily have a negative connotation, it is far from complimentary. <i>Upravlyat'</i>, for example, is a much more neutral way of overseeing. But to <i>zapravlyat'</i> is to make a point of bossing people around. Those who <i>zapravlyayut</i> f such as the bully on the block or certain mothers-in-law f like to show off their elevated position.


And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Even when you are far from the bullying crowd <i>zapravit'</i> is a word you might hear when you are looking unkempt. <i>Zapravit' rubashku v bryuki,</i> for example, means to tuck your shirt into your pants.


However, once you step into the kitchen <i>zapravit'</i> has another meaning altogether. It is here where an endless variety of salads are not tucked, but dressed with that workhorse of the Russian kitchen: <i>smetana</i>, or sour cream. When it is time to <i>zapravit' salat</i>, or dress the salad, you know that dinner is near. This dressing, by the way, takes the lesser-used instrumental case. <i>Chem zapravit' salat?</i>, or what shall we dress the salad with? <i>Smetanoi!</i>


Once you have learned how to <i>zapravit' salat,</i> you are also capable of completing another tedious yet necessary task: filling the car with gasoline. Just hop in the car and head over to the nearest <i>zapravka</i>, or gas station, where you can <i>zapravit' mashinu benzinom,</i> or gas up the car. You may have noticed that drivers will often use the reflexive form of this verb, <i>zapravit'sya</i>. When they see the gas tank nearing empty, they head for an <i>AZS</i>, or <i>avtomobilnaya zapravochnaya stantsiya</i>, or automobile filling station. This acronym should not be confused with the similar looking <i>AES</i>, which stands for <i>Atomnaya Energeticheskaya Stantsiya</i>, or nuclear energy plant.


While <i>zapravit'sya</i> is often used when referring to the car, there is a more colloquial usage of the reflexive form of this verb f to fill yourself up, as in, to eat well. So, hurry up and <i>zaprav' salat</i> so that you might <i>zapravit'sya.</i>