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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Verb of Motion Sickness

????????/???????: to come down hard on someone; to put the squeeze on someone (slang).

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Remember verbs of motion? For me that phrase conjures up the little black stick figures in my Russian textbook, endlessly going in and out and up and down, in cars and on foot, while my poor brain struggled to combine concepts like "female" "car" "approaching" and "often" in order to spit out the appropriate verb, tense and prefix, conjugated properly.

And then you come to Russia and hear: "??????, ?? ??????? ?? ????." Don't drive into me??? Surely, that can't be right!

Actually it could be right, if the speaker was standing right in front of a car and about to be run over. But more often the phrase is used to mean "don't give me a hard time," "don't get on my case," "don't pressure me." In this sense it can be used to mean "to nag": ??? ????????? ???????? ?? ???? (she is always nagging her husband). In another context it can mean "to put the squeeze on somebody": ??? ??????? ???????. ?? ??? ??????? ??????? (they had to close up shop -- some hoods shook them down).

Then there's ????????, which means "to drive past something," or "to drive a certain distance": ?? ??? 100 ?????????? ???????? (we've already gone 100 kilometers). But you can also hear it in the office: ?? ??? ???? ??? ????????? ???? ??????. ????????! (We've discussed that issue five times. Let's get past it!)

Or ???????. On the road it means "to drive in" -- ?? ?????? ? ????? (he drove into the garage). But it can also mean "to understand," as in the phrase: ? ??? ????????? ????? ??????, ?? ?? ?? ??????" (I explained the way we work, but he didn't catch on). Or it can be a fairly crude and not very common way of describing a punch: ?? ?????? ??? ?? ????? (he socked him in the face).

??????? can also be a punch in the face: ?? ?????? ??? ?? ?????. But most of the time it means to drop in on someone by car or "to end up somewhere" -- ?? ?????? ? ?????? (he ended up in the ditch).

??????? means to "drive away," "to move out," but can also mean "to exploit" or "to use" someone: ??? ?? ??? ??????? (they used him). Because Russian verbs of motion are designed to make us poor foreigners crazy, ??????? also means to "move out" -- ??? ??????? ? ???????? (they moved out of their apartment). But if you're talking about an object, it can mean "to slip": ?? ????? ??????? (her hat slipped to the side). This usage is most famous in the slang expression ??? ????? ??????? (literally, his roof slipped), which means "he's lost his mind." And if you're talking about someone in a car on a ferry, it means "to go ashore." ?? ??????? ?? ?????. (At this point I want to tie those little stick figures into knots or break their little spidery legs so that they won't go anywhere ever again ... )

If ??????????? is "to call someone back" and ?????????? is to "redo something," then ????????? must mean "to go back to some place." No such luck -- Russian verbs of motion are the greatest means of torture since the rack. ????????? is to "cross over something in a vehicle" or "move from one place to another (as in to move house)." ?? ??? ????????? ????, ????? ???????? ????? (we had crossed over the bridge when the storm began). ?? ????????? ? ?????? ????? (we've moved to another city). It's useful to know that ??????? can refer to a crossing, in particular a railway crossing.

And finally there's ???????, one of the first words we all learn. It means "to set out on a journey" and is usually used in the past tense to mean "let's get out of here," "we're off," "we're out of here." "?? ??? ??????????. ???????!" (We're already late. Let's go!) It can also mean "to get started" or "let's do it": Two drinkers can raise their glasses and say, ???????.

It was used most famously by Yury Gagarin -- his "we have blast off" was a jaunty "???????!," as if he were going to the store instead of outer space.

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.