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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How to Fight the Good Fight

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?????? ?????: to lock horns with someone

One of the things we uptight Anglo-Saxon types can learn from our Russian friends is how to get out all that bottled-up anger. Cancel your appointment with your shrink, toss out the Zoloft, and stop repressing those negative emotions!

The first thing you should do is bear a grudge. There's nothing like righteous anger to put color in your cheeks. In Russian, this is ??? ?????? -- literally "to sharpen your teeth on someone." ????? ? ?? ???? ??? ?????. (I've held a grudge against him for a long time.) And then, when you see the object of your ire, you should let him know. ????????? ? ????? -- literally "to meet someone with a bayonet" -- is a clear signal that you're not feeling warm and fuzzy. You can also use this phrase to indicate a more figurative negative response: ?????? ????? ?????? ????????? ???????????? ????????? ? ?????. (Contemporaries gave a hostile reception to each new work of the artist.)

Sometimes you get along with someone just fine, and then disaster strikes. You can say rather formally: ?? ???? ? ?????? ??????????, ???? ? ??? ?? ???????? ????????? ???????????. (We were on good terms until a serious disagreement arose.) In more colloquial terms, you can say (??????) ????? ?????????/?????????? ????? ???? ("a black cat ran between us"), which is a nice way of describing those mysterious cold winds that can suddenly and inexplicably blow through a friendship. ??? ???? ????? ?????????? ????? ????????? ?????? ?????, ? ? ??? ??? ??? ?? ?????????????. (About five years ago the neighbors had a falling out, and since then they haven't spoken.)

In other cases, you would get along just fine with someone, if not for that one thing that drives you nuts. In Russian, that one thing is ?????? ??????? -- the "apple of discord." This refers to the apple marked "for the fairest" that the goddess Discord tossed down to the banquet of the gods and eventually led to Trojan War. We don't use this reference much in English; we're more likely to use the more down-to-earth "bone of contention": ??? ????????? ?????????? ????? ??????? ??????? ????? ????. (His Internet use was a bone of contention between them.) When this happens, Russian also descends from the banquet of the gods to the muck of the courtyard: ?? ???? ??? ????? ? ???????. (We fought like cats and dogs.)

When you and your friend have a little tiff, you can use the verb ???????????. This is a bit old-fashioned and usually refers to an exchange of words over something minor. ??? ????????? ???? ? ?????? ???????????! (They are constantly bickering!) When cross words lead to crossed swords, you can use the verb ???????. ????? ?? ? ????? ??????? ? ???????. (Last night, my husband and I had a quarrel over money.) Often this sounds more acrimonious than it is, in which case you can assure your friends: ?? ?? ??????, ?? ?????? ???????????! (We aren't arguing, we're just having a discussion!)

But when the fighting heats up, use the verb ?????????. ??? ?? ?? ????????? ? ??? ??? ??????! (How we fought those two months!) You can also use the word ?????????: ? ???? ?? ? ??? ????? ?????????. (We had another run-in this morning.) When you really have at each other, you can use the verb ???????????. ?? ? ????? ????? ???????????. (Dina and I had a real knock-down, drag-out fight.) Or if you are arguing about the larger issues of life, you can use the vivid expression ?????? ?????, literally "to break spears," that is, to fight so hard your weapons snap. ??? ?????? ????? ?? ?????? ??????????? ????????????. (They locked horns over the research results.)

At this point, it's wise to remember another bit of Russian advice: ????? ??? ????? ?????? ?????. (Better a lean peace than a fat victory.)

In any case, it's certainly better than a lawyer.

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