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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

By the Grace of God

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???????? ?? ???????: to throw oneself on someone's mercy

Since we're all capable of transgressions small and large, it's good to know how to ask for some mercy should we get caught. The key word in Russian is ???????, one of those wonderfully encompassing words that includes the concepts of mercy, charity, grace, favor and good deed. These are the qualities you hope your significant other will exhibit when you've spent the rent on a sure-thing investment with the OOO Acme Building Cooperative of Cyprus, which, you know now, was run out of the back seat of a ??????? (Model 9 Zhiguli) on the outskirts of Tula. What to do? ???????? ???????? ?? ??????? ????. (You have to throw yourself at your wife's mercy.) What will she do? Probably throw you out on your ear, but: ??? ????? ??????? ???? ?? ??????? -- ????? ?????! (She'll take you back out of charity -- she feels sorry for you.)

Then there's ??????? as a favor: ?????? ??? ???????, ?????? ????. (Do me a favor and take care of yourself.) This is rather high-flown and similar to the English construction "would you be so kind as to ..." It's very useful when you are in serious groveling mode. The height (or rather the depth) of groveling would be to add the word ????????, which turns the concept of a favor into a small act of God's grace. In the old days, this intensified form was used when asking a superior for a favor: ??????????? ?? ????, ???????? ???????? ???????! (For God's sake, please put in a good word for me.)

???????? ???????? ??????? might be a good line to try with the tax inspector when he's not completely convinced that your tax minimization scheme is legal. If it flies, you can go back to the office and announce: ?????? ???????? ?? ?????? ???? ??????????. (He accepted our returns by God's grace.) Or you could say: ????? ????, ??? ? ? ???? ? ???????. (Thank God I'm in his good graces.)

In the old days you might even address the tax inspector as ???? ??????? (your Grace), used for superiors who didn't have a noble title. It won't work today (modern tax inspectors respond to more concrete forms of flattery), but it's helpful to know when you're reading ??????? (The Government Inspector).

If things don't look good with the tax inspector, your colleagues may try to keep you focused on action. ?????? ?????, ?? ?? ?????? ??????????. ?? ??? ???????? ?? ???????. (Chances are he won't approve your tax returns. Don't sit around waiting for good news, literally "don't expect mercy from nature"). Actually if your colleagues tell you that, you have a very literate staff. They are more likely to say: ?? ??. ???????????! (Yeah, right. Dream on.)

The most common phrase with ??????? is one you probably hear every time you're at a friend's place for dinner: ??????? ?????? ? ?????! This is a polite and somewhat jocular way of inviting guests to the table, something like "Please be so kind as to take your seats." The common English phrase in such situations seems positively inhospitable by comparison: Dinner's on the table! The Russian phrase is also used to invite someone to join in: ? ??????? ? ???? ??????? ? ???? – ??????? ?????. (On Friday we're all getting together at my place. You're more than welcome to join us.) Or you might even hear the jokey ??????? ????? ? ?????? ??????! (Welcome to our booth!) For centuries this was the standard phrase traders used to draw buyers into their tent-like booths (??????) at markets and fairs.

This is definitely much more inviting than the standard phrase hawkers used at American carnivals: Step right up! Get your hot pretzels right here!

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