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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Thanksgiving for the Memories

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??????? ???????????? ???????: A great big thanks

For Americans, the end of November is Nostalgia Time. It doesn't matter how much we've revised the history of the Pilgrims and the Indians, how many years we've been vegetarians or how much we loathe Uncle Clyde and his nasty trophy wife Gladys -- come November we suddenly find ourselves craving a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings in the bosom of our family. Or perhaps we simply crave a day when we can pause and remember the things we're grateful for. Thanksgiving Day -- ???? ???????????? -- is one of the few American holidays that have not been commercialized up the wazoo, and it turns even the most cynical expat into a sentimental sop.

I am no exception -- I'm big on gratitude (and pumpkin pie). Gratitude in Russian is ?????????????, which comes from the word ????? (??????), something that is good or useful and ??? (gift, sacrifice). The original word seems to have been borrowed from the Greek word for Eucharist, the giving of thanks (literally, "good favor"). If you want to be formal, you can say ????????? ??? (I thank you). Or: ? ????? ?????????? ?? ???? ??????. (I'm very grateful for your help.) In formal speech, try using ????????/???????? ?????????????: ??? ???????? ?? ???????? ????????? ????????????? ?? ???? ?????????. (I'd like to offer my sincere gratitude for your support.) If someone is over-the-top effusive, you can say: ??? ??????????? ? ??????????????! (She was falling all over herself saying thank you.)

Interestingly, when the adjective ??????????? is applied to a task, the meaning is shifted a bit and comes to denote something rewarding, i.e., something for which you can be grateful. ?????? ? ?????? -- ??????????? ????. (Working with children is rewarding.)

If you're feeling quite formal, you might say: ? ??? ????? ????????????. (Much obliged to you.) If it were the 16th century, you might use the expression ???? ?????, which means "to beat one's brow." This comes from the ancient Russian custom of bowing low and touching one's brow to the ground when petitioning or thanking the prince or tsar. ????? ??? ???? ?? ???????? ?????. (I thank you most humbly for your kind words.) You might pull this out of your linguistic pocket when you've behaved very badly and your significant other has caught you. Who knows, maybe this medieval version of "Baby, I'm on my knees!" will do the trick. If nothing else, it will get a good laugh.

Be careful with the phrase ??????? ????????? (literally, "I thank you humbly"), which means just the opposite. It's like the ironic English (said in poisonous tones): Thanks a lot! ??????? ?????, ? ?????? ???? ?? ????? ?????????: "?????? ????, ?????, ? ???????? ???????." ???, ??????? ?????????! (You come home and instead of finding your wife, you find a note on the table: "Forgive me, darling, but I've fallen in love with someone else." Thanks, but no thanks!)

And then there's the simple ???????. This is a contraction of the phrase ????? ??? (may God protect you). Over the centuries, wishing someone God's deliverance became the way to thank them. It can be made warmer with any number of syllables: ??????????! ??????????! ??????????! Or personalized: ??????? ????, ???????! (Thanks, sweetie!) Or you can use the jokey ??????? ???????????? ???????! (A great big thanks; literally, "big human thanks.")

When things aren't going your way, someone might remind you that it could be worse: ????? ???????, ??? ???? ????????! (Be grateful that the kids are all grown up!) And then you can sigh dramatically: ? ?? ??? ???????! (Thank heaven for small favors!)

When you get a letter asking you to make 12 pumpkin pies for the potluck Thanksgiving dinner with the tag line ??????? ????????? (thanking you in advance), you can mutter another good expression: ??????? ? ?????? ?? ????????. (You can't put thanks in your pocket.)

Which means: I prefer cash.

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