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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Traffic Jams as the City's Growth Industry

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???????? ? ??????: to get stuck in a traffic jam.

If you have been driving around Moscow -- no, let me rephrase that: If you have been trying to drive around Moscow this December, but instead have been whiling away the hours in traffic jams, it's not your imagination. Traffic is outrageous. News services confirm that the roads are jammed as everyone tries to finish their business and do their shopping before the holidays. The bad news is that it will get worse before Dec. 31. The good news is that in early January all the owners of ???????? (foreign cars) will be off in the Canaries, and for a blessed two weeks the roads will be clear.

Meanwhile, it's a great time to brush up on your motoring -- or idling -- slang.

First useful word: ???????? (traffic). In most cases you qualify the noun with adjectives expressing various levels of hysteria: ??????? ???????? ???? ???????/???????/???????????! (Today the traffic was heavy/awful/unbearable!) Lately, Russians have taken to calling it ??????, but this is dreadfully pretentious, used with a world-weary sigh in phrases such as ?????? ? ??? ???? ???????, ?? ? ?????????? ?? ??? ????. (Traffic here has gotten terrible, but it's even worse in Manhattan.) On the news you'll hear ???????? ?????????? (traffic is moving slowly, literally "made difficult"), but you should know this really means: "No one on this stretch of highway has shifted out of second gear in an hour." Then there are ?????? (jams) and ?????? (bottlenecks, literally "corks"). These are caused by about a million cars trying to fit into two lanes of a tunnel at the same time, or about 500 cars trying to make a right-hand turn from the five left-hand lanes. Or they are caused by ???: ???????-???????????? ???????????? (a traffic accident).

Sometimes the accidents aren't too bad. Drivers used to say ???????????? ????????? (literally "their bumpers kissed") to describe a minor fender-bender; now they say ??????? ???????? (to scratch someone with your bumper) or ?????? ???????? (to bang bumpers). Or you might also hear: ???????? ?????????? ? ?????. (The foreign car grazed the Volga.) A bit worse is: ???? ???????? ???????. (The Mercedes clipped a Model 9 Zhiguli.) ????????? is also the word you use to describe someone cutting in front of you, that favorite maneuver of Muscovite drivers. ?? ??????? ???? ?????, ????? ???????? ? ???????? ???????. (He passed me on the left and then cut in front of me to make a right turn.)

Worse is ??????????? (to hit someone), as in this astonishing headline: ??????? ?????? ?? ????????? ?????? ? ?????????? ? ????????????. (The tram went into the oncoming traffic and hit a trolleybus.) This habit of using the opposite lane of traffic whenever one is bored with one's own lane -- called colloquially ????? ?? ???????? -- is the bane of life behind the wheel. ??? ? ????????, ?????? ?? ?????, ? -- ???! -- ?? ???? ???? ????. (I'm driving along, minding my own business, when BAM! There's a Jeep coming straight at me.) If you can't pull over, you have the worst accident of all: ?? ???????? ? ????. (He crashed right into me.)

Today, even with fender-benders traffic is further slowed by the need to call the traffic cops -- still called ???????? even if the service is now ????? -- to write up the insurance report. Part of the report is ?????? (measurements). The very informative web site of the Russian traffic police notes solemnly: ??? ???????? ??????? ???????????? ?????? ? ??????? ??????? ??? ????????? ?????. (All the linear measurements are made only with a rolled or folding tape measure.)

What this really means: If you're behind the ???, once the tape measure comes out, pull out your cell phone and call the person you are driving to meet. ? ??????? ? ??????! ???? ???????????! (I'm stuck in a traffic jam. I'll be there the day after tomorrow!)

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