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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

That's No Way to Say Goodbye

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??????? ??-?????????: to leave without saying goodbye.

One of the things that seems to drive all Russians nuts about Americans is the chirpy "Have a nice day!" that they hear every day, all day, in the United States. It strikes them as insincere and meaningless, which I suppose it often is. On the other hand, it serves as a verbal signal that the conversation or meeting is over, and one speaker is saying goodbye with good wishes to the other.

Russians, of course, also have set expressions for saying goodbye. On the first day of Russian 101 we all learned ?? ???????? and even learned -- although the concept of case endings was beyond us -- that it meant "until [our next] meeting." Of course, you can also use it in situations where it's unlikely you'll meet again -- for example, after a disastrous meeting with a potential business client who you hope will never darken your door again. If you want to stress sincerely that you hope to see the person again, you can say the Russian equivalent of "see you soon": ?? ??????? or, less frequently, ?? ??????. Here the nouns are usually left out: ?? ??????? ???????? and ?? ?????? ??????? (until we meet again soon).

In a more formal setting, if you want to say goodbye and wish a person well, you can say ????? ????????/??????? (all the best). Or you can say ?????????, which is a kind of general wish for good luck and well-being -- more or less the Russian version of "take care." The person seeing someone off can say ????????? ???????/????????? (best wishes getting home) and the person leaving can say ????????? ?????????? (best wishes staying). With my penchant for folksy sayings, I've always wished someone would say to me: ??? ??? ??? ????????? ???? ??????? ? ???? ????????! (May God grant that you have a good day and a good night). Alas, this doesn't appear to be part of anyone's goodbye repertoire in 21st-century Moscow. The closest I get is ????????????? -- a warmer and more intimate form of ?????????.

For the long-term farewell, you can use the weighty ??????/??, which is usually used when parting from someone or something for a long time, if not forever. It is rather poetic and archaic, the sort of word you use when speaking about your lost youth or when you want to make it clear to your significant other than things are truly over. The word is the imperative form of ??????? (to forgive) and means literally "forgive me." In the old days, it was the custom for the traveler to ask the host's forgiveness for any sins committed against him to lighten the conscience of the person on his journey.

????????? is the verb for saying goodbye, and can be used in polite company in the phrase, ? ???????? ? ???? ?? ?????? (I'll say goodbye until tomorrow). If you expect to see someone very soon -- for example, when you are just stepping out for lunch and will see a colleague again that day -- you can say, ? ? ???? ?? ???????? (literally, "I'm not saying goodbye").

Friends usually just say ???? (so long). This is actually a shortened form of ???? ?? ???????? -- something like "for the time being, until we meet again." For a while it was considered quite declasse, but is now firmly embedded in the language. But still, this is not the sort of thing you say when shaking hands with a deputy minister; it's much too familiar and breezy. Sometimes it gets even more slangified into ???????? or ????????.

If all of this seems too daunting, you always have the option of slipping out the door without saying goodbye at all. In Russian this is ??????? ??-????????? -- to leave in the English style. This isn't polite, but, in the end, Russians may prefer it to "Have a nice day!"

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