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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Answer Is Written on Your Thigh

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?????????: crib note or cue card; cheat sheet

A few months ago, a television advertisement appeared with the words of an Alexander Blok poem flying across Moscow in an SMS message to a cell phone. I thought: Magnificent! What a literate country this is, where they flog cell phone service by quoting Silver Age poetry. Then the words reach their destination, and you see that actually a father is sending the poem to his son during his exam -- that is, the father is cheerfully helping his son to cheat. Hmm. Cancel that praise.

Cheating in exams is very wicked in the United States -- if you get caught, you usually get severe punishment -- from an "F" for the course to expulsion from the university. In Russia it's an art form of considerable ingenuity, a practice that is essentially acknowledged and tolerated by teachers, administrators, students and parents. As far as I can tell, this is largely because the workload for high school and university students is so unrealistic, everyone accepts that no student could pass an exam without external aid. I've seen ?????? ???????????? ?????? (extracurricular reading lists) for 13-year-olds that would give U.S. graduate students a heart attack.

All the same, kids do try to prepare honestly. ??? ???? ?????????? ? ?????????? (How's the exam prep going?) Another form of preparation is cramming (????????) from the verb ???????, which has the sense of memorizing material by rote without in-depth assimilation. ?????? ??????? ??? ????. (The kids crammed for their exams all night.)

But part of the prep process is often creating ????????? (or ?????). ????????? can mean notes or cue cards. ? ????? ?? ????? ?????? ?????????, ?? ??????? ?? ??????????? ???????? ? ????? ???????. (The doctor had a cue sheet on his desk that he used to tell the patient about treatment.) But most of the time these are "cheat sheets" -- tiny pieces of paper covered with microscopic writing that a student surreptitiously refers to during an exam. One friend says she used to fasten the pages together with paperclips and then make a separate key (??????) to the pages. She would refer to the key, figure out which bundle of pages held the information she needed, and then count through the paperclipped bundles with her fingertips to find the right one. Another friend would slip the paper inside a pen. Other geniuses fit them into watch faces and hidden pockets.

Others make the notes into ???????? -- accordions. These are tiny sheets of paper folded like an accordion that usually fit in the palm of your hand. You flip through the pages with your thumb while staring innocuously into the middle distance.

Another friend says: ? ? ?????? ?????? ?? ?????. ?? ????? ???????? ? ????????? ???? ? ?????????. (I usually wrote on my legs. During the exam I'd raise my skirt and copy the information.) Male teachers must truly enjoy exam days.

????? or ???????? (literally "bombs") are pages of answers that students somehow pull out of pockets or pants and pass off for freshly written material.

The verbs for this practice mean literally "to copy," although in English we'd tend to say "to cheat." ? ????? ? ?????? ????????! (I always cheated in school!) Slangy derivatives are ???????, ???????, ????????? or ???????. ? ????????? ?????? ? ??????. (I copied the answers from the palm of my hand.)

During oral exams in the university, several students are admitted to the exam room at the same time. They start by drawing the exam questions, which are printed on pieces of paper called ?????? (tickets). ????? ?????? ? ???????? ??????????. (They draw their questions and begin to prepare.) This is when all the cheat sheets are consulted and copied. If all subsequently goes well, they can say, ? ???? ???????! (I passed the exam.) Or better yet: ? ??????? ???????! (I got an "A.")

Then they go home and scrub the math formulas from their thighs. And consider careers as card sharks in Las Vegas.

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