Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Simply Glamorous

To Our Readers

The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number.
Letters to the editor should be sent by fax to (7-495) 232-6529, by e-mail to, or by post. The Moscow Times reserves the right to edit letters.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

?????????: glamorous (sort of)

When I want to make myself crazy, I spend an hour or so surfing ????? (the Russian Internet) and reading the deathless prose of blogs. When I want to make myself truly stark raving mad, I surf commercial sites. The language of advertising is bizarre anywhere in the world, but Russian ads, with their preponderance of foreign cognates, are simply mind-boggling.

Take, for example, housing and hotels. Here the key words are ?????????????, ????????????, ??????? and ?????????. ????????????? -- fashionable -- is a nice old word that means -- or meant -- ?????????????? (high society, aristocratic). Now it is used to describe anything from casinos to resorts.

??????? (elite) means, in Russian ad-speak, "for the chosen few" -- mostly the chosen few of great wealth, but sometimes the chosen few of taste and achievement. ??? ??????? ??????-???? ??? ?????? ?????, ??????? ???????, ??????????? ? ????????. (This is an elite fitness club for discerning people who value comfort, a relaxed atmosphere and respect.)

????????? used to mean "elitist" and sometimes still has this meaning. A writer of popular mysteries said in an interview: ? ?? ????????? ????????, ? ?????????. (I'm not an elitist writer, I'm a mutt.) She clarifies that in her idiolect, a "mutt" means: ???? ??? ?????? (I write for the masses.) In ads ????????? is a synonym for ??????? and simply means -- or tries to mean -- "something special." ??? ????????? ??????-???????? ? ????????? ??????????? ?????? ? ?????? ?????. (This is a high-class fitness center and true European spa in the center of Tver.)

???????????? (exclusive) means "not for just anybody." In reference to night clubs, it means: "face control."

?????????? is another word that pops up in odd places. ????????? means "to feel comfortable." ??? ? ??? ????? ?????????. (I feel totally at ease with him.) ?????????? ?????? means clothes you feel comfortable in. ??????????????? is used to refer to comfortable surroundings. But what about this: ????? ??????? ????????, ?????????????????? ?? ??????? ??????? ???????, ??????? ?????????????????, ?????????? ????????, ????????????????? ????????. (The biggest store specializing in home appliances, with a convenient location, comfortable parking and qualified salespeople.) "Comfortable parking?" "Parking that puts your mind at ease?" I think they were after "convenient parking," but unless you're familiar with the culture of American malls, you can't figure this out from the Russian.

Other words that imply fine quality are ?????????? (elegant), ???????????? (high quality), ?????? (rare) and ?????????? (refined, exquisite). ?????? (fashionable) and ?????????? (prestigious) are out. ??????????????? (respectable) is in.

These days the big "in word" seems to be ????????? (glamorous). I've always found glamorous a hard word to define in English. Glamour originally meant a magic spell, and the adjective refers to someone (or some thing) whose beauty is captivating or bewitching. But it's hard to explain why one person is glamorous and another is not.

In Russian apparently anything can be ?????????. I can deal with ????????? ??????? (glamorous gal) or ????????? ????? (glamorous photo), but: ????????? ?????? (glamorous Moscow), ????????? ????? ? ?????? (glamorous Internet address) or ????????? ???????? (glamorous ceramics)? Or how about this brilliant bilingual ad: ????????? ????????? -- Ikra & Vodka for free! How the church holiday of Pancake Week can be bewitching -- with or without free booze and fish eggs -- is beyond me.

And finally there is ??????????, a word translators can trip over. In most cases -- for example, ?????????? ???????? -- it shouldn't be translated as "actual," but rather "urgent" or "burning" problems. But here's the new usage: ?????? ? ??? ?? ??????? ???????? ?????????? ????? ? ?????? ????? ??????! In ads ?????????? has come to mean "the latest." (Only in our store will you find the season's top colors and styles.) Even hair cuts can be ??????????.

Well, I'm game. Since it's spring, it's time for: ?????????? ??????? ? ????????? ?????? ? ????? ????????????? ?????? ????????? ??????!

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