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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Getting Undressed

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C??????? ?????: boxer shorts, boxers

I have a theory that when the lights go out, women all over the world sneak off to attend a night school for mothers where, regardless of race, nationality or creed, they learn the secret skills of motherhood: how to find lost mittens, determine body temperature through a kiss on a hot forehead, and unerringly read their teenagers' minds to know when they are up to no good. They also learn key rules for life, like the necessity of wearing clean and tidy underwear every day. This is, of course, for hygienic reasons, but also because you never know when someone might catch a glimpse of your undies, and God forbid they see torn drawers.

Should you need to impart this particular bit of wisdom to your Russian family, below is a primer on what to call the clothes under your clothes.

Collectively, your underwear is ?????? ?????. Men wear ?????? (briefs, jockeys) or ????? (boxer shorts), also called ???????? ????? (literally "family shorts"), presumably because they are worn by married men no longer concerned about arousing their wives. Add a ????? (sleeveless undershirt), a bottle of beer and a football match, and you have the quintessential portrait of the husband from hell.

In cold weather, men can also wear ???????? (long johns), ?????? ??????? (a long-sleeved undershirt) or ???????? (T-shirt). Thermal underwear for both sexes is ??????????.

It may be handy to know that a fly is ??????? or ???????. If you need to let your husband or colleague know that his barn door is open, you say: ??????? ??????????? (Your fly is open) or ???????? ???????! (Zip up your fly!).

Women's undergarments are a more elaborate and uncomfortable affair. They wear ??????? (panties), ranging from ????? or ????????? (knee-length underpants) for the over-80 set to ??????? (thongs) for the under-30 contingent. On top they wear ??????????? (brassiere), more commonly referred to as ??????. In locker rooms, large-size bras are scathingly called ?????? (literally "hammocks") for reasons I don't have to explain. One of my friends said that in her family, full-figure bras were jocularly called ??????? (baby bonnets) -- yet another image that needs no explanation.

When did women stop wearing full slips? Perhaps ?????? (camisoles) and ?????? ???? (half-slip) have taken their place. But should you need to know, a full slip is ??????? or ?????????? (also called ?????????? or ???????).

A woman who is trying to smooth the bulges might wear ?????? (a body suit), now also called ????, or ?????????? (long-line bras). Thank God ??????? (corsets) have gone the way of the dodo. ????? ? ????????? (garter belts) are still sold, presumably more for decorative purposes than utilitarian. They might hold up your stockings, but the memory of garters digging into thighs during school lectures and long church sermons makes middle-aged women break out in a cold sweat. Happily, almost no one wears ????? (stockings) anymore; ???????? (pantyhose) have taken their place in the colder months. In the warmer months, women might wear ?????? (knee-high hose) or ?????? -- also called ??????????? -- (low-cut socks).

In really cold weather, Russian moms put ??????? (stirrup tights) on both male and female offspring.

At night both husband and wife don their ?????? (pajamas), though women might wear a ?????? ??????? (nightgown), ?????? (robes) and ??????? (slippers). Fancy dressing gowns -- the kind that cost more than a mink coat and are definitely not worn while flipping eggs on the stove -- are ???????? (peignoirs), which can be worn with ???????? ????? (fancy slippers, often mules with ruffles, feathers and baubles).

Should unexpected guests catch you at home in your PJs and slippers at noon, you can try to save the situation by proclaiming in Frenchified Russian: ????????, ? ? ??????? (Pardon me, I'm not dressed!).

Or you can just not answer the door.

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