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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Keeping It Clean

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????????? ?????: to brainwash someone, to give someone a stern talking to

Traditionally Russians give both themselves and their homes a good scrubbing on ??????? ??????? (Maundy Thursday), commonly called ?????? ??????? (literally "Clean Thursday"), in preparation for Easter. But if you didn't do your ??????????? ?????? (major cleaning) last week, there's still plenty of time -- and winter grime. The only problem is that ???? (to wash or clean) is a tricky little word, especially when prefixes are added.

The first thing you need to know is that you use ???? with things like ???? (floors), ?????? (dishes), or even ???????? (apartment). But the verb you use for washing clothes is ???????.

Prefixes are added to ???? to define nuances of cleanliness. ??????? can mean to wash something well. ? ?????? ??????? ???. (I washed the rice thoroughly.) It's also the verb you use when you pan for gold (????????? ??????).

While gold prospecting isn't likely to come up over a couple of beers -- it doesn't in my set -- you might hear ????????? ????? (literally "to wash out brains"). Here you need to pay attention to context: ????????? ????? can either mean brainwashing or it can mean a dressing down. ??? ??? ????? ????????? ?????, ??? ?? ?????????? ???????? ????? ?? ???. (We were brainwashed for so long that we stopped being able to distinguish good from evil.) ????????? ???????? ???? ????? ????? ???. (The boss chewed Vasya out for a whole hour.)

?????? is the verb to use when you scrub something clean. ? ?????? ? ??????? ??? ?????. (I scrubbed down the whole kitchen with bleach.)

??????? is the verb for diluting something or washing something away. ???? ??????? ??????. (The river eroded the banks.) ???????? ??????? ????? ?????????. (The corrections diluted the import of the document.)

"???? is used for washing something off and is often used figuratively in the phrase ????? ???? to mean "to wash one's hands of something." This expression comes from the book of Matthew in the Bible: ?????, ????, ??? ????? ?? ????????, ?? ???????? ?????????????, ???? ???? ? ???? ???? ????? ???????, ? ??????: ????????? ? ? ????? ?????????? --??? ... (When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person ...")

"???? can also be used to mean "to put someone in his place": "? ??????? ??? ?????. (You sure took him down a peg.)

You use reflexive forms of ???? to describe personal ablutions: ?????? or ???????. "???? ? ???????? ? ??? ?????? ???????. (I overslept this morning and barely had time to bathe.) If you were very dirty and scrubbed yourself very clean, you might use the verb ????????.

???????? is used to describe cleaning something off and is often used figuratively -- especially in politics. ??????? ???????? ?????? ???? ?????????. (The deputy is trying to clean up his reputation.) These days you often hear it in the sense of money laundering. ???????? ????? '?????? ???? ????? ?? ????? ??????????????? ???? ??? ????????? ?????????? ?????. (The French Riviera has become one of the most attractive places for Russian money-laundering.)

And then there's ??????. The standard meaning is "to wash something all over." ?? ?????? ???? ? ?????. (We washed our feet in the creek.) But you often hear the colloquial usage: to have a drink or two -- or 10 -- to celebrate a purchase or deal. So the phrase: ?????? ????? ??????? ?????? ?? ????! does not mean that you need to immediately wash down the new car you bought. Nor does it mean that you have to break a bottle of champagne ritually over the hood as if it were the Queen Elizabeth II.

It means: New car? Break out the booze! It's party time!

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