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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Getting Hot Under the Collar

Гнев: anger, wrath

Among the seven deadly sins (семь смертных грехов), гнев (wrath, anger) is the only one that is sometimes — in certain circumstances and appropriate doses — OK to experience. After all, as Bible readers know, God experiences this emotion — гнев Божий (the wrath of God) — when humans fail. But we humans need to be careful with this emotion. The word гнев is related to гниль (rot), гной (pus) and гореть (to burn), and the image is of a suppurating infection that boils up in a person. Burning with a passion for justice is one thing; burning up with a festering fury is another. Гневаясь, не согрешайте (Be ye angry, but sin not.)

Today, the verbs гневаться (to be angry) and гневить (to provoke someone’s wrath) have an old-fashioned, high-flown feel to them. But you might come across the phrase гневить Бога (literally, “to anger God”), which in secular matters means not being happy with what you’ve got: ЦИК совершенно напрасно гневит Бога, ибо прогнозируемая социологами явка в 45% — это очень хорошая цифра (The Central Elections Commission should know when they’re well off, since the voter turnout of 45 percent that was forecast by sociologists is a very good number).

Back down on Earth from the heights of heaven and the Central Elections Commission, anger can be expressed in Russian in many ways. The most common verb for anger is сердиться. When your significant other walks in the door, exhausted after a long, hard day of work and a two-hour bumper-to-bumper commute to discover that you’ve invited the neighbors over for dinner, say: Не сердись на меня! (Don’t be mad at me!)

But if the neighbors are insufferable and the day was really awful, your significant other might lose his temper. A good verb pair for getting really furious is злиться/разозлиться: Он по-настоящему разозлился (He got really furious with me).

You can also describe fury in terms of heat. If someone is a bit steamed up, try the verb горячиться (to get hot, to lose one’s temper): Не горячись! (Don’t get all hot under the collar!) If smoke is coming out of his ears, use the verb кипятиться (to boil): Не кипятись! (Don’t blow your top!) But when someone is rip-roaring mad, you can describe this with the phrase приходить в ярость (to become furious) or simply say: Он был в ярости (He saw red).

When someone is really angry, Russians also turn to the animal kingdom to describe it. For example, you might say: Он просто озверел! (He blew a gasket; literally, “turned into a beast.”) Or you might compare someone’s fury to that of a rabid dog: Он пришёл в бешенство (He went ballistic; literally, “he became rabid.”) Он был взбешён (He threw a fit).

If you say someone is злой, you mean that he is a nasty piece of work. If you qualify it and say that someone is злой, как чёрт (mad as the devil), you mean that he’s furious, but not a nasty person by nature. But not all fury is red-hot in Russian. Злоба (spite, a grudge, or bitterness) is a simmering emotion. If someone is озлобленный, he’s not spitting mad and probably not a bad person at heart. But circumstances have embittered him and made him resentful.

No matter what state your significant other is in, call off the dinner. Say your beloved is running a fever. In Russian, it’s not even a lie.

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