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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hot Under the Collar


Жара: heat, heat wave, hot spell

Man, it’s hot. In fact, things are heating up all over, what with temperatures soaring, buildings burning and a Russian bombshell appearing on the cover of the New York Post. And that’s only the tip of the volcano.

When you are sweltering in the city heat — as it appears you will be doing all next week — you ought to at least have a good hot-weather vocabulary. Жара is heat (or a heat wave) and жарко means “it’s hot.” Actually, after listening to the guys in my courtyard, I can be forgiven for thinking that “it’s hot” is expressed by the phrase: Жарко, блин! (Crap, it’s hot!).

The arrival of a heat wave can be expressed by a number of verbs: Жара началась (the heat wave began); наступила жара (the hot weather set in); настала жара (a hot spell arrived). На Москву обрушилась ужасная жара (An awful heat wave blanketed Moscow). В начале июня ударила тропическая жара (At the beginning of June, we were hit by a tropical heat wave).

Once the heat arrives, in Russian it “stands”: В Москве стоит жара — сорок градусов в тени (There’s a heat wave in Moscow — 40 degrees in the shade). Or you can eschew verbs and give a telegraphic weather report: Москва. +35 на солнце. Жара. Духота. Полный штиль. (Moscow. 35 degrees Celsius in the sun. Sweltering. Stifling. Not a single breeze.)

Heat fries your brain and saps your energy. You should refer to this when your boss asks why you haven’t finished your report or your significant other complains about the faucet that needs fixing. You can moan: Жара утомляет (The heat is exhausting). Or make excuses: Жара стоит такая, что трудно соображать (It’s so hot I can’t even think straight) … голова не работает (my brain doesn’t work) … башка не варит (I’m brain dead).

If you are so addled by the heat in a two-hour traffic jam that you decide to drive up on the sidewalk and through a park — only to discover a cop car at the other end — you might try the heat wave defense: Извините, товарищ полковник! (I’m sorry, Comrade Colonel!) На меня подействовала жара! (The heat got to me!)

In other cases, you won’t even have the energy to break the law: Такая жара, что даже глупостей делать не хочется (It’s so hot that I don’t even feel like messing around).

You can also call heat зной. The word is slightly old-fashioned or literary: Зной здесь, у реки, был сухой, неподвижный, сжигающий, как в большой печке (The heat here by the river was dry, motionless, and burned like inside a huge furnace). But you might hear it in less literary contexts, like in this football cheer: В любую погоду, и в бурю, и в зной, московский Спартак — мы будем с тобой! (In any weather, be it stormy or hot, we’re rooting for you, Moskovsky Spartak!)

On a torrid, cloudless day you can say: Солнце палит (The sun is broiling). Or: На улице пекло (It’s like an oven outside). Or simply: Такая жарища! (What a scorcher!)

Mostly you will be dreaming of using verbs that describe the heat’s departure. Imagine the day when you can say: Жара спала (the heat let up); жара отступила (the hot spell ended; literally “retreated”); жара ослабла (the heat wave broke; literally “got weaker”); жара упала (the heat subsided; literally “fell.”)

In the meantime, memorize this phrase: Где можно купаться? (Where can we go swimming?)

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