Russian Language Blog

Femme Fatale, Fried Rooster, and Frightened Monkey Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in language

Do you know this just might be the last post on the Russian blog? I’m saying it because tomorrow is December 21st, 2012, роковая дата (fatal date) some people and Hollywood studios believe to be конец света (the end of the world).

Whether you believe in this предсказание (prediction) or think it’s just россказни (tall tale), it is a great opportunity to learn some interesting Russian words and phrases.

Take the adjective роковой (fateful, fatal), for example. It comes from the word рок (fate, usually evil fate) and is not related to рок (rock) as in the music genre. It is not an accident that someone who предрекать (foretell) our рок (fate) is called пророк (prophet).

We might talk about роковая дата (fatal date), but also роковой час (fatal hour) and роковой день (fatal day). Роковыми (pl: fatal, fateful) can be women – роковая женщина (femme fatale); men – роковой мужчина (think Don Juan or James Bond); mistakes – роковая ошибка (fatal mistake) and even eggs – Роковые яйца (The Fatal Eggs).

I recently came across an article that discussed the results of социологические опросы россиян (opinion polls among Russians) about the whole 12/21/12 deal. Turns out, most people do not do any special preparations for the possible апокалипсис (Apocalypse). Which simply re-affirms the relevance of the two old sayings on the subject of emergency preparedness

пока гром не грянет, мужик не перекрестится (lit: a peasant does not cross himself until after the thunder)
пока жареный петух в зад не клюнет (lit: until a roasted rooster pecks one in the rear end) – this one is used as part of a phrase, i.e. как обычно, власти не предпримут ничего, пока жареный петух в зад не клюнет (as usual, authorities are not doing anything about the problem until it becomes too late)

Both mean “nothing gets done until bad stuff happens”.

With so much media attention to tomorrow, it seems noone should be застать врасплох (caught unawares). The adverb врасплох is another curious word. It’s tempting to think of it as related to плохой (bad). However, it is more likely related to полох (alarm). You are not likely to ever hear the word полох since it fell out of use. But переполох (turmoil, fright) and переполошить (to alarm) are both alive and well as seen in these headlines

NASA вызвало переполох роликом о конце света – NASA caused turmoil with its end of the world video.
Обезьяна в пальто устроила переполох в IKEA – Monkey in a coat caused alarm at an IKEA store. Although from the article it seems that it was the monkey, not the IKEA shoppers, who переполошилась (was frightened).

Most знающие люди (people in the know) in Russia believe that слухи о скором конце света сильно преувеличены (rumors of the upcoming Apocalypse are exaggerated). Numerous астрологи (astrologers), эзотерики (those studying the occult), священнослужители (clergymen), политики (politicians), метеорологи (meteorologists) and others with the powers of influencing our decisions, advise Russians to stay calm, stock up on candles, and spend Friday at home with families (astrologers’ advice) or at work (politicians’ advice).

But the most important advice to keep in mind on Friday comes from the Russian classical literature (no surprise here). Back in 1824, Russian one-hit wonder Александр Грибоедов (Alexander Griboedov) wrote in his famous Горе от ума (Woe from Wit), “всё врут календари (calendars are full of lies).

With this in mind, весёлого Рождества (Merry Christmas) and до следующей недели (until next week)!

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  1. Rob:

    пока жареный петух в зад не клюнет (lit: until a roasted rooster pecks one in the rear end) – this one is used as part of a phrase

    Funny that it’s a roasted rooster — which presumably has been decapitated and therefore has no клюв, “beak,” to peck with! So being pecked in the butt by a roasted rooster is about as likely as choking to death on птичье молоко (“bird’s milk”), I would think.

    Of course, if it were a жареная пекинская утка, roasted with the head still on, then you’d have to worry about peckin’… 😉

  2. Rob:

    even eggs – Роковые яйца (The Fatal Eggs).

    COOL! I’ve never read it, but from the Wiki article: “a 1925 science-fiction novella by Mikhail Bulgakov… [partly inspired by] H. G. Wells’s 1904 novel The Food of the Gods, where two scientists discover a way to accelerate growth, resulting in a plague of giant chickens and eventually all-out war.”

    Here’s a complete English translation for online reading or downloading, and here’s the original Russian.