Russian Language Blog

Fall Clothes, Foul Weather Posted by on Oct 23, 2012 in language

It is definitely autumn now. The nights are finally довольно холодные (pretty cold) and the days are chilly too. And it is starting to rain more often. So it is time to put away летняя одежда (summer clothing) and get out… what? Well, it’s not quite cold enough for зимняя одежда (winter clothing) such as шубы (fur coats) and пуховики (dawn jackets). Yet it might be a bit too chilly for just свитер (a sweater).

As ранняя осень (early autumn) with its погожие деньки (fair weather days) has ended and поздняя осень (late autumn) with its ненастные дни (foul weather days) are approaching, we switch to демисезонная одежда и обувь (shoulder season clothing and shoes).

One type of верхняя одежда (outerwear) that we might wear is пальто (coat).

How do you say “I do not have a coat” in Russian? Would it be У меня нет пальта or У меня нет пальто?

Let’s say we need to go shop for демисезонное пальто (shoulder season coat). Of course, пальто can also be зимнее (to be worn in the winter). How do you say, in Russian, that you ended up buying not one, but two coats, one for right now and one for the winter? Would you say Я купила два пальта or Я купила два пальто?

The great thing about the word пальто is that it does not change its endings no matter what case it is in or whether it is singular or plural. So here’s what it would look like:

У меня нет осеннего пальто. (I do not have a coat for the autumn) К счастью, в магазине была распродажа и я купила не одно, а два пальто, осеннее и зимнее. (Luckily, there was a sale at the store and I bought not one, but two coats, one for autumn and one for winter) Мой муж не обратил внимание на обновки, но он ничего не смыслит в моде. (My husband did not pay any attention to my new clothes, but he does not understand anything about fashion) Он носит одно и то же пальто уже лет пять. (He’s been wearing the same coat for the last five years or so)

So, in Russia we have

ранняя осень – early autumn
бабье лето – Indian summer, which refers to the wonderfully warm and sunny days in the early autumn
золотая осень – golden autumn, when the leaves turned golden yellow and scarlet red
and, finally, поздняя осень – late autumn

There are lots of wonderful Russian sayings about autumn. Many are about the unpredictably foul weather autumn brings us. For example,

В осеннее ненастье семь погод на дворе: сеет, веет, крутит, мутит, рвёт, сверху льёт и снизу метёт.

Let’s see if we can make sense of this saying by analyzing the words:

ненастье – foul weather; this is one of those не- words that does not have an opposite without the prefix не-. The opposite of the adjective ненастный is погожий; but for the noun ненастье the antonym is вёдро (notice, it is not ведро which means “bucket”) or just хорошая погода.

сеет is the third person singular present tense form of сеять which means “to sow”. In the autumn, it is the rain that sows – дождь сеет. This usually refers to a steady мелкий (here: thin) rain.

веет is the third person singular present tense form of веять which means “to blow”. As you’ve guessed, in the autumn ветер веет (wind blows).

крутит comes from крутить (swirl). Again, it is something that wind might do, as in ветер крутит опавшие листья (wind is swirling fallen leaves)

мутит comes from мутить (to muddy) as in мутить воду (to muddy the water, both literally and figuratively). By the way, another meaning of the word мутить is to be sick to one’s stomach, for example, as a result of too much drinking or getting sea sick. Both meanings are reflected in a phrase мутить душу (to feel disgusted of and sick of something or someone) as in дождь всё сеет, всё мутит душу (the rain keeps falling, keeps sickening my soul).

рвёт comes from рвать (to tear) – as in the line from an old song ветер осенний лист срывает (autumn wind tears off a leaf)

льёт and метёт come from verbs лить (to pour) and мести (to sweep) – of course, rain льёт. But can you guess what it is that метёт? Sure, it can be wind. But it can also be позёмка (low drifting snow). And late autumn in Russia can bring морозы (freezes) and снег (snow).

With this in mind, maybe buying два пальто is not such a bad idea.

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  1. Jeannie:

    Хороший, понятный и полезный урок. Спасибо!

  2. harry zervas:

    Dear Yelena!

    i love the fall song very much: all though i do not understant russian? it”s something Nolstagig:

  3. Rob:

    Here are the lyrics for the song in the music video — which exactly follows the text of the 1967 poem “Вот и лето прошло” by Arseny Tarkovsky. (Thanks, Google!)

    Meanwhile, Ураган “Сэнди” сейчас подходит к нами (meaning both myself in the DC region and Yelena, down south of me). So we’ll have some foul fall weather for sure!

    • yelena:

      @Rob Rob, I haven’t seen your updates on Facebook so I’m thinking you might be without electricity. Держись! (Hang in there!)