Russian Days of the Week Posted by yelena on Nov 9, 2010 in Culture, language, Russian for beginners
«Как прошли выходные?» [How was your weekend?]. Mine was not so hot. And it’s not just the «прохладная погода» [cool weather] that’s to blame, but a nasty case of a 24-hour flu. Well, at least it was supposed to last only «сутки» [24 hours], but as of Monday I was still «в кровати» [in bed], feeling quite «скверно» [miserably].
So I thought about doing something easy. How about «дни недели» [days of the week]? Sounds basic enough, doesn’t it? Well, turns out that Josefina already got Russian days of the week covered back in 2009.
But as we say in Russia, «повторение – мать учения» [repetition is the mother of learning]. Besides, maybe I’ll be able to «спеть старую песню на новый лад» [sing the old song differently].
«Выходной» [the weekend] is over and «рабочая неделя» [work week] begins. Russians say that «понедельник – день тяжёлый» [Monday is a tough day]. Even V. Putin once said that «у него все дни – понедельники» [all his days are Mondays], meaning that he worked under constant strain.
The adverb «понедельно» sounds very much like the noun «понедельник», but it means “weekly”. For example, you can «арендовать» [rent] an apartment «понедельно», meaning that the payments will be due weekly. You can «арендовать квартиру понедельно, начиная с понедельника» [to rent an apartment weekly, starting on Monday] or any other day of the week, of course.
Other useful words that are similarly constructed («по» + time period), include
- «почасовой» [hourly] as in «почасовая оплата труда» [hourly wage]
- «посуточный» [over a 24-hour period] as in «посуточная аренда особняка» [24-hour rental of a private residence]
- «помесячный» [monthly] as in «помесячный календарь развития ребёнка» [monthly calendar of child’s development]
- «погодичный» [yearly] as in «погодичная оплата хостинга» [yearly hosting fee]
Just a «второй» [second] day of the week, following Monday. The most famous or rather «печально известный» [infamous] Russian «вторник» was «Чёрный вторник» [Black Tuesday] on October 11, 1994 when Russian ruble took a nose-dive against the US dollar.
By the way, the verb «вторить» means to chime in, to echo or to sing the second part.
Hooray, it’s the middle of the week. Middle in Russian is «середина» as in «золотая середина» [the golden mean or the happy medium]. The one in the middle is «средний»: «в семье было трое детей и Иван был средним» [there were three children in the family and Ivan was the middle one].
«Средний» also means mathematically average – «средний вес» [average weight], «средний доход» [average income], «средняя урожайность» [average crop yield], etc. And someone who’s just so-so, average, indistinguishable from others in skills, intelligence, ingenuity, way of thinking, etc is called «посредственность».
From the word «четыре» [four], this is the fourth day of the week. If someone says to you that something will happen «после дождичка в четверг» then don’t hold your breath for it.
I remember as a child reading an article with fish recipes titled «Четверг – рыбный день» [Thursday is Fish Day]. Somehow it made sense then although the only fish we could buy was freezer-burned «хек» [whiting]. But I knew that the cafeterias at Mom’s and Dad’s work places as well as the one on the first floor of our apartment building featured fish soup and fried fish on Thursdays. Turns out, «рыбный день» [fish day] was centrally mandated by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1976. So that on Thursdays in the USSR all government-run eateries were supposed to serve fish.
This is «пятый» [the fifth] day of the week. By the way, «с четверга на пятницу сны сбываются» [Thursday night to Friday morning dreams come true]. So this Thursday keep a notepad and a pen by your bed and take down some notes as soon as you wake up on Friday. Who knows, maybe you’ll finally «сорвать куш» [make a killing] in the stock market.
Someone who can’t stick to a plan and changes decisions too often is said to have «семь пятниц на неделе» [seven Fridays in a week]. Why? Well, back in the days Fridays were market days. Fridays were deal-making days when contractual terms were agreed upon. Those who didn’t abide by the agreed-upon terms were said to have «семь пятниц на неделе», as if they considered every day to be a negotiation day.
The word sounds very much like “Sabbath” and for a good reason – it shares the same origin. This is a day of rest when no work was to be done. Except if there’s a «субботник» [voluntary Saturday work] to attend. In early years of the Soviet Union workers would enthusiastically volunteer to spend their Saturdays at work, unpaid, building the bright future. Later on, as the enthusiasm wore off, «субботник» became more of a «обязаловка» [informal: an obligation that can’t be skipped]. It also degenerated into clean-ups, litter pick-up and basic landscaping.
Ah, the last day of the week! Well, the name itself is derived from the word «воскресение» [resurrection] and refers to Jesus’ resurrection. It used to be called «неделя» or the day when no work was to be done (hmm, which made it a third day of no work in addition to «пятница» and «суббота» – not bad at all). As a matter of fact, in all other Slavic languages Sunday is still called just that – niedziela (Polish), неділя (Ukrainian), нядзеля (Belorussian), neděle (Czech).
Honestly, I ran out of steam thinking up some examples for Sunday that would be more cheerful than «воскресный папа» [lit: Sunday dad]. Any ideas are welcome either in the comments to the post or on our Facebook page.