Six Words You May Be Saying Wrong In Russian Posted by Maria on Apr 24, 2014 in language
Russian did not contribute nearly as many loanwords to English as French or Spanish did. However, a few of these words of Russian origin are floating around in English. Naturally, many of them changed their meaning or pronunciation comparing to Russian. Here are a few words you should pay attention to when speaking Russian to make sure you’re not simply saying them the way you’re used to in English.
First of all, this word has nothing to do with babushkas, or the headscarves tied below the chin, although the word for the headscarf is thought to have come from Russian. Бабушка (grandmother) is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, and the ш should sound harsher than the English “sh.”
For some reason, a lot of English speakers want to say “mamushka.” I’m not sure of the origins of this word, but I am pretty sure it’s not a word in Russian. I haven’t been able to find it in dictionaries (other than the Addams Family reference), but a Google image search for “mamushka” returns images of Russian nested dolls. The nested doll is called матрёшка.
I have heard the English word sputnik pronounced sputt-nick many times, although spoot-nick is still the first pronunciation listed in dictionaries. Whatever the English permitted variants may be, the Russian word is pronounced exclusively with an “у” sound.
Probably under the influence of the English prononciation on the news, speakers try to stress the first syllable in the Russian name Владимир. In fact, the second syllable is stressed. Also, Vlad (Влад) is not a typical nickname for Vladimir; it’s usually Volodya (Володя) or Vova (Вова).
This name may have the stress on the first syllable if we’re talking about the mayor of London or re-enacting James Bond movies, but the Russian name Борис definitely has the stress on the last syllable.
6. На здоровье
A lot of people in the US seem to think “на здоровье” (pronounced nastroviya in American parliance) is the Russian for “cheers” when toasting. This usage seems to be common in Polish — but not in Russian! The lack of a concise phrase for toasting can be frustrating, however, actual Russian toasts are custom-made for the occasion and don’t have a boilerplate expression. На здоровье is a response to someone asking to do something (Можно мне кусок пирога? – На здоровье: Can I have a slice of pie? – Go right ahead) or a way of saying “You are welcome” in response to “Спасибо.”
I hope this helps resolve any doubts you might have had about these words. Can you think of any other?