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These Six English Loanwords Don’t Mean What You Think in Russian Posted by on Apr 22, 2015 in Culture, language, Russian for beginners, Russian life, when in Russia

 

The fact that loan words are present in nearly every language is well-known to most people. It is fairly clear that Russian language has been affected by this practice more than some other languages. Whether certain rulers of the past, certain technologies of the present, or globalization are to blame is a topic of a separate conversation. In this post I would like to focus on seven pesky American/English words that might play tricks on you if you don’t use them properly in Russian.

1. Джип (from American Jeep) – If you think this words means a certain SUV brand, think again. Джип is what Russians collectively call any and all SUVs. The word Kleenex, which is commonly used in the States to describe any brand of tissue can be used as an analogy. Just like Kleenex, the word Jeep wasn’t just borrowed, it underwent a lexical change in the process.

2. Скотч (from American Scotch tape) – in American English you would say Scotch tape, or tape, if you are in fact talking about general-purpose tape; in Russian, all general-purpose tape (small, medium, or large) is called скотч regardless of the brand. What we observe here is another lexical change.

3. Коттедж (from English cottage) – I am not sure how this English word got its Russian flare but one thing is clear: коттедж in Russian is a large well-built house located in suburban or urban area, it is a house that belongs to someone who is well-to-do.

4. Стринги (from American G-string) – somehow the “G” part of the word got lost in translation while the rest of the word settled into a perpetual plural form: Russians say стринг-и (plural), perhaps by analogy with трусы (underwear in Russian, which is also always plural).

5. Клип (from English clip or video clip) – while the word клип in Russian has a pretty wide application, one case of its usage is certainly language specific. In Russian, if you are referring to the official video for a song, you would call it клип, or видеоклип but not video.

6. Митинг (from English meeting) – while in English this word simply means a gathering of two or more people for any reason whatsoever, in Russian, митинг has a distinctive political color to it. Митирг in Russian means a gathering of a large group of people, usually outside, with the purpose of discussing or defending certain political ideas or interests.

Over the years, hundreds of English words made it into the Russian language but most of them managed to preserve their original meaning. If you know of any other words you would like to add to this list, be my guest. This American fellow certainly feels pretty strongly about the use of certain English words in Russian. If nothing else, he is pretty entertaining – J.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2CCJ7ShptU

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About the Author: Jenya

Born in Russia, I spent the first twenty years of my life in Orenburg, Russia and Mogilev, Belarus. For the last eleven years, I've lived in New Hampshire and Michigan, US. While I continue to absorb and adapt to American culture, I am always thrilled to share my Russian heritage with those who find it interesting. Travel, photography and art play a special part in my life. Twitter: @iamnx2u


Comments:

  1. Sara:

    Additional words I’ve encountered, which have changed either in meaning or are used in a different context than in English include:

    организм, актуальный, аккуратный.

    These may have already been mentioned on this blog, though! Great post!

  2. Sara:

    Oh, and also: климакс (in the sense of menopause).

  3. Jenya:

    Sara, wonderful addition to the list! You are absolutely right! Thank you 🙂

  4. Nsw:

    When I first read “War and Peace,” “to flirt” was (please excuse poor transliteration) “koketnivat”; looking it up now I see it’s become флиртовать.

    • Jenya:

      @Nsw Nsw, thank you! “Koketnichat'” would be a better way to transliterate it :-). Actually, both words have coexisted in Russian for quite some time.

  5. Marina:

    also, cell phone is мобильник [mobile phone]
    and all Diapers are памперсы [Pampers® Diapers] similar to scotch and Jeep

  6. Jenya:

    Marina, totally forgot about those two 🙂

  7. Lois:

    He starts out as entertaining and then just becomes irritating. Sigh. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Lada:

    Изумительный материал! Так хочется послушать этого парнишку (как его зовут?) ещё. Спасибо, Женечка, за такие интересные посты.

  9. Lada:

    Нашла имя парнишки- Тим. Смотрю его “you tube” зарисовки. Спасибо.

    • Jenya:

      @Lada Лада, спасибо за посещение нашего блога! Честно говоря, я видела, что у Тима много роликов, но больше ничего еще не смотрела :-).

  10. Ken:

    One of my favorites is дог, which as one might guess means a dog. However, not just any dog but only a certain breed.

  11. Naggger:

    Xerox -> ксерить. Photocopy.

  12. james:

    clip
    string
    scotch
    meeting

    all used in french the way they are used in russian

  13. Cheryl B:

    Might have an explanation for “cottage,” since huge luxurious mansions in places like Newport, RI are always called cottages. Maybe it came from there.
    Several on your list I didn’t know; thanks!

  14. Kat P:

    Magazine is not a journal , its a store,,, so thats another one