Oct 1, 2005

Dr. Zhivago I Ain't

My wife works with a Russian immgrant who was born and raised in St. Petersburg. This in itself is interesting, but there's more.

See, she has a way to calm dogs down while grooming them--she scolds them in Russian.

Truly. And I'm told it works.

Anyway, the thing is, this Russian lady often laughs at anyone's efforts at pronouncing the rather difficult intricacies of the Russian language. So, I told the wife to call her "tovarich" one day. This was met with a stony refusal, because she wasn't sure what I was telling her to call her, and while I was about 99% sure, I didn't need to offend a woman I had never met.

So, after about a month of useless wondering, this evening I went online to Google and even to that horrid Ask Jeeves place to see if I could get an english translation of two words I recalled well from a Robert A. Heinlein story--tovarich and gospodin. The best I could come up with was translators that would turn the English words into Cyrillic letters--pretty, but useless.

See, my idea was that the Russian term "tovarich" was akin to friend or companion, and gospodin was an honorific like the Spanish "Don." I was, surprisingly, almost completely right on both counts. A long (in internet terms) search of off the beaten path websites turned up the translations, which I will present for you here, so you don't need to go wasting time looking for the meanings when the need takes you.

Tovarich (pronounced in Southern English as 'toe,' stress on the middle syllable 'VAR' and ending "ish") means 'comrade,' in the hokey, Cold War movie way. Friend, compatriot, fellow sufferer under Stalin, that sort of thing.

Gospodin I was right on about. Pronounced 'goz-POE-den,' it bears the same translation as our French-derived 'Mister' and the Spanish 'Don,' being the simple honorific for a male person.

Now, all the hard work is done for you.

You're welcome.


Vulgar Wizard said...


Cenazoic said...

A Pedantic Interlude after an Interminable Absence.

Gospozha (госпожа) is similiar to Mrs.

btw: gospodin = господин

See that backwards N looking character, the second from last? It's a vowel with the equivalence of a long E sound in English. So your pronounciation should actually be 'gospoDEEN' rather than 'gosPOEdin'.

Gospoda (господа) is literally 'gentlemen' but used colloquially as 'friends'. (just as a point of possible etymological interest.)

You know I know Russian, right? :)