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An article by Michele Berdy [июн. 23, 2006|02:29 pm]
Learn Russian



The 'Arm' Word
Comes in Handy

By Michele Berdy

Рука: hand or arm

One of the classic "proofs" that Russians are загадочные (mysterious),
чудные (odd) or simply не такие, как мы (not like us) is the arm/hand
issue. In English, the words are separate and distinct; in Russian, рука
is used for both. "Aha!" Westerners say. "Russians are so odd they
can't even distinguish their hands from their arms!"

Actually, Russians seem to have a pretty good grasp, as it were, of the
distinction. Furthermore, there is rarely any confusion, mostly because
context fills in the blanks. It's hard to imagine a context in which
дай руку would mean "give me your arm" or in which you might think
рукопожатие meant an "armshake" rather than a handshake.

The only anatomical confusion I can think of is analogous to English:
-- Федя сломал руку! -- Где? -- На пляже. -- Нет, я имел в виду, в каком
месте сломал? (-- Fedya broke his arm! --Where? -- On the beach. -- No!
I meant where on his arm?)

If you need to be more specific -- say, when talking to a doctor -- you
can use the word кисть (hand) or запястье (wrist).

Russian has dozens of expressions that involve hands, many of them
similar to English. For example, signs at a demonstration can demand "Руки
прочь от Байкала!" and "Hands off Lake Baikal!" in happy harmony. And
поднимать руку has the same meaning as the English "to raise a hand
against": Он на женщину руку поднять не может! (He couldn't raise a hand
against a woman.)

But other Russian hand expressions either have slightly different
meanings or are expressed a bit differently in English. For example, the
notion of "a hand not rising" indicates indecision in Russian: Уже пять
лет не ношу эти туфли, а выбросить -- рука не поднимается. (I haven't
worn these shoes for five years, but I can't bring myself to toss them
out; literally, "my hand doesn't rise to toss them.")

Руки потирать is to "rub your hands together" in satisfaction, delight
or happy anticipation. This is the same in English, although we are
more likely to add a bit of clarification. Take, for instance, this poetic
example: Ты руки потирал от наших неудач. (You rubbed your hands
together in delight over our misfortunes.) In English you might even leave
out the gesture: You delighted in our misfortunes.

Руками замахать means to wave your arms around, but it indicates
disagreement, as if one were thrashing the air to get rid of a bad smell. Она
замахала руками и сказала: "Оставь риторику!" (She waved away his words
and said, "Stop blathering!")

Руками и ногами упираться means to "resist with hands and feet," that
is, to refuse to do something. The image is like, say, a cat that one is
trying to put in a carrier to drive out to the dacha. This spread-eagle
embrace might be described in less-polite terms in English (or in
Russian, for that matter), but figuratively we express the concept with
slightly different body parts. Можешь упираться руками и ногами, но мы тебя
всё равно женим. (You can fight it tooth and nail, but we'll marry you

Руки ломать is literally "to break one's hands" -- a more vivid version
of the English "to wring one's hands." Both mean "to be terribly upset
about something." In English you might express the meaning rather than
the gesture. Не плачь, Аннушка, не ломай рук. (Don't cry, Annushka,
don't despair.)

Руки чешутся -- literally "my hands are itching" -- conveys an
eagerness to do something. In English, only the verb is the same: Так хочется
поскорее начать ремонт, аж руки чешутся! (I'm just itching to get
started on remodeling.)

Руки нагреть -- literally "to warm one's hands" -- is a homey gesture
for the nasty art of getting kickbacks or windfalls off something or
someone. Чиновники нагрели руки на дефолте. (Bureaucrats got rich off the

In other words, if you've got an itch for money -- scratch it!

Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.


[User Picture]From: oryx_and_crake
2006-07-13 04:56 am
There may be something ath the Moscow Times site (the link is above)

You can also download a bunch in an archive from here http://kalaus-kalaus.narod.ru/
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