The Word's Worth

The Word's Worth

Get to know Russia from the inside out, with podcasts on Russian language, culture and the latest news.

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    All in a Day's Work in Russian

    Which Russian verb do you use to work badly? How do you ride into heaven? It's all in a day's work.

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    The Borshch Battles

    Borshch - is it Russian, Ukrainian, or Polish? Will language tell us? I dive back in time to find out.

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    Everything Has a Price in Russian

    Is it worth reading? How much does it cost? It's nothing. All this for the price of one word: стоить.

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    Fast as a Russian Fly

    Russians not only like to go fast, they like to talk about going fast.

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    You Gotta Have Heart

    For Russians, a heart is way more than a pump in your chest.

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    When a Russian Bum is Not a Bum

    Answering a question in my mailbag sent me down the rabbit hole of Russian abbreviations - great fun!

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    The Russian Dos of Don'ts

    When the command нельзя means don't, and when it means something else entirely.

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    Say, Where's That Quote From?

    You can take the Bible out of society, but you can't take it out of the Russian language.

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    Black Swans and Russian Bird Lore

    A column in which I explain the difference between ворон and ворона once and for all. I think.

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    The Russian Blahs

    Feeling off? Not great, but not awful? No problem! Russian has a word for it.

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    Shame On You!

    Do I feel more shame in Russian or do I just talk about it more?

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    The Key Words of 2019

    What were the words of the year for 2019? And am I Cassandra?

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    A Russian Holiday Party Primer

    A guide to holiday partying: where are you going, what you should wear, and what you should bring.

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    Making a Fuss in Russian

    Almost false friends, half false friends, semi-false friends... they drive me a bit nuts.

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    Russian Newspeak 2019

    From оч to хейтерство Russian is picking up new words from all over.

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    False Friends, Part 12

    Фарт, фартить, фартовый don't mean what you think they do.

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    On Russian Time

    This may be my most boring column ever: the impossible grammar of time.

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    Ranting the Russian Way

    Shooting sparks, pulling down thunder and lightning: Ranting as an art form.

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    Russian Men in Black

    The way things are going, I thought a primer in protest-talk might come in handy.

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    One Russian Blueberry or Two?

    One of the cursed questions of Russian life: what's the difference between черника and голубика?

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    The Connotation Conundrum

    The words are right but the connotation is totally wrong. A translator's lament.

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    On Your Russian Feet

    What do you call those things you stand on? Oh, so many options in Russian.

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    Russian Sense and Sensibility

    The earth-shaking discovery of a new Russian conjunction got me thinking about sense in every sense of the word.

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    Happy Russia Day

    On this day celebrating Russia, I decided to look into the origins of the name. Big mistake.

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    Russian Magical Thinking

    If someone is сказочный, is he magical, unbelievable, outrageous or all three? Read on.

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    Becoming Oblomov

    My greatest aspiration is to master Oblomov's ability to laze about guilt-free. Here are some linguistic pointers.

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    Take a Vacation, Russian Style

    The May holidays are beginning, so you ought to be able to talk about taking a break, right?

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    Don't Call Me That!

    A cranky cab driver led me to write a cranky column about what not to call your fare — me.

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    Let's Talk About Ukraine

    I watched hours of Russian talk shows about Ukraine so you don't have to.

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    Meet the Pupkins!

    Russian can be fun, if it involves a verb (писать), a family (Пупкины) and lots of prefixes.

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    A Russian Boyfriend

    What do you call the guy bringing you flowers and serenading you? In Russian it's tricky.

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    Stand By Your Russian What?

    What you call your male Significant Other in Russian is a linguistic minefield.

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    Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Winter's not over yet! Everything you need to know about the cold.

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    Ode to a Preposition

    Russian prepositions are a mixed bag. Some are fairly easy. Then there is при. При is a nightmare.

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    No Brexit For Russia

    In the rumor mill that is modern life, news of a new Russian verb flew around the social media this week: to Brexit.

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    Catastrophes, Geopolitical and Otherwise

    About once a year, there is yet another discussion of how best to translate Vladimir Putin’s assessment of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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    Russian Words of the Dreary Year

    Want to know what words and expressions a panel of linguists chose as Russian words of the year? Pour a stiff one before reading.

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    The Year of Living Toxically

    What’s a toxic relationship? A toxic crowd? A toxic person? Who knows? But it sounds bad.

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    Eat Your Grammar Spinach

    A simple query led to grammatical confusion — among experts! If grammarians are confused, what's a poor foreigner to do?

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    How Sweet It Is in Russian

    On Moscow baristas, polite cliches, and the mysteries of ancient Russian taste buds.

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    How Good is a Russian Not Bad?

    Language specialists have been having a grand time with the phrase “not bad,” trying to determine how it measures up on the Good-O-Meter with the Russian word неплохо (not bad).

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    Extreme Russian Grammar

    There are five exceptions which require two “n’s” in Russian participles.

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    Russian Autumn Fun

    What's autumn? A song by DDT? Well yes, but much more.

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    Of Meat and Men

    Last week most of the journalists in Moscow spent much more time than they wanted looking up cuts of meat in dictionaries.

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    What Do They Say About Moscow?

    This weekend Moscow celebrates День города (City Day), which is actually a misnomer.

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    Falling For Cheburashka

    Once upon a time, a furry little creature lived happily in a tropical forest.

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    Blowing Your Top the Russian Way

    Feeling a little testy? Experiencing some rage? Losing it? Great. Here are some ways to say that in Russian.

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    In Russian, Blame the Cat

    In Russian, male cats are fairly positive creatures. The same cannot be said for their female feline friends.

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    The Bear Russian Truth

    In the Russian metaphorical and mythical universe, the bear is a contradictory creature.

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    Theresa May Ate What?

    What Englishwoman? What did she mess up? Where did she poop?

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    Harassment Russian Style

    How is it that I’ve never written about домогательство?

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    An Ode to У

    One of the nerdy things I like to do is read scholarly papers on Russian grammar. Hey — whatever floats your boat, right?

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    Who's Sorry Now?

    Now that it's Lent, how exactly do you ask forgiveness in Russian? It's tricky.

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    I Get a (Russian) Thrill Out of You

    Originally the word for a narcotic high, кайф is probably not a word your cultured pensioner-neighbor Мария Ивановна would use.

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    Scary and Weird Russian Slang

    Just like every other year, my neighbors and I are relieved that the holidays are almost over.

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    The Winds of Russian Change

    I don’t like change. I'm not good at it. I'm more a fan of: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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    The Ungrateful Russian Wretch

    Every year around Thanksgiving, I think about благодарность (gratitude). This year, I broke with tradition to write about неблагодарность (ingratitude) in Russian. To my surprise, it’s slim pickings.

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    A Very Russian Mishmash

    Studies show that there is a direct correlation between level of turmoil and number of consonants in words used to describe it.

    Okay, I made that up.

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    The Soviet Language Revolution

    This week Russia may not be marking the 100th anniversary of the 1917 Revolution with much fanfare, but I am.

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    The Russian Shame Game

    Is there any emotion more satisfying than righteous indignation?

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    Russian Grammar Friday

    Okay, since it’s the start of a new school year, this is Grammar Friday.

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    What Is the Word’s Worth?

    I’ve been writing the Word’s Worth column for over 15 years now, deciphering Russian language. It never gets boring. Now it's coming to you as a podcast. Here's why.

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