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A Russian friend of mine claims that the word "чита" can mean "small monkey". She thinks that it might be a colloquialism, but she cannot recall its etymology. I believe she has been using it since childhood (50+ years ago), so it may be an archaism. I can't seem to find any references of this usage online, however, other than perhaps the fact that there was a Chimpanzee named Cheeta, famous for having appeared in the Tarzan movies from the 1930s through the 1960s, who is referred to in the Russian media as "чита".

Is my friend using this word erroneously? If not, what is the etymology of this odd usage?

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    Your guess is spot-on: it was "Чита" the chimp from the "Tarzan" movies that became an appellative among the generation that grew up watching the famous movies with Weissmuller in the title role. – Sergey Kalinichenko Nov 25 '12 at 12:54
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    It's very likely, that this comes from some famous soviet film of that times, like en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aybolit-66 – permeakra Nov 26 '12 at 15:24
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'Чита' is short form from 'обезьянка Чита' (not обезьяна) and it means 'little or baby monkey (name?) Чита'.

I don't know the etymology for this name, but I think it's from fairy tales/cartoons/children's books. Once upon a time somebody named that baby monkey character is Чита and so on. I'm not sure, maybe 'Teddy' means 'bear' the same way in English, like Чита means 'baby monkey' in Russian, but Чита is used very rarely.

You can use the name of any other popular character instead of Teddy. More examples are Миша(Мишка)= медведь, Миша (медвежонок Мишка), Серый=серый волк, Тортилла=черепаха Тортилла

You can use 'Чита'='baby monkey' only when you talk to children/in jokes/when kidding and you must be pretty sure the other person understands you. 'Чита' in ordinary, everyday speech is not used.

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A little monkey is called мартышка. I have never heard or read the form "чита" in my 50 years life.

Your friend obviously, when being a child" had taken the well-known Cheeta shimp name for a name for all small monkeys. It often happens that people are taking their child memories for absolute facts. Maybe she or her mother used the name this way.

Shortly: It is NOT the part of the Russian language.

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  • Welcome to Russian.SE. We prefer a longer answers which elaborate on the subject and provide some facts behind them. Just because you haven't heard about it doesn't automatically means that it doesn't exist (although in this case you may be correct). However other answers have already discussed possible reasons for it and your answer doesn't seem to add any additional information. Please refrain from simply reposting existing answers without elaborating on them further. – Aleks G Dec 4 '12 at 12:25
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    Other answers haven't given the correct Russian word for "small monkey", haven't you noticed? So, I had added sugnificant information. – Gangnus Dec 4 '12 at 12:42
  • Note that literal translation for мартышка is marmoset, and the meaning little monkey is informal. – theUg Jan 12 '13 at 19:07
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    @theUg Excuse me, I would rather say that "marmoset" meaning is a narrow biological term, and "little monkey" meaning is a common term. – Gangnus Jan 13 '13 at 10:29
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Names starting with "Чи" are popular among monkeys: in my childhood, there was a popular children folklore poem about a monkey called Чи-Чи-Чи. A quick google search found stories with monkeys named Чинита (Чита) and Чичи.

Traditionally, animals in Russian fairy tales have names that often travel from one story to another. A bear is Миша or Мишка, a fox can be Лиса Патрикеевна, and so on. These names can be used instead of actual species' names when talking to children, or in some other contexts (say, a villager may use them to show that their relationship with nature is somewhat personal). However, monkeys never were a part of Russian folklore, so there is no such name commonly accepted for monkeys. While your friend has "Чита" reserved for small monkeys, others may have "Чичи", and the majority of Russians probably has no such name set for monkeys at all.

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In short, no. There is no special name for monkey in Russia, since in this country monkeys are not spreaded widely due to cold climate. There is some evidence that monkeys were seen at Russian Far East - Primorye and Khabarovsk region. From some people, living at Far East, I heard word зёма, they used one ironically when referring to monkeys. But this use is rare, because зёма itself means slang form of земляк (countryman).

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Monkey in Russian is "обезьяна". Male monkey too. "Обезьян" is used sometimes, but it is a joke form, hinting the monkey is mean or looks serious. Sometimes, for diversity, it can be "примат". "Чита" is a Russian city. The accent on last letter. Although, Чита is a name of the ape filmed in old Tarzan movies. Accent on second letter. It was listed along with actors. Film was very popular with Russian children and ape became a subject of many rhymes, mostly indecent. From there the name moved to some children books as a trickster character. In rhymes it was mostly "обезьянка Чита", that's why you think it is about ape cub. No, "обезьянка" just means it is small ape, not stating if it is because of age or species.

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