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In English, you call a person a dynamo to say that he or she is extremely energetic (e.g., she was a dynamo in London politics), but Russians mean something entirely different when they call someone a dynamo (spelt in Russian as динамо or, more commonly, динамщица): a woman who refuses to have sex after a date.

As I understand, a more accurate definition of the Russian meaning of dynamo is this: A woman who accepts a man's invitation to a restaurant to have an expensive dinner, which has, in accordance with the Russian tradition, to be fully paid by the man, but afterwards, after the dinner, unexpectedly refuses to have sex with him, contrary to the man's expectations, which are based on the Russian tradition and have been fueled by non-verbal signs and indirect hints given by the woman herself, at least in the man's interpretation of them.

At any rate, the Russian culture of dating is very special, as very well highlighted by @Anixx in his comments under a different question of mine, so I am not asking to explain me all subtleties of dating in Russia, but I am really curious about the etymology of that Russian word. I guess it is related to the English word dynamo, but how? What is the logical connection? I tried to find an answer on the Internet, but found no plausible explanation.

So what is the etymology of that word?

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The source of that meaning comes from a rather old slang verb динáмить meaning

  1. водить за нос; продолжительное время обманывать, вводить в заблуждение, не делать по отношению к кому-либо обещанного или ожидаемого;
  2. прогуливать, пропускать что-либо (уроки, занятия, встречи и т. д.);

  3. флиртовать, не вступая в интимную связь (обычно о женском поле).

The etymology is usually explained this way:

Термин «динамить» («продинамить») возник среди рабочей молодёжи по примеру технически несовершенного и не срабатывающего с первого раза при ручном запуске генератора постоянного тока, предназначенного для выработки электрического тока системы зажигания двигателей первых моделей автомашин, называемого в начале XX в. «динамо-машина». (Пример: ◆ «Крутишь, крутишь… — уже весь вспотел, а толку никакого!»)

UPD: For those who need it in English, here it is.
That meaning of 'dynamo' comes from the early 20th century slang verb динамить "to dynamo". In those times automobiles were usually started with hand cranks (also known as 'starting handles' in the UK), before electric starters came into general use. The crank rotated the dynamo which started the engine, but very often it worked badly, you rotated the crank for a long time, sweated, but to no avail. So 'to dynamo' also came to mean 'to cheat', 'to fool for a long time', 'not to do as promised', 'to defy expectations', and also 'to flirt without intention to start intimate relationship.'

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    Dang, I was found the question interesting but the answer is entirely in Russian, which I don't speak :( – Clonkex Feb 21 at 0:16
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    @Clonkex - In short, that meaning of 'dynamo' comes from the early 20th century slang verb динамить "to dynamo". In those times automobiles were usually started with hand cranks ('starting handles' in the UK), before electric starters came into general use. The crank rotated the dynamo which started the engine, but very often it worked badly, you rotated the crank for a long time, sweated, but to no avail. So 'to dynamo' also came to mean 'to cheat', 'to fool for a long time', 'not to do as promised', 'to defy expectations', and also 'to flirt without intention to start intimate relationship.' – Yellow Sky Feb 21 at 3:04
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    Oh right, thanks! – Clonkex Feb 21 at 3:05
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    I did some additional research and found some evidence supporting that explanation. It turns out, as people recall and write on the Internet, that the original expression, popular in the USSR era, was крутить динамо, and that expression was used in relation to girls. – Mitsuko Feb 23 at 9:35
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The nearest English analog will be a "cocktease".

And to say that the girl is dynamo (or "dynamschitsa"/"dynamshik" in case of a girl/boy) isn't about money or something like that. It means that you did something to get her (e.g. went to date or bought flowers or whatever) but the girl doesn't fulfill your expectations of sex (or romantic relationship, etc.).

Example: "don't waste your time with this girl, she is dynamschitsa" - that literally means "there will be no easy sex".

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The obvious explanation comes from the Russian street-language meaning of another verb, "to spin". "To spin someone" means to get something from someone, money etc, using tricky actions, that one wouldn't give you normally.

The key idea is that the dynamo machine has to be "spinned" to give you energy when you spin it.

"She is dynamo" = "she is the dynamo machine case". So that kind of woman tricky "spins" you for your money, time and efforts, when you're trying to get relationship return back from her, they mainly mean sex.

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    'In America, you spin the dynamo. In Soviet Russia, the dynamo spins YOU !!' Do you mean this? :D – Yellow Sky Feb 23 at 10:02
  • it's not that "she is dynamo machine spinning you", it's "she is the case of dynamo machine that is about spinning" – Nick Kovalsky Feb 23 at 12:26
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The origins of verb динамить is from the term rapo game coined by the popular psychologist Eric Berne. The Russian translator, Александр Грузберг, translated it as игра "динамо". Berne's book in Gruzberg translation was published in 1999 and became very popular.

The verb динамить colloquially means "to do any trick from a book in order to attract a man, making an impression you like him and may let him to have sex with you in future, but never actually letting him in your pants".

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    Hasn't it occurred to you that repo game was translated as динамо because Russian had already had the name for such behavioral patterns as described by Eric Berne in his book? The verb динамить had appeared in Russian before Berne's book was translated into Russian in 1988, see here. – Yellow Sky Feb 21 at 9:51
  • Under your link, I see only a picture which is far too small to see any text on it. – user31264 Feb 21 at 11:01
  • I've got that magazine. It's Искусство кино, 1981, №7, page 177. exactly in the middle of the left column. Here is the complete magazine, downloadable PDF file. – Yellow Sky Feb 21 at 11:10
  • Не понятно, что значит "мой талант вашего брата динамить". – user31264 Feb 21 at 12:43
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    Что ж тут непонятного? Нина говорит эти слова Ивану, значит «вашего брата» значит «мужчин». Ну а что такое «динамить» вы и сами в своём ответе написали. По этому сценарию Зорина в 1982 году был снят х/ф «Свидание». Я не смотрел, посмотрите, если есть желание. Там, кстати, «вашего брата» может значить не «мужчин», а «людей вашей профессии», Иван же в той сцене Нину куда-то приглашал, но сценарий я только мельком просмотрел, точнее сказать не могу. Прочитайте сценарий или посмотрите фильм, и всё станет ясно. Но динамить в 1981 уже таки было. ))) – Yellow Sky Feb 21 at 13:06

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