31 votes
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How come the Russian cognate for the Czech word "čerstvý" (fresh) means entirely the opposite thing (stale)?

Looking at the meanings of cognates of the Proto-Slavic čь̑rstvъ, one can notice the common meaning 'hard', 'strong', 'sharp'. I guess the Czechs and the Slovaks view fresh bread as 'hard on the ...
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29 votes
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Why are there so many Dutch words that sound similar to Russian words?

The first Russian Emperor Peter I actually studied in what is modern-day Netherlands and was very inspired among other things, by the navy. Coming back to Russia he initiated the creation of the ...
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28 votes

Why are there so many Dutch words that sound similar to Russian words?

The words you give fall essentially into three groups: Words that have been borrowed into both Russian and Dutch from some third source: meubel/мебель, from French, and paprika/паприка, from Serbo-...
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  • 431
23 votes
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What kind of Russian orthography is this?

Yes, it's Russian in the pre-reform orthography. The reform was in 1918, so this is just a hundred years old Russian. It's easy to understand, just as it's easy to understand a hundred years old ...
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23 votes
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Why is there a "ц" in "Сан-Франциско"?

As you can notice nobody calls in Russian Francesco d'Assisi Франческо д'Ассизи - and I'm not saying this in ironical way. For instance, Leonardo da Vinci is indeed called Леонардо да Винчи. The thing ...
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23 votes
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Why do Russians call a joke a stake (прикол)?

Just homonyms.There's an older word, подкол 'joke' together with the verbs подколоть (perf.), подкалывать (imp.) 'to play a joke [on smb]', but here 'the joke' is aimed at a person to make laugh of ...
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19 votes
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Как бы звучало по-русски название медведя *r̥ḱs-os/*r̥ḱt-os, доживи оно до наших дней?

Очень интересный вопрос, давайте прикинем. I. Сначала рассмотрим переход индоевропейских фонем в праславянские в варианте *r̥ḱt-os. Поскольку славянские языки – это языки "satem", то *ḱ > *s. ...
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18 votes
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Why do verbs in past tense—and not other parts of speech—have gender?

Because historically what we call past in modern Russian is perfect, and what we believe to be past forms of the verbs are in fact participles (adjectives formed from verbs). Compare: Он пел / она ...
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  • 47.6k
17 votes

Why are United Nations and United Arab Emirates translated as "Объединённые", but United States as "Соединённые"?

Объединять and its derivatives were not used in Russian before about 1850. Kostomarov did use it time to time in his works, however, he mostly used соединить wherever a modern Russian speaker would ...
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17 votes
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Why are German soldiers of WWII commonly referred to in the Russian language as fascists (фашисты)?

First of all, people call those they don't like "bastard" and "son of a bitch", even if they were not actually born out of wedlock and their mother was a woman rather than a female dog. "Fascist" is ...
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  • 47.6k
17 votes

Why has the word Жид (Jew) become a taboo in Russian?

As a rule you just can not ask question like "why some words has changed their meaning". Well, you can but quite often we just can not say why. Just like phonetic changes, semantical shifts ...
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16 votes
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Why did the frequency of the word "черт" (devil) in books increase by a few times since the October Revolution?

I looked into some of those book excerpts, and there are some homonyms. Both pre- and post-1918 «черт.» (with dot) could be an abbreviation for «чертёж(ъ)» (drawing, figure) - mostly in technical ...
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  • 825
15 votes
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What is "Э оборотное"?

"Э оборотное" is just other name for "э". The reason why it's called "оборотное" (sort of reversed) is that modern Russian "е" initially was written as "є" - well, more strictly among other form this ...
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  • 37.4k
15 votes

How come the Russian cognate for the Czech word "čerstvý" (fresh) means entirely the opposite thing (stale)?

I decided to turn my comment into an answer and add some references, etc. It is a very common phenomenon in related (but, nonetheless, different !) languages. A common language splits into branches ...
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  • 2,992
14 votes
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Н > И change in Cyrillic, when and why?

Думаю что целенаправленного изменения штриха не было. Если посмотреть на заглавные буквы печатных книг, видно что штрих в букве И сначала был ровным, потом слегка наклоненным (как бы для удобства ...
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13 votes
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Did Russian language brought any thing from Tamil language?

Obviously nobody created the Russian language, it evolved from Slavic which evolved from some proto-Slavic which evolved from something that we now call Proto-Indo-European language. Tamil is not ...
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13 votes
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How early is "животноводство" attested?

Well, this kind of terms - I mean, terms for describing some branch of economical activity as a whole - usually came to active usage when economical statistics became a thing. In Russia, more or ...
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13 votes

Why do phonetically same Russian and Polish obscenities mean very different things?

If you deal with languages that split quite recently, about 1000 years ago or even later as it was for the Slavic languages, you will definitely encounter the false friends, a phenomenon every ...
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13 votes
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History of /f/ sound in Russian

The letter ф is found almost exclusively in loanwords. The only exceptions are sparse native Russian words like дрофа, филин and onomatopoeic words like фу, фыркать etc. The sound [f], though, can be ...
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12 votes
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Russianization of Ancient Greek personal names

This tradition comes way back from Old Church Slavonic. OCS was conceived as a literary language for translation of the Scripture. As such, though it was based on the Slavic dialect spoken in ...
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12 votes
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What were the original half-Russian Siberians called?

There's no such thing like "Siberian person" - Siberia is huge, really huge and was populated by very different people with different history, culture and genetic heritage. That said, there never ...
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12 votes
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"дочерям их не будет ни в пути, ни при Дворе никаких обид"

“дочерям их не будет ни в пути, ни при Дворе никаких обид” I am not a native speaker, but it is pretty straightforward, so I cannot miss the rare opportunity to answer: "Their daughters won't suffer ...
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11 votes
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Why are United Nations and United Arab Emirates translated as "Объединённые", but United States as "Соединённые"?

Соединённые is historical, used AFAIK only with the US and the UK (Соединённое Королевство, which loses overwhelmingly to Великобритания in frequency of usage. The English term "United Kingdom" dates ...
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11 votes

Странный слог А. Дубровского

Возможно дело действительно в обращении. Они были регламентированы в зависимости от чинов и прочих заслуг. В частности, в переписке частные лица обращались следующим образом: ко всем частным лицам —...
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10 votes
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What are the advanced Russian words якобы and дабы?

Якобы means "allegedly". It's perfectly normal in everyday speech. Дабы (either the first or the second syllable can be put under the stress) is an old-fashioned conjunction meaning "so that". You ...
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  • 15.2k
9 votes

"Красная" Площадь

To answer your second question, in modern Russian красный (красная, красное) means red, as in color. When someone says Красная площадь, what comes to mind is the square at the center of Moscow, and ...
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  • 382
9 votes

"Красная" Площадь

If you had to generalize, do Russians today hear/understand the name as "Red Square" or "Beautiful Square" (regardless of what they know intellectually about its origins)? No. In modern Russian ...
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  • 8,397
9 votes

Why Lomonosov calls Russian language "российский"?

Россия is a hellenized form of the native Russian word Русь. It was first attested in XIV century and had since been for some time a part of grand style rhetoric (высокий штиль), the one Lomonosov ...
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  • 47.6k
9 votes

Why are German soldiers of WWII commonly referred to in the Russian language as fascists (фашисты)?

"Fascism" is a strong label in Russian language. It is stronger than "Nazism" or "Racism". It is much stronger in Russian than in English, for example. But how come this ...
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  • 4,244
9 votes

Why are German soldiers of WWII commonly referred to in the Russian language as fascists (фашисты)?

Как возник термин "фашисты". "Правда" от 21 июня 1941 года не называет никого ни фашистами, ни нацистами, а всегда использует нейтральные термины вроде "германское командование", "германское ...
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