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59 votes
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Why do Russians call their women expensive ("дорогая")?

There's nothing special about Russian. In many European languages there's one word that can be used to state that something is highly esteemed and/or expensive. French - cher means both expensive (...
Frank from Frankfurt's user avatar
46 votes
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Why do Russians call some women a dynamo (динамо)?

The source of that meaning comes from a rather old slang verb динáмить meaning водить за нос; продолжительное время обманывать, вводить в заблуждение, не делать по отношению к кому-либо обещанного ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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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 ...
Sergey Slepov's user avatar
30 votes
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Origin of прятки (Russian word for "Hide and Seek" game)

Neither. This word derives from the verb "прятаться", which translates as "to hide (oneself)".
Vilmar's user avatar
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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 ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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21 votes
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Is "культуры Энергетик" a set phrase based on the German "kulturelle Energetik"?

No. The set phrase is дворец культуры, and «Энергетик» should properly be in quotes as it's the name of that particular Palace of Culture. An энергетик is a person, a power engineer. Naming things ...
Nikolay Ershov's user avatar
20 votes
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What is the etymology of "грёбаный"?

It's a euphemism of ёбаный ("fucking", literally "fucked"), same as in English "frigging" instead of "fucking". The root itself is a descendant of a PIE root meaning "to dig, to scratch". This word ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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20 votes
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Is "тройбан" derived from "ебан тремя"?

-бан is an argotic suffix that is used to create word that is not used in normal/official language as one of purposes of argot itself. See тройбан, щелбан, дружбан.
Anatoly Rybalchenko's user avatar
20 votes
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The original word for a wild boar

You are probably looking for “вепрь”. While understandable to a modern Russian speaker, it still has an air of “fairytale-ness”. I personally would just use “кабан”. I don't know how and why “кабан” ...
Ainar-G's user avatar
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19 votes

Why do Russians call their women expensive ("дорогая")?

дорогой/ая is not only expensive, it's also dear, the word has at least two meanings Not only women are called дорогая in the sense of dear, men are addressed as дорогой as well, in formal ...
Баян Купи-ка's user avatar
19 votes
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The origin of "за двумя зайцами погонишься"

Came into European languages from Greek via Erasmus' Latin translation: Ὁ δύο πτῶκας διώκων οὐδέτερον καταλαμβάνει Duos insequens lepores, neutrum capit (English: By chasing two rabbits, he catches ...
tum_'s user avatar
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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 ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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18 votes
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Before 1957, what word or phrase was used for satellites (natural and artificial)?

This was not a new word. The original meaning of the word спутник is traveling companion. It has been used in this sense since the dawn of the modern Russian language. Similarly, the use of the word ...
mustaccio's user avatar
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18 votes
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Why do some Russian words look similar to English ones?

The influx of Latin words into what is now the Russian language happened in several waves: VII-X centuries, direct contact of Slavic people with the speakers of Romance languages: вино < vinum, ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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16 votes
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Question about spelling "чьё/чья/чьи"

Not redundant, does affect. The soft mark is the reason чьи is pronounced [tɕji] and not [tɕi]. Basically, ь between a consonant and a vowel is pronounced [j] — an actual separate iotic consonant, as ...
Nikolay Ershov's user avatar
16 votes
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Why "Гиппократ" but "ипподром"?

The word "гипподром" is still used as a historical term for ancient stadiums for horse racing. The reason for dropping "г" was French influence where "h" is not pronounced (and the word hippodrome is ...
shabunc's user avatar
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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 ...
tum_'s user avatar
  • 3,012
14 votes

Before 1957, what word or phrase was used for satellites (natural and artificial)?

Here is a scan of the October 5, 1957 announcement from Pravda: The first sentence reads: В течение ряда лет в Советском Союзе ведутся научно-исседовательские и опытно-конструкторские работы по ...
David42's user avatar
  • 1,096
14 votes

Before 1957, what word or phrase was used for satellites (natural and artificial)?

The word спутник meaning "a satellite of a celestial body" was coined, as were many other Russian scientific terms, by Mikhail Lomonosov. He first used it in his 1744's translation of ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
  • 53.8k
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 ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
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12 votes

What are the lasting effects of communism on the russian language?

As Nikolay pointed out, one can amuse oneself looking for new meanings of the old words, or new words, or some such, but this is hardly a specific characteristic of the communist-era influence. Any ...
Zeus's user avatar
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12 votes
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The etimology of the "-дцать" postfix?

"Дцать" is just a reduction, originally "двенадцать" was "дъванадесѩте", sort of "two on top of ten". English word of Latin origin "decimal" can give you a hint.
shabunc's user avatar
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12 votes

Is "культуры Энергетик" a set phrase based on the German "kulturelle Energetik"?

Энергетик here is a proper name, with correct punctuation it should have been Дворец культуры "Энергетик". Энергетик means "power systems engineer". In USSR, it was common to name local things after ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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12 votes
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Почему "Венера", а не 'Венус"?

Imparisyllabic Latin words (meaning words having an extra syllable in genitive compared to nominative) are usually cited in their genitive form, as it's usually a more accurate representation of the ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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12 votes
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The origin of "В тридевятом царстве, в тридесятом государстве"

There is a number of ethnographic and cultural studies about what the тридевятое царство, тридесятое государство was in fact, but I believe, that is not the matter of your question. Linguistically, ...
Elena's user avatar
  • 4,384
11 votes

What is the origin of the word "мешок"?

Мешки used were made of skins with the fur.The word мешок comes from the word мех
Sergeev Matvey's user avatar
11 votes
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Origin of "Котлин"

Deriving Котлин from котёл is an example of folk etymology - and actually, it's completely wrong. To start with even if it was derived from котёл - in Russian it would hardly end up as Kotlin - it's ...
shabunc's user avatar
  • 37.9k
11 votes

Origin of name "Kamchatka"

There is a hypothesis that the toponym Kamchatka has its origin in the Ainu language. The original inhabitants of Southern Kamchatka, Sakhalin island, Kuril and Japanese islands were the Ainu people, ...
Yellow Sky's user avatar
  • 26.1k
11 votes

Why do Russians call their women expensive ("дорогая")?

Russians are people, and people like saying nice things to those they love, and comparing someone to something expensive (or, rather, precious) is a very nice thing to say. It's quite a common ...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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11 votes
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Why is the Russian word Лошадь (horse) so similar to the word площадь (square)?

They are not related any more than English "mare" and "square" are. Лошадь is believed to originate from Turkic languages. Площадь is a native Russian word, ultimately from a Proto-...
Quassnoi's user avatar
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