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19 November 2018

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Russian-English Dictionary of Idioms

By Sophia Lubensky

There are hundreds of works marketed to English speakers working with Russian, but a huge proportion are, quite frankly, careless recastings of past references compiled with little thought for the needs of the end user. The “Lubensky,” as Russian into English translators fondly call it, is an exception.

For years, the book was out of print, and translators and other serious students of Russian were forced to pay hundreds of dollars for used copies of this indispensable reference. Thank goodness for the revised edition! Not only has it made this work available again for a two-figure sum, but it is better than ever, with hundreds of new entries, bringing the number of idioms covered close to 14,000. Furthermore, Lubensky judiciously mines the vast corpus of English translations of Russian literature (the revised edition adds to the mix such contemporaries as Akunin, Sorokin, and Ulitskaya) for bilingual usage examples – multiple ones for each idiom to cover the full range of meanings and contexts (some examples are invented).

The dictionary is also of value to anyone wishing to speak correct, idiomatic Russian, as it provides information on the forms in which each idiom is commonly used (such as word order, tense, negation), as well as its register and other characterizations (colloquial, rude, ironic, disapproving, etc.). The thoughtfulness with which the idioms have been organized, labeled, indexed, translated, and contextualized through examples makes Lubensky's Russian-English Dictionary of Idioms a lexicographic gem.

— Nora Favorov

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Reviewed in Russian Life: May/June 2014