January 01, 2002

Promises, Promises

Promises, Promises

Whenever I start to feel that this column will some day run out of material, I soon stumble over yet another untapped theme. This is not to say this space is guided (entirely) by whimsy, but there is a grain of truth to the joke about the Chukchi song of quiet contemplation: “что вижу, то и пою” (“I sing about what I see”).

But, unlike in the Chukchi joke, what one sees or experiences is just our launching-off point. For instance, all of this talk about the ABM treaty has gotten me thinking about the word обещания (promises), which of course is often paired with ожидания (expectations). A typical dialogue between two Russians might be: “Но ты же обещал!” (“But you promised?!”) To which the other replies: “Обещанного три года ждут.” (“There’s a three year wait on all promised items.”)

When I translated that popular Russian proverb for American friends, they came to love it, and even began to применять его на практике (apply it in practice) with solicitors.

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