May 01, 2008

Far & Away

Far & Away

As our ursine president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, was trying out his powers in March, I realized I neglected a very apropos bearish idiom in my last column: медвежий угол (a bear’s corner). This led me to a consideration of what we Russians call (other than медвежий угол) a place in the middle of nowhere – the kind of place about which you might say, “it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there.”

Russian has plenty of words designating places remote and repellent. No need to travel to the Far East, just look at a map of Moscow. There is the infamous Орехово-Борисово district, which we humorously call Орехово-Кокосово (from the word кокос – coconut) or a Богом забытое место (God-forsaken place) like Бескудниково or Жулебино (for these, we have the funny appellation Малые Бибири). 

There is the expressive and colorful word for remote places, глухомань. It is from the word глухой (deaf), perhaps because there is deafening silence there (some synonyms are глушь, захолустье). This could be used in reference to a small, provincial town, a провинциальная дыра (provincial hole). 

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