May 01, 2009

Singing in the Rain

Singing in the Rain

Forecasting the weather in Russia is a national sport. Especially in Moscow, where some locals are obsessed with the прогноз погоды (weather forecast). This trait was ridiculed and immortalized by writer Fazil Iskander in his early story Начало (Beginning), where he pokes fun at Muscovites’ “permanent, mysterious interest in weather” and cites the ubiquitous phrase, “Тише, погоду передают!” (“Hush, the weather forecast is coming on.”). It could be a classic phrase uttered by a babushka to her grandson (I heard it many times). And the grandson obeys. For when babushka knows the weather forecast, she will одеваться по погоде (dress according to the weather). In contrast, when one is одет не по погоде, you can подхватить простуду (catch cold). So it is essential to check out the погодные условия (weather conditions) beforehand.

The word погода is also often used figuratively. When someone is studying for exams, we say, “один лишний час погоды не делает” (“One extra hour won’t change the weather/won’t make a difference”). Or, when someone has political influence in a region (like Russia in the Caucasus, or say, the US in Latin America), we say that they делают погоду в этом регионе.

Of course, as anywhere in the world, in Russia the weather is always a perfect subject for small talk. When we talk about nothing, we say “поговорить о погоде и о моде” (“to talk of weather and fashion”). Actually, in the 19th century, when Russians “small-talked” about the weather, they would use the word in plural: погоды. Thus, a Chekhovian character might say, “Погоды-то нынче какие стоят” (“What beautiful weathers we are having”). Well-educated Russians still use this expression, which sounds poetic and stylish, although a bit archaic.

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