November 01, 2008

Mauvaix phone

Mauvaix phone

Ten years ago in this column (October 1998, to be exact), I raised the issue of phone etiquette (you’ll have to get the book to read it now). So it’s high time for an update, especially now that every Russian has a cell phone (and every second Muscovite has two!). 

One’s мобильный телефон is commonly called a мобильник (note the “rough” suffix ник), мобила, or, more tenderly, мобилка. 

Take note, however: today, no Russian under 30 uses the verb позвонить. Instead, it is the era of набрать (from набрать номер – to dial a number). A twentysomething says “набери мне” (literally “dial me”) instead of “позвони мне.” Or, worse, “набери меня.” A typical statement is: “Я ему набрал, а он не берёт.” This means, of course, “I dialed him, but he did not pick up.” Yet an unwitting translator, absent context, could correctly translate this as, “I picked some (flowers, mushrooms, whatever) for him, but he wouldn’t take them.” 

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See Also

Gorod 312

Gorod 312

The band's anti-cellphone video, mentioned in this issue's Survival Russian.

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