November 01, 2011

Catch the Wind

Catch the Wind

Recently I met the head of a local tennis association, one Irina Shirinkina. Her last name translates as "fly," as in the fly on one's pants, and so I catalogued her as "Lady Fly" in my messy Russo-English mind.

Now, I have been thinking about a column on "talking" last names for sometime, but can't get past the reality that it would have little practical use. So I let Lady Fly inspire me in a more survivalist direction: i.e. what you do when you see that someone's ширинка (fly) is расстёгнута (undone).

How do you signal your vis-a-vis without attracting too much attention from others? Well, the simple way is to say, "у тебя ширинка расстёгнута" ("your fly is undone"). But that's too easy and banal. The generally-accepted humorous euphemism is – "закрой свою калитку" ("close your wicket gate"). And by accepted I mean sanctioned by Nobel Prize laureate Mikhail Sholokhov. Witness the scene from Поднятая целина (Virgin Soil Upturned), at left. In the episode, the forgetful Yakov Lukich runs into grandpa Shchukar (дед Щукарь) after getting hurriedly dressed and rushing out of the house, puzzled by the smiles of women who pass him on the street.

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