November 01, 2020

Leap Year Language

Leap Year Language

Superstitious Russians — 99 percent of my acquaintances — believe that any високосный год (leap year) is an unlucky year. I scoffed until 2020. Pandemic, quarantine, economic woes, wars, civic unrest, death of democracy (pick a country), deaths of beloved cultural icons… the list is apparently endless. No one is happy, everyone is worried, and some people are really struggling to keep body and soul together.

In the old days — seven months ago — when you asked someone how they were, you’d get a range of responses, from the candid Честно? Хреново! (To be honest? Crappy!), through the middle ground of не очень (not so good) or так себе (meh), right up to не могу жаловаться (can’t complain). True, rarely do people declare that everything is great, but that’s probably due to superstition: чтоб не сглазить (to keep from jinxing it).

Now you don’t even ask Как вы? (How are you?) First you ask: Как семья? Все здоровы? (How’s your family? Is everyone healthy?) And then, if all is well on the health front, you can ask about everything else. 

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