17 November 2006

Linguistic Oddities, or Fun with Russian Verbs

One bad thing about studying linguistics is that a lot of linguistic "fun facts" cease to amaze you once you've studied how language works. For example, the old one about "the Eskimos have seventeen words for snow!" is a lot less exciting once you've learned that the language this fun fact concerns is one that concatenates adjectives and nouns so they become one word. So not only do they have a word for "wet snow," they probably also have a word for "wet dog."

Anyway. So when I find a word that still amazes/amuses, it's exciting. The verb недоперепить/nedoperepit', which I learned last weekend, is one such word. Why? Literally, it means "to under-overdrink," which is obviously an oxymoron. But it's a useful verb, especially in a society that drinks to excess. What it means is to intend to drink yourself into oblivion, but fail to drink enough to do so. ("I had an awful time at the bar last weekend. I wanted to drown my sorrows concerning my girlfriend, but I nedoperepil.")

I'd like to note that this is one word I did not learn by doing. It came up, dorkily enough, in the course of a discussion on the amazing Russian verbal prefix system, not in the course of a bottle of vodka. But speaking of drinking, I was checking out the various flavored vodkas and cognacs at the supermarket the other day (there's a very interesting line featuring local berries, fruits and forest flavors like cedar and birch), and as I picked up one bottle I noticed that it was lighter than the rest. It seems someone had unscrewed the lid and downed almost half the bottle! Since the store has (the ubiquitous Russian) security guards posted right near the alcohol, I have to wonder how this happened, and I can only conclude that the guard himself has been taking a nip every now and then. I don't blame him - I can't imagine guarding a supermarket is terribly exciting work.

5 comments:

^u3a said...

That may be my new fav. verb. Ya dymayu chto ya bydy nedoperepitj zavtrak kagdo ya smatryu futbol. :-)

Does nedoperepitj take a direct object? Like does one netoperepitj vodky?

I really need to figure out how to type in Cyrillic...

<3, L

Anonymous said...

Nipping out of the bottle while guarding it (and the rest of the bottles) seems a totally Russian thing to do.

And vodka that tastes like cedar does not sound appealing at all.

But I do like the idea of the Eskimos possibly having a single word for the singular experience of "wet dog."

An interesting blog entry, all the way around ...

MC

Leslie said...

Лиза,

Я надеюсь, что ты не недоперепила, а просто выпила (drank enough) вчера на The Game. После игры (ранно утром здесь) я позвонила Mike и говорила с тех, которые были у Dan, Kevin, Casserly, etc., а тебя там не было! Жаль...

It's intransitive, but I'm sure there's a way to specify what you were drinking when you failed to overdrink - perhaps with the instrumental case? ("I underoverdrank in the manner of vodka.")

Anonymous said...

Leslie,

Thanks for teaching *me* a new Russian word!

I see from your comment to Lisa that your Russian is getting quite good! Kol ha kavod (Hebrew for "all the respect" or, in other words, mad props!)

Just one correction (to my poor-grammared-ears, mind you): you spoke with "temi," not "tex."

Love and linguistic hugses,
Da

Vardit said...

That's absoutely, utterly, indescribably fantastic. Definitely the winner of the Best Word Oscar. Glad to read that you're having fun in Vladivostok!
Hugs,
Vardit
~~~*