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Cutting to the Chase

Published: May 25, 2014 (Issue # 1812)



Photo: Wikimedia Commons

В обрез: just barely enough

Want to visit the barber? Need to ready your pooch for a dog show? Did badly on a math test? Or want to let your uncouth neighbor know that you do not want to socialize? No problem. Just reach for the verb резать (to cut) and its prefixed derivatives.

The basic imperfective резать is a verb you probably use every day in the kitchen, where you might complain: Нож не режет! (The knife is dull, literally "doesn't cut"). If you are a doctor, you probably use it in the hospital, where it is a slightly slangy way of saying "to operate": Его завтра режут (He is going under the knife tomorrow).

But you might use it in other circumstances to describe something that stings, cuts or burns. For example, резать is used to describe any sound that you find unpleasant, like an irritating voice: Его исполнение песни режет слух (His rendition of the song grates on me). Резать can also be used with the cold: Ветер резал лицо (the wind stung my face). Or heat: Солнце режет глаза (the sun is glaring right in my eyes). Or a dark nightclub in a city without anti-­smoking laws: В этом клубе хорошая музыка, но дым так режет глаза, что не могу там долго находиться (That club has good music, but the smoke stings my eyes so much that I cannot stay there for long).

When you add the prefix под-, you get a verb that means to cut a bit off, to trim. Use подрезать at the barber's so that you do not walk out with a buzz cut. Хочу, чтобы вы только подрезали волосы чуть-чуть — буквально один сантиметр! (I want you to just trim my hair a tiny bit — literally one centimeter!).

This verb can be used with wings to give the figurative meaning of holding someone back from success or fulfillment: Он хороший певец, но ему всё время подрезают крылья и не дают раскрыться (He is a good singer, but they are clipping his wings and not letting him develop his talent).

But clipping can occur down on earth, too: Вот этот гад резко повернул направо и чуть не подрезал меня (That creep made a sharp right turn and almost clipped me).

If you add the prefix об- you get a verb that means to trim around or all over. Обрезать волосы is to cut your hair all over — to get a major haircut. Обрезать ногти or когти is to cut your nails — or claws: До выставки надо помыть собаку и аккуратно обрезать ей когти (Before the show you have to wash your dog and carefully trim her nails).

But if something is в обрез, it means you are short of it. This expression is usually used with the two things there is never enough of — money and time. У меня денег в обрез (I am down to my last dime). Времени в обрез — сеанс начинается через минут пять (We are cutting it close — the showing begins in about five minutes.)

Срезать is used for cutting things completely, like срезать цветы (to cut the flowers). It can be used figuratively in high society: Генерала срезала баронесса (The baroness snubbed the general). Or it can be used slangily in school: Срезали его по математике (They flunked him in math).

A good cutting response to being flunked or snubbed? Орать как резаный (to scream bloody murder, literally "like someone cut").

Michele A. Berdy is the author of "The Russian Word's Worth" (Glas), a collection of her columns.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of today’s round table discussion on “Interaction with Trade Unions” being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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