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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

Wednesday, Aug. 20


AmCham gets back to business after a summer hiatus with today’s EHS Committee Working Group Meeting. Check their website for more details.



Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of “Treasure Island,” visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russia’s “Russian Knights” stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during today’s Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the center’s Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonight’s performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Center’s Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodina’s website for more details.



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