It happens every year. Before the holidays, we are urged to open our hearts and wallets to delight our loved ones with gifts and support the needy with necessities. After the holidays, we are urged, by our conscience or our bank accounts, to be frugal.
In Russian culture, being frugal (экономный, умеренный) is acceptable. Being generous (щедрый) is better. But being greedy and cheap are Very Bad Things. In Russian, the two concepts are almost always combined, and they are expressed in two sets of words: one set that begins with ж- and another set that begins with ск-.
The ж- words — жадный (greedy); жадина (penny-pincher); жмот (cheapskate); and прижимистый (tight-fisted) — all come from the verb жать (to hold tight, wring, squeeze). There is a lot of folk wisdom about greedy folks: Жадных я не уважаю. (I don’t respect greedy people.) Как всякий богач, был прижимист. (Like all rich people, he was a penny-pincher.) Один типаж жадины — это мужчина из серии “не будем тратить лишнего.” (One kind of cheapskate is the type of man who says, “We’re not spending one kopek extra.”)
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