Spitting (плевать/наплевать or плюнуть) is a surprisingly important part of Russian life. It is used both literally — often in the form выплёвывать/выплюнуть (to spit out) — and figuratively. The physical act can be something of an art, for example: выплёвывать шелуху от семечек (to spit out the shell from sunflower seeds). Spitting out the shell and swallowing the seed — instead of the other way around — takes years of practice. Believe me, I know.
Плевать в лицо (to spit in someone’s face) is a terrible insult. Плевать в чайник (to spit in the kettle) is a really nasty thing to do to your neighbor in the коммуналка (communal apartment), all the more satisfying because as he drinks his tea, you know and he doesn’t. Very high yuck factor.
Figuratively, плевать connotes contempt, indifference or even inactivity: плевать на потолок (literally to spit on the ceiling) means to goof off or do nothing, despite the fact it takes a lot of skill to spit up at the ceiling and hit it with such force that it stays there and doesn’t make a return flight back into your face. All the same: После тяжёлого академического года, сын хочет только валяться на диване и плевать на потолок (After the tough school year, my son just wants to lie on the couch and do absolutely nothing).
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