May 01, 1998

Talking Man-to-Man



Talking Man-to-Man

Just between us men, who among us has not dreamed of becoming a real macho man – what the Russians call a настоящий мужик? But what is a “real muzhik”? Some Russians think he should be able to drink anyone under the table, whereas some prefer sobriety, in order to show off their prowess at, say, a fitness center. As to qualities with which Survival Russian can be of help, it could reasonably be said that women all over the world value a muzhik with a good sense of humor. Didn’t the French writer Stendhal say: “Oh, you made a woman laugh? It’s as if you were already in her bed!” So, he who has many humorous idioms up his sleeve may be more likely to please the ladies.

To begin with, the title of this piece could be restated in a more humorous way. You will often hear Russian men saying, in fun, “Just between us girls” (“Между нами, девочками, говоря”). And this invariably draws smiles from all sides – of course, provided it is said amongst friends; amongst strangers, it may draw a negative reaction, political correctness knows no boundaries it seems...

As to manhood, there is an assortment of phrases to characterize a macho man. A настоящий мужик always behaves like a man (по-мужски), and, if he wants to urge someone to do the same, he might say “if you are a man” (“если ты мужчина”) – which is also a good way to provoke a fight. Manhood (мужественность) can also be seen in someone’s face, thus the phrase мужественное лицо. If two guys want to talk to each other man-to-man, they would have a мужской разговор. And men are supposed to speak like men. So, if someone says something juvenile (or simply says something you don’t like) and then all of a sudden his words start making sense, you can condescendingly tell him, “вот это речь не мальчика, но мужа” (“now I hear a man talking, rather than a boy”).


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