May 01, 2013

Have Tongue Will Travel

Have Tongue Will Travel

In March, a long-time acquaintance – let’s call him Crusoe – sent a compassionate e-mail saying he sympathized with us Russian бедола́ги (poor things), still knee deep in snow (по коле́но в снегу́). Then, in a non sequitor, he said he owed me a bit of money.

This of course warmed my heart even more than our long-overdue о́ттепель (thaw). Well, I thought, nobody pulled you by the tongue – никто́ тебя́ за язы́к не тянул (i.e. “you said it, not me”). So, as we say, сказа́л «A», говори́ «Б» (proceed).

A week later, golden-headed Moscow (Москва́ златогла́вая) was still a long way from spring, and Crusoe was holding his tongue behind his teeth (держа́л язы́к за зуба́ми), i.e. remaining pointedly silent. Or, as we say, he did not utter ни бэ, ни мэ, ни кукареку́ (neither a B, nor a M, nor even a cock-a-doodle-doo). Was the mention of money just a slip of the tongue (огово́рка)?

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