A wise learner of language will start not with not with lame dobroye utro, pozhaluysta, kan proyti na Krasnuyu Ploschad kupit matreshkas and such but with words and phrases that are at the core of the culture. Warnings and prohibitions is what defines Russian mental set, and words and phrases to that effect permeate the language. Here are several random NO and BEWARE signs.
Words to learn:
ЗАПРЕЩЕНО (zapresheno) – prohibited. Possibly related to Buddhist “preta”, “hungry ghosts”, the souls of those who trespassed, preceded with prefix “za”, beyond. Does not “запрещено” sound sort of the same at “trespass”?
СТРОГО is “strictly”, thus СТРОГО ЗАПРЕЩЕНО is much more serious than just ЗАПРЕЩЕНО. Related to German or Dutch “strak”.
ШТРАФ (shtraf) – fine, penalty. From German “Strafe”. In use since Peters the First.
Don’t be a sucker. Fines of the above sort cannot be enforced. Insist on a policeman being present and an offence protocol filled out.
ОПАСНАЯ (opasnaya) – dangerous, adj. f. Probably related to “pass” in the sense of “go away”, something to stay away from.
СОСУЛЬКА (sosul’ka) – icicle, but СОСУЛЬКА is named so because it can be sucked. Etymologically Russian СОСУЛЬКА is related to soup, sauce, and of course suck. СОСУЛЬКА can also mean a prostitute who specializes in oral services. www.sosulka.ru will almost certainly take you to a site offering prostitutes, usually cheap ones.
We already know ЗАПРЕЩЕНО. Here it take slightly other form, “запрещен”, which is masculine. Don’t be concerned with endings. For you it is all the same whether it is ЗАПРЕЩЕНО, ЗАПРЕЩЕН, ЗАПРЕШЕНЫ or whatever. 80% of the weight is in the root, 10 in the prefix, no more than 8 is the suffix. Case or gender and number endings carry very little information. Don’t bother with them. Not worth it if you need “survival” Russian, and too early if you want to master the language.
СОБАКА is “dog”. Probably a Tartar word. A true Russian word is “пес” (pes). Funny that “собака” submits easily as being used as an offensive word while pre-Mongor “пес” does not. To make “пес” into a swear word you need to add an adjective, e.g. “смердящий” (smerdyashiy, stinky). But “собака” is capable on serving like an invective on its own. Just one of many tiny pieces of evidence pointing that the Gold Horde invasion is what gave Russians their sometimes difficult character.
ВЫГУЛ may mean “walking” (the dog) or letting it off the leash. Not clear what exactly is prohibited.
That’s a good one. НЕ КУРЯТ is not the usual imperative but an impersonal statement. The literal meaning is “(they) don’t smoke”.
Often prohibiting signs are preceded by ВНИМАНИЕ – attention.
This one is at the entrace to a “regulated” area which means that foreigners need to apply for a permit way ahead of time. The vicinity of Kandalaksha, Kopa peninsula. See www.kandalaksha.staritsa.info
A rare one with “РАЗРЕШАЕТСЯ” (razrezhayetsya, permitted). Prefix “раз” means “un” or “out”, and the root “реш” is related to English “wrap” (through the old form “wrion”. Literally “разрешить” is “unwrap” and it is used as “allowed”. This sign says, verbatim
(IT IS) ALLOWED
(TO) USE (THE) TOILET
NOT (TO) THROW INTO THE TOILET-BOWL PAPER
AND NON-BELONGING OBJECTS
“Просьба” (prosba, reques) is one of very often heard words. “Уважаемый” (uvazhayemiy, respectful) is an official form of address commonly used by policemen.
This one happened to be there. That’s how Viagra is sold. From 100 roubles apiece. No prescription required.