Saturday, September 5, 2009


Ever feel a bit hesitant ordering a meal in an ethnic restaurant? Well, next time you find yourself ordering in a Russian restaurant, say, here’s a simple way to amaze your friends and startle the waiter.

(Though it could, of course, amaze the waiter and startle your friends. Either way, you come out of it looking good.)

You see, there’s a huge, little-known secret about the Russian language. Little-known except perhaps to eighty billion Russians, or whatever the population number currently is.

Most Americans don’t know about it. Those who do don’t seem to care. Well, it’s time all that changed.

Russian has a letter in its alphabet, a letter that we don’t have. It’s the letter “shch.” That’s one letter. This incredibly important, not to say vital, part of the language of the old Romanov dynasty is easily available to anyone of the Yankee persuasion, even those of us who don’t indulge much in foreign languages – which is to say, just about everybody.

If you say “fresh cheese,” you’ve pronounced it. So you can see how easy it is.

Example: surely we all know the word “tovarich,” which means comrade. Only the Russkies don’t say tovarich; they say tovarishch. And it’s just as easy to say it right.

Now, as for that meal in the Russian restaurant. Amaze your Russian waiter by saying that, unlike the others in your group who enjoy beet soup and who have ordered borsht, you’ll have the borshch. He may burst into tears, suddenly recalling the halcyon days in the dear old Soviet Union, but there’s no question he’ll be impressed.

He may give you an extra dollop of sour cream.


Hels said...

My mum always made borscht. She did not cook the clear, hot, meaty borscht; rather she was a world expert at the cold, creamy version that was thick with beetroot.

I make it occasionally in summer, dolloped with sour cream. But I was born in Australia and it just isn't the same.

Berowne said...

Thanks for the comment. As Sartre said, Hels is other people.

lena said...

Being Russian myself I seriously would be amazed when someone did the trick you suggest.
Btw how do you find russian cuisine?

Berowne said...

Many spasibos for your comment, lena. As for Russian cuisine, as you may know such items as beef stroganoff have become a normal part of the American diet -- tho probably not as well prepared as in Moskva.

Hamish Liddell said...

For some people, correct pronunciation is the hardest part in learning a foreign language. This hurdle, however, can be overcome through regular practice. Learning a few basic words in Russian will surely come in handy when dining in a Russian restaurant. Challenge yourself. Before you know it, you may eventually become fluent in a second language.

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