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Culture news, 27.07.2007 18:25

Words worth

words_worth One of the interesting effects of dacha life is that you begin to lose track of the days of the week. You stop marking the days as Monday or Saturday, and instead think in terms of the day it rained or the scorcher.

Lost in the haze of days out at my dacha, I started wondering about Russian calendars, and I discovered that Ive simply reverted to the old Russian way of experiencing days and months.

From recorded time, ancient Russians had 12 months, but until the 12th century and until much later in many places the names of the months were very different from what we know now. They also varied by region and described either the weather, what was happening in nature or the work that was traditionally done.

January: (mid-winter) or (from blue when everything is colored with the bluish tint of rime).

February: (from when things begin warming up) or (from when the undergrowth is culled).

March: (from , thawed patches of snow) or (dry; when peasants check to see how the earth is drying out).

April: (from when the snow is chased away); (from c, when plants begin to bloom); or (from birch and ashes; when birch tree ashes are used to fertilize the land).

May: (from , when grass appears).

June: (when the grain grows high), or (a term for grasshoppers or cicadas that begin their serenade).

July: (the top of the head of the year); (from , when crops are cut); (red when berries ripen); or (when the linden tree blooms).

August: (from , to salt, when vegetables are put up) or (from , the sickle used to harvest).

September: (from , downcast) or (windy).

October: (when leaves fall) or (the time of weddings).

November: (middle of the winter months) or (from pile when the frozen earth is piled up).

December: (the time of cold).

What lyrical and descriptive words for plain old months! What a shame Russian didnt retain them as many other Slavic languages did. We English speakers would have had an easier time right after Russia accepted the Western names of the months: , , , , , , , , , , , . Russians seem to have suffered with these unpronounceable and incomprehensible names, and over the centuries the names were Russified to their present form.

Michele A. Berdy

Sergey Chernov is on vacation

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