New words I have learned from Anna Karenina

August 19, 2019

I am only a quarter of a way through Anna Karenina - I made a bet with a certain professional muse that I would give away all my books unless I finish it before she does War and Peace and look set to lose them - but I've already learned a considerable number of new words. Those Russian gentry were extremely civilized and spoke several languages as well as being careful to keep abreast of everything happening in science and culture - so much so that I've been shamed into trying to learn Russian.

 

 

 

Anna Karenina was Tolstoy's second novel (actually, he claimed that War and Peace was not a novel but something different and unique, with which I have sympathy.) He wrote and set it in the 1870s, the Russia of his own lifetime, rather than the historical period of War and Peace, however the milieu is much the same; decadent Petersburg aristocrats are contrasted with earthy, existentialising country squires and Muscovites. Personally, I like all of them.

 

Here are the words and phrases. Languages marked as following: G for German, E for English, F for French, R for Russian, I for Italian.

 

Kammerjunker (G) - gentleman of the bedchamber

Zertsalo (R) - a three-faced glass pyramid bearing an eagle and certain edicts of Peter the Great that stood in every government office

Zemstvo (R) - an elective provincial council for dealing with local administration

Shchi (R) - cabbage soup

Kasha (R) - buckwheat gruel

Macedoine de fruits (F) - stewed fruit

Cachet (F) - seal

Muzhik (R) - a Russian peasant

Bezique (F) - card game

Belle-soeur (F) - sister in law

Claras (presumably international) - whores

Tant mieux (F) - all for the better

Filer (F) - to spin or run

Dirigeur (F) - director

Bijou (F) - jewel

Galoshes (E) - waterproof overshoes

Entendons-nous (F) - let's understand each other

Samovar (R) - Russian tea-urn

Chignon (F) - knot or coil of hair at the back of a woman's head

Diable rose (F) - pink devil

Majolica (I) - Italian Renaissance tin-glazed etchings telling stories

Bouffe (F) - comic opera

Beadle (E) - church or synagogue usher

Rambouillet (F) - famous literary salon

 

 

 

 

 

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