Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Versatility of Russian

On a flight from Rostov to St Petersburg, I asked my seatmate how he would compare the Russian and English languages. He spoke good English and so I was interested in his insight. He was ready with a quote from Mikhail Lomonosov.

First, you simply must meet Mr. Lomonosov. What a character he was: Born to a fisherman in the 18th century, he walked the 430 miles from St Petersburg to Moscow to go to school -- let's assume this was a one-time trip versus a regular thing -- he eventually studied in Germany. As a scientist, Lomonosov was an expert on the atmosphere of Venus. He was also a linguist and helped develop the grammar of the Russian language. (Photo courtesy StockpileMedia)

So now, here's our hero, Mikhail Lomonosov, and his comparison of Russian and other languages:

They say that Spanish is good for talking with God,

French – for talking with friends,

German – for talking with enemies,

Italian – for talking with women…

But Russian is good for talking to all of the above,

because it has the grandeur of Spanish,

the vivacity of French,

the strength of German,

the gentleness of Italian,

and in addition to that,

the wealth and … brevity of Latin and Greek.

My seatmate, bless his diplomatic soul, added a line to the quote: . . .and English is good for legal purposes. Maybe solely for my benefit. Perhaps if Chinese were my first language, he would have gone that direction.

Anyway, tell us, dear blog readers, how you would compare Russian and other languages, particularly English. You native speakers of Russian, you are the experts on this subject. Please share with us your ideas. . .

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