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Monday, February 10, 2014

Learning Russian: An Olympian Feat

I have been taking Russian for the past three weeks. Actually, full disclosure, as I am not trying to be a K-G-Beast, I took an introductory class three years ago, but I didn't get high marx. In fact, I never got beyond learning the ABC's...or in the case of the Cyrillic alphabet, the AБB's.
 My knowledge of that alphabet was enhanced by
 last year's trip to Russia, where I putin free time
 attempting to read restaurant (pectopah) signs. 

I will detail that exercise and my steppe-by-steppe progress 
in Russian classes in upcoming posts. Meantime,
for those confused by the order of the Parade of Nations 
at the Sochi Opening Ceremony, let me attempt to 
explain, given my rudimentary knowledge of Cyrillic.
I hope it will be godunov for you.

As you can see from the chart above, Cyrillic has a variety of 
characters. Some look familiar to those who know English; 
some look familiar to those who know Greek (pi); 
and others look downright unfamiliar.

Further mucking up the works is that many of the letters that look 
familiar are not pronounced the way we think they should be. 
B=V; P=R and H=N. Our B is the Russian Б (sort of); 
our P is the character that looks like pi П; and our H does exist. 

And don't even get me started on Ч, Ш, Щ or the bI.
Transliteration: Blini
So, let's refer back to the chart above. Because B which actually 
sounds like V is the third letter of the Cyrillic alphabet, 
Venezuela (Венесуэла) and the Virgin Islands (in the Winter Olympics?) 
were near the beginning of the parade and the Czech Republic (Чехия) and Chile (Чили), featuring that damned Ч (sound similar to the ch in chai), were near the end. Jamaica (Ямайка) and Japan (Япония) were the last to enter alphabetically. As is tradition, the host country  Россия, came last.

By the way, for fans of the Olympics Cold War style, remember the CCCP worn by Olga Korbut and her ilk? It stands for Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик. Gogol it.

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