Magazine article Russian Life

Seeing Red

Magazine article Russian Life

Seeing Red

Article excerpt

I AM NOT ASHAMED to say that this issue's column was inspired by toilet paper. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (rather), by a recent purchase of toilet paper at an itinerant Moscow [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (market), otherwise known as a row of trucks and minivans parked by the side of the road, selling their cargo.

The product in question was branded "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" ("Red Price") and the paper, produced by the Adischevskaya Paper Factory in Kostroma region, reminded me of my favorite American idiom: "you get what you pay for" (or, in bureaucrat-Russian: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] - price/value ratio).

In fact, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is an idiom related to haggling [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. What visitor to Russia hasn't heard that "red in Russian often meant beautiful, hence Red Square." But when applied to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (pricing), things get more complicated. The Dictionary of Economic Terms gives the following definition: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]("Red price - the price of a deal that satisfies both sellers and buyers"). But I prefer the definition in the dictionary of the Russian Language Institute: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the highest price one is willing to pay for something).

Quite often the buyer is not happy with the seller's price. As a proverb from Dai's dictionary has it: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The merchant has his price, and the seller has his.) So, if you are haggling for, say, a samovar at Izmailovo Flea Market, you can say: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("My red price for your samovar is $100"). Note the use of the dative.

This line would be perfect, for instance, if the seller first used the[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("If you are going to buy it, I'll cut the price.") A synonym for [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (to slash).

If you find a price to be prohibitive, you can express your outrage with, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) ("That's a rip-off"). Or: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" ("You don't bear a cross" i.e. you are ungodly, shame on you). A piquant, old Russian line would be, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("You've really jacked up the price! …

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