Magazine article Russian Life

Email and the Russia Soul

Magazine article Russian Life

Email and the Russia Soul

Article excerpt

These days it seems that I spend most of my day writing, reading, and checking my email, which is mostly in Russian, and I've begun to see some--for lack of a better word --standards begin to take shape.

When [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (electronic mail) first appeared, most of the messages I received were written like a formal letter, and I was addressed as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Esteemed Ms. Berdy), or, at the other end of the spectrum, were treated like an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (text message, SMS)--and I got notes that began [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Hiya, Micketoon!)

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Of course, these standards are still a work in progress. First of all, Russian speakers are not of one mind about what to call the thing they are writing. It can be email, e-mail, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], with the last one probably heading towards the language standard. Some people also refer to them as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (messages).

And then there is a huge range of ways to address recipients. You can go formal and polite: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]! (Esteemed Sergei Nikolayevich), or polite but not very formal: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]! (Hello, Sergei Nikolayevich!). Or you can simply give a greeting without a name: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]! (Good day!), or give a name without a greeting: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Ivan)--usually followed by a comma, but sometimes with an exclamation mark.

You can use the bizarre [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ([Wishing you] a good time of the day or night), dreamed up because the sender doesn't know when the recipient will open the letter. You'd think everyone would just switch to [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]! (Hello!), which is not time-of-day sensitive, yet that is the greeting least commonly used in an email. Just another [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (mystery of the Russian soul).

In group letters, the most common form of address is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]! (Esteemed colleagues!) Next most common is simply [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]! (Colleagues!), either because the sender isn't respectful or the recipients aren't respectable. …

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