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Just Between Us, the Russian Way

512 7 19

Честно говоря: frankly speaking

In my file drawer of doctoral dissertations I will never write is one entitled: “Choice and Frequency of Parasitical Word Use Among Non-Native Speakers of Russian.” That one is about how we foreigners pick up a word and phrase and stick it in every conversation, whether it fits or not. One of my friends often says Вот! (That’s it.) Another non-Russian friend loves the phrase в общем (by and large). Пойдёшь в кино сегодня? (Are you going to the movies today?) В общем — да. (For all intents and purposes — yes.)

My hypothesis is that we master a word or phrase and then use it as a kind of verbal place holder while we sort out the grammar of whatever else we want to say.

My personal parasite phrase is честно говоря (to be honest), which I use so much that one of my Russian friends started to counter automatically: А если не честно? (And if you aren’t honest?)


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