Diary of a Russian Wife

12/20/2006

Colors in Russian

One of my readers asked: "Can you tell me why Russians think of things in black and white? Like they save for black days and when things are going well everything is white. Also I have heard of a saying that goes like this,"Life is like a series of black and white stripes."

Although we do have sayings referring to bad times as "black days", we don't think in black and white. We use other colors for our sayings and proverbs as well. For example, about idealists Russians say, "they see the world through pink glasses". The word "krasny" in all Slavic languages has 2 meanings: not only "red", but also "beautiful". Thus, Red Square in Moscow has nothing to do with "red" communists. It was built at the end of 15th century and was named "Red" as "beautiful".

Red SquareRed Square

Speaking of a beautiful girl, Russians used to say in the past, "red girl" ("krasnaya devitsa"). The nicest place in a home is called a "red corner" ("krasny ugol").

Colors are closely connected to emotions in the Russian language. We say, "his face turned green from anger", or "he turned yellow from envy". Of course, nobody turns green or yellow – these are just expressions.

By the way, "blue" means "gay" in Russian. Nobody knows for sure why. There are several theories where it came from, and one of them – that it's influence of English language: term "gal-boy" (feminine boy) sounds very similar to Russian "goluboy" ("blue").

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