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A progressive Russian course by P. M…
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A progressive Russian course

by P. M Smirnoff

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What review could there possibly be of an old schoolbook? Well, this English-language Russian primer depicts a world now vanished in its selection of useful words and phrases that the English traveller in Tsarist Russia might need. This book tells us that the Russian word for 'footman' is 'lackey'. And the phrases that must have been in common useage!

"Two officers and two dogs."
"Where were you yesterday?" "Yesterday, I was on Mr. K's estate." "Was Miss N there?" "No, she was at the Princess D's."
"This poor beggar sells his old hat."
"They saw this beggar in front of our big church."
"These shops belong to these rich merchants."
"She always buys the cheapest butter."
"They wash all their children with cold water."
"You promised me to buy new boots, why did you not buy them?" "Because I have no money."
"Tomorrow we are removing to a new dwelling-house, because the old one is very damp."
"They demand money from my brother, but he does not want to give them it."
"How many children have you?" "We have no children, all our children are dead."
"Why did your son not go to the school to-day?" "Because he has no boots."
"Your footman broke all our china."
"I should never be able to speak with two thousand peasants."
"Excuse me please, do you know where the prison is?" "Go to the police office, they will tell you where the prison is."
"These poor Italians have not had food for about three days now."

Some phrases sound like passwords in a spy novel: "The life of the child is in danger." "The tongue has no bones."

Others sound like exchanges in an interrogation: "Who are these gentlemen?" "I do not know, but I think they are foreigners."
"Do you understand what I say?"
"They say they saw your mother in the town."
"What words do you write in this exercise book?"
"They say that our teacher works in the school all night."
"What are you busy with?" "Who told you that I am busy?"
"Where did you see my wife?"
"Had I known that the gentleman who spoke to your sister was a Frenchman, I would have asked him where he came from."
"He was asking this gentleman about the details of your case."

If this Kafka-eque picture gets too much, it is useful to know how to say: "Death will liberate us from all our trouble and worry."

And the book has this useful and prophetic phrase: "This is the year 1917."
  RobertDay | Jun 21, 2008 |
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