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14 March 2012

Brief boobs #4: Putin and Medvedev have a very long weekend

 Today’s Moscow Times reports a report of a press release about a presidential meeting as follows:
“Putin and Medvedev spent several days over the weekend in Sochi discussing the makeup of the new Cabinet, a Kremlin source told RIA-Novosti on Sunday.”
     The word “several” can be used in several ways. A familiar one is when partnerships accept “joint and several” liability for debts of the partnership. This means that each partner is fully liable for all the debts of all the others. If there are only two partners it is “joint” liability only. So the use of the word “several” implies a partnership that has a minimum of three members. There are many other types of usage, but all imply a number which at least three, and usually more than that.
     In the context of the quote above, if the spokesman had wished to say the two men spent three days talking, he would have said “a few” days were devoted to Cabinet making. A couple is two; a few is three; more than that is many or several, depending on the sense intended. So we can assume that four days was the minimum length of these discussions.
     And the weekend must have been longer than four days, since to say that the discussions lasted “several days over the weekend” implies that the discussions did not occupy all the weekend. Otherwise, the Kremlin spokesman would have been better announcing that the two men “spent the entire weekend” in discussions, as it seems clear from the context that he wanted to emphasise just how much time had been spent, how hard his bosses had been working. We the public were to understand that this wasn’t just a quick meeting by the water cooler, at which Putin said, “Hey, Dima, what say we get this list of guys in to run things?” To which the President, having glanced at the names, said brightly, “Fine by me, Vlad old boy!”
      So the two politicians’ power weekend lasted at least five days, and maybe longer. Lucky for some! I have just two days for my weekends, and that only in dreams. The sooner I get into politics the better. But perhaps a more reasonable way forward would be for me to stay where I am and for the Kremlin to send its press releases over to language.etiquette@gmail.com for a spot of preliminary checking before launching misleading impressions of the work-life balance of the country’s hard-working leaders into an already sceptical Anglogovoryushosphere (if I may coin a word). With the normal fees for public sector work in Russia, I would soon be able to afford at least six, and maybe seven, days for my weekends. Another dream?


  1. First time I read the newsline I was sure that VVP and DAM were discussing furniture in the cabinet of newly-old elected president. The use of "makeup" word in that context is purely misleading.

  2. Vlad isn't short for Vladimir, it's the one for Vladislav. Vova is the right version.

  3. He'll always be Vlad to me: Vlad the Lad... Vova sounds faintly rude, and one would not like to be rude about a man who, according to the BBC today, appears to have gone to the zoo to shoot that tiger!

    1. Calling ruthless animal killer the Lad seems to me like playing with open fire ;)
      If Vova sounds rude, you can try Vovochka or Volodya.

  4. Or Volodya if you don't like Vova.

    As to "several days over the weekend", I can't imaging a phrase in Russian that would serve as a source for that and at the same time would be Russian-wise correct. "Несколько дней во время уик-энда" ? It is just as strange as in English.

  5. It makes me mad when I see that foreigners call him Vlad, it's a completely different name!

    Alexander Amelkin, чем "несколько выходных дней" вас не устраивают?

    1. Потому что использование слова "несколько" в русском языке предельно схоже с использованием "several" в английском - если речь о выходных простых смертных, то можно сказать просто "провели (все) выходные"="spent the (entire) weekend". Забейте в гугле ваш вариант и посмотрите: первые 20 вариантов предполагают использование этой фразы в контексте расширенных выходных - будь то отпуск или перенос в связи с праздниками.

      P.S. Dear Ian, is conversation in Russian in commentaries welcome here?

    2. I think Russian comments are good, buit I do think they should be translated, since a lot of the readers do not live in Russia. IN this case, I'll let it past but infuture, please give a Russian translation or summary.
      Thank you.

    3. In short, I was saying that in Russian word "несколько" (translation of "several") is used very similar to what you described for "several".