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I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

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31 March 2012

Where to speak English in good company

A busy week: on Wednesday I attended the 11th Charity Auction held by the Canadian Eurasian Russian Business Association (CERBA). This was held in fine style at the Yar restaurant, which was made famous by Rasputin (see post 26 March) and which has managed to remain substantially unchanged since. The whole room, with its cabaret stage, gilded ceiling, chandeliers and little private balconies, is a monument to Edwardian kitsch and, as such, one of the great sights of Moscow. The adjoining bar reminds me of a St. James’s gentleman’s club from the same era. If you, like me, think time travel is at least as interesting as spatial travel, then the Yar should be on your tick list.
     The auction was hosted with aplomb in both English and Russian (though not in French!) by Nathan Hunt, who is the CERBA начальник (English has no better word for his role). The items auctioned were not necessarily of great intrinsic value, which meant that the sum raised was an even greater tribute to the generosity of the patrons. The fantastic total of $196,234 was achieved. This money will be given to children’s hospitals, orphanages, and programs for street children in and around the city of Ulyanovsk.
      Some part of the funds may be diverted to Yaroslavl in connection with the air disaster that claimed the lives of the entire hockey team last year. In which connection, I should mention that one of the items most enthusiastically bid for was a hockey jersey (fully laundered) which represented the one worn by the Soviet star, Vladislav Tretiak during the legendary 1972 Canada-USSR series.

With the bidding about to start, the tension mounts,
though Rasputin was nowhere to be seen.

On Thursday the British Business Club held its monthly meeting in the more homely surroundings of Katie O’Shea’s, the great Irish pub on Grakholsky Pereulok. This is perhaps the best organization to join if you are a Russian, living in Moscow, who wants to get some idea of the normal mode of social interchange of white-collar Britain, plus plenty of practice with the English language in its post-colloquial form.
     Thursday's event was the usual convivial affair, enlivened by a typically British debate—good-humoured, but essentially serious—about how best to fund the Club’s expenses. It seems that a “left-wing deviationist” faction is leaning towards a more low-key venue policy, while a “right-wing deviationist” faction is taking a more elitny stance. We even have our own Stalin to referee the debate, and a Politburo to execute the Plan. New members are always welcome to join the fun.
     After the club meeting, there was dancing to an excellent band, called Betty Boop Lovers, who announced their business on the bass drum as “Jumpin’ Jive and Neo-Swing”. They were so good that a Russian friend and I had a good bop. I mention this because she provided the occasion for an interesting language point when she wrote next day to thank me for inviting her to the meeting, and saying: “We were the only dancers in the dance pole!” Of course, she meant “dance floor” (presumably from the Russian танцпол, or dance floor). I understood that, so no problem there.
     However a danger lurks, as so often with English, in that there is an activity called “pole-dancing” which is indulged in by scantily-dressed dyevushki in steamy night-clubs in grimy towns for the excitation of sweaty men in cheap suits with money to burn and nothing better to do. To say that this lady and I were “on the dance pole” could be misinterpreted by those of a mind to do so. I would not like us to be labelled “dance pole deviationists”. That could be bad for business.

Some members and guests: British, Russian and American

Two members of the Politburo: English and Welsh

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