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Idioms from Griboyedov’s comedy “The Woes of Wit”

The action of A.S. Griboyedov’s comedy “Горе от ума” (The Woes of Wit) begins with the sudden appearance in the Moscow house of a rich aristocrat, important official, Pavel Afanasevich Famusov, of a young guy named Alexander Andreevich Chatsky, who after three years of absence, returns to Moscow with the highest hopes about as poet G.R. Derzhavin said: “Когда ж постранствуешь, воротишься домой, И дым Отечества нам сладок и приятен!(When you travel, and you return home, and the smoke of the Motherland is sweet and pleasant).

However his iridescent hopes weren't justified: Sofia, the daughter of Famusov, whose meeting he was dreaming about, is keen of another person. The relations between Sofia and Chatsky end up being conflictual. She believes that “увидев свет” (having seen the light), Chatsky became too evil by criticizing everything, accuses him of “гоненье на Москву” (persecution against Moscow). To Sofia's question: “Где ж лучше?” (Where is it better?), Chatsky answers “Где нас нет” (Where we are not).

Realizing that Sofia is not the same girl he had known and loved three years before, Chatsky remains hopeful and says about himself: “Ум с сердцем не в ладу” (the mind and the heart don't live in harmony). But Sofia sprays the rumours that Chatsky has lost his mind. These rumours spread quickly proving the servant is right when saying: “злые языки страшнее пистолета” (gossips are worst than a gun).

Clearness and accuracy of the tone of the comedy is the reason why such a large number of phrases have been widely cited and continue to be popular even today. The names of most of the characters became common names, and also joined the Russian Dictionary:

Фамусов” (Famusov): formalist, the enemy of anything new.

Фамусовская Москвы” (conservative Moscow): the name given to criticize the society of which it is said in the comedy: “Дома новы, но предрассудки стары” (The house is new but prejudices are old).

Sofia is in love with her father's secretary whose name Молчалин (Molchalin, from “молчать” which means “keep silent”) talks for himself. Chatsky says about him that: “... глуп, жалчайшее созданье” (he is stupid, a pitiful creature). The ability to remain silent, his only virtue, and only this, helps him to build his career. Chatsky is sure that “…он дойдёт до степеней известных, ведь нынче любят бессловесных” (…he will reach the highest degree of fame, because nowadays we like silent people). In Russia, we call Молчалинщиный a person who acquires high status, wealth or success in a low-profile manifestation.

Colonel Skalozub's surname can be find in the expression “скалить зубы” (to grin, to show one's teeth). It can be used to design a discourteous, rude man who doesn't like to smile or to laugh. This character, like Molchalin, “... слова умного не выговорил сроду” (… the words uttered by his mouth are not smart), but he “не по летам и чин завидный, не нынче завтра генерал” (can't be envied neither by the age nor by the rank, and won't be a general today nor tomorrow). With Skalozub, we are confronted with a poorly educated person, who is guided in his life only by dogmas and is completely unable to think for himself.

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The concept of “репетиловщина” (repetilovschin) comes from the name of the character Репетилов (Repetilov), a intrusive person doing everything to be visible in the society and ready to join any opinion to do so.

Тамара Мелентьева

The action of A.S. Griboyedov’s comedy “Горе от ума”…