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Russian Idioms and Money

Гоняться за длинным рублём

Гоняться за длинным рублём” (Chasing the big money). Tак мы говорят о людях, которые хотят получить много денег, но без особого труда (this is how we talk about people who want to make a lot of money, but without working too much). Such people are, of course, badly perceived by the others, поэтому выражение имеет отрицательную оценочную окраску (and therefore the expression has a negative connotationgt;).

The word “рубль” (ruble) appeared in our language a very long time ago, around the 13th century. At that time, не было единых денег (there wasn’t a unique money) and trade was often made on exchanging various objects. Russian merchants mostly traded fur, and even parts of the animal could be used as money (paws, ears and muzzle).

But the best unit of exchange была гривна (was the grivna), украшение из серебра (a jewelry made of silver), which was worn around the neck. These grivna usually weighed 200 grams. But sometimes, it was necessary to cut it (normally in four) to get some small change. And it was not easy to cut it into four exact pieces. Если человеку досталась более длинная часть (so, when a man received a bigger part), the long part, ему, конечно, повезло (he was of course lucky).

Nowadays, no one cut silver or gold jewelry, but the expression has remained. In Russian, “гривна” refered to the unit of currency that was used in medieval Russia (grivna) and the basic monetary unit in nowadays Ukraine (hryvna).

Не получил ни полушки

Не получил ни полушки” (don’t receive a penny) can be said for a person who hasn’t been paid for his work, or if his business doesn’t go well. This expression is also associated with the ancient forms of exchanging goods. As we said above, the ear of some animals could play the role of money in the fur trade. But if the deal didn’t go well, then it was common to say, that the trader не получил даже половины ушка (didn’t received even half a ear), which means he didn’t received anything. The word “половины ушка” (half a ear) was then shorten to “пол ушка”, and later to “полушка” which designed a quarter-kopeck coin.

Тамара Мелентьева

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