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Is learning Russian stressing you out? 🇧🇷don't rush the horses', 'The first pancake is always a blob'. Speak like a native speaker with these 51 Russian idioms and expressions translated into English.
Russians are not known for their sense of humor. When it's aboutrussian grammar, you can't help but laugh at their complex rules and try to understand all these declensions for each case.Learning Russian can be quite challenging.Sometimes it's so confusing that there's no other way to express your frustration than to laugh! So take a break and let these Russian expressions make you laugh for less stressful reasons.
Here are some commonhilarious russian expressions, their literal translations, meanings and English equivalents.
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1. Be out of your element
How do you pronounce: byt'ne v svoyey tarelke
Literal translation:not be on your own plate
Similar English language:be like a fish out of water, out of your element
Meaning:When you feel "overwhelmed" or out of your element, you feel uncomfortable, perhaps even ashamed. The phrase can be used when you feel awkward about a situation you've never been in, or something embarrassing has happened. But what does shame have to do with dishes? The fact is that this phrase was borrowed from French into the Russian language. in a similar wayfrench expression, the word "assiette" is used, which can mean "mood, condition, situation", as well as "record". Somehow, instead of the most logical, a rather playful translation of the word “dish” remained in the Russian language.
2. Connect (someone's) belt
How do you pronounce:zatknut' (kago ta) za poyas
Literal translation:take (someone) under your wing
Similar English language:shame someone dominate someone
Meaning:This expression means excelling at something and being better than someone else at something. As with many languages, the roots are in Russian history. Wearing belts used to be much more common. In winter, Russians took off their gloves or mittens when indoors and temporarily tucked them under their belts. Likewise, various craftsmen also tucked their tools under their belts. So here's a comparison: something (or someone) you put below your belt is something not very useful.
3. Stick to your nose
How do you pronounce: astat'sya s nosam
Literal translation:stick to your nose
Similar English language:hold the bag, get tricked
Meaning:If you are "hanging your nose", you have been deceived or failed, you have not achieved anything. What does nose have to do with failure? Actually nothing. The "нос" in the language comes from the Russian verb "носить", which means "to carry" or "to bring". If you wanted to get somewhere in Ancient Rus, you often had to bribe people. Such a bribe was called "nos". If the person didn't take your bribe, you're left with what you brought and no hope of success.
4. Conduct by nose
How do you pronounce: get mad at your nose
Literal translation:touch (someone) by the nose
Similar English language:make a fool of someone, take someone to a dance (funny)
meaning: Unlike the previous idiom, this one has a lot to do with noses. Imagine that someone comes up to you, grabs your nose and pulls - what will happen? Well, first of all, you'll probably feel pretty stupid. Second, you will follow the person who is pulling you, at least until you understand what the hell is going on. That's what that idiom means, just figuratively: manipulating someone into doing something by lying to them. And when the truth comes out, the deceived person ends up feeling pretty silly, as if someone had deceived him.
5. I'll Show You Where Crabs Hibernate
How do you pronounce: ya tebe pokazhu wo raki zimuyut
Literal translation:I'll show you where lobsters (cliffs) hibernate
Similar English language:I'll teach you a lesson; I'll give you something to remember me by
Meaning:If someone promises to show you where crayfish spend the winter, don't get too excited. This is not a promise of an educational trip, but a severe punishment. In the past, wealthy Russian pomeshchiks (literally meaning “landowners”) would send their peasants to hunt crayfish in frozen lakes and rivers during the winter as a punishment.
6. Give a tooth
How do you pronounce: given under
Literal translation:give (someone) a tooth
Similar English language:hand on heart
Meaning:This expression is usually used in the form of a promise: "Зуб даю!" (I'll give you my tooth!) This is to show the speaker that he is so sure of his words that he is willing to sacrifice a tooth. The language likely came from prison jargon. In prison, the person has nothing of value as security for his promise, but he can "give a tooth", that is, promise to pull a tooth, if what he says is not true.
7. Reach for the handle
How do you pronounce: dayti da ruchki
Literal translation:to reach the fist
Similar English language:run to the ground, hit rock bottom
Meaning:The meaning of hitting rock bottom seems much clearer than hitting the doorknob. What is this handle and why is it so bad to grab it? Again, the explanation lies in Russian history. The kalach - a traditional form of Russian bread, a small soft loaf - was often made with a handle, making it a convenient form of street food. The handle was not normally eaten as it was made of inferior dough and was actually quite unhygienic as it was touched with bare hands. The cable was usually thrown to dogs or beggars. So if you are willing to eat the handle of a Kalach, other people's hands have touched it, you are probably in a very low place in your life.
8. No Dreams
How do you pronounce: I know the truth
Literal translation:even a hedgehog can understand (that).
Similar English language:It's child's play, not space science
Meaning:Hedgehogs are small forest animals that can curl up into a ball when threatened and shoot out very sharp needles. Hedgehogs are cute, but also quite primitive and not particularly smart. So if a hedgehog can understand something, it must be very simple.
9. Neither fish nor meat
How do you pronounce: peixe weder noch myasa
Literal translation:neither fish nor meat
Similar English language:neither fish nor meat (nor good herring)
Meaning:Imagine eating something that is neither fish nor meat and has no clear taste. It doesn't sound too terrible, but it doesn't sound like a memorable, delicious meal either. In Russian, this idiom is usually used to describe people - not food, but the meaning is similar: an ordinary person, with nothing "delicious" or exceptional, nothing memorable, absolutely mediocre. It also occasionally implies that the person is quite cowardly and cannot make tough decisions.
10. The cat cried
How do you pronounce: how to cry
Literal translation:a cat cried
Similar English language:not enough to swear, as scarce as hen's teeth
Meaning:Have you ever seen cat tears? (Or chicken teeth, by the way?) They don't exist. So if you say something like "У нас денег - кот наплакал" (We have so little money that it's like a cat is crying), there is so little money that it's practically non-existent. This Russian idiom is used when something is incredibly rare, extremely difficult or impossible to find. A little scientific fact: cats have tear ducts and their eyes can water for medical reasons, but it's not really crying, and even if you try to collect the tears, it will still be very, very little.
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11. Two pairs of boots
How do you pronounce: dva sapaga para
Literal translation:two boots one pair
Similar English language:Birds of the same feather cut from the same cloth
Meaning:What do two boots of the same pair or two pieces cut from the same fabric have in common? Practically everything. This expression suggests that two people are so similar in their personality traits and behavior that they must have the same origin. This Russian language often has negative or undesirable connotations.
12. Money chickens don't peck
How do you pronounce: denig kury ne klyuyut
Literal translation:(also) Chickens don't peck money
Similar English language:circulating money, (someone) has money to burn
Meaning:This expression is used when you want to say that someone is filthy rich - so rich that even chickens don't eat their money. On the one hand, the expression is based on a joke - after all, chickens do not eat money. On the other hand, it is based on a real-world observation that chickens are quite gluttonous and will eat just about anything. So, if someone is so rich that even their chickens don't eat money anymore... well, they must be super rich!
13. The eyes widen
How do you pronounce: glaza razbigayutsya
Literal translation:eyes spread
Similar English language:embarrassment of wealth
Meaning:Imagine you're at a free lunch buffet, an open bar, or your favorite store that's having a big sale. There are so many things you want to get at all at once that you don't know where to start and your eyes keep looking all over the place. There's a lot of choice! It is precisely this feeling and the situation that the phrase describes: so much choice, so many good things, that you don't even know where to look first.
14. One left
How do you pronounce: adnoy levay
Literal translation:with the left (hand)
Similar English language:with one hand tied behind my back, eyes closed
Meaning:This expression describes doing something with just your left hand (or with one hand behind your back or with your eyes closed), which is quite difficult. So if you can do something this way, it must be really easy or something you're really good at. Specifically, this Russian language is based on the fact that most people are right-handed and not used to doing "одной levой" things.
15. Don't blow your mustache
How do you pronounce:v uns ni dut'
Literal translation:don't blow your mustache
Similar English language:not move a hair, be cool as a cucumber
Meaning:If you're not worried, if you're really cool as a cucumber, you're probably also breathing easy - no hyperventilation, huffing or puffing. Even if you have a mustache, don't "blow" it. In the past, it was much more common for Russian men to have lush beards and mustaches, and this is probably how the language was born.
How do you pronounce: spustya rukava
Literal translation:with rolled up sleeves
Similar English language:half-assed, sloppy
Meaning:Have you ever rolled up your sleeves before doing something like cleaning the house or working in the garden? This language is the opposite of that. Traditionally Russian traditional shirts and jackets could have very long sleeves - sometimes reaching to the knees or even lower if not rolled up. Imagine working with your sleeves rolled up! You will hardly be able to do something right. So if you see a person working sloppily and not really caring about what they are doing, you can say they are working "спустя рукава" - even if they don't wear long sleeves.
17. No chocolate
How do you pronounce: v Schekalade
Literal translation:in chocolate
Similar English language:be set (as in "set for life"), laid on a bed of roses
Meaning:The complete sentence is usually "everything is in the chocolate" or "everything will be in the chocolate" - when things are going well or you promise someone that you will be fine soon. It would seem that there is no need to be happy that it is covered in chocolate - it is sticky and can stain - but the meaning of the expression is, of course, figurative. Good chocolate was - and still is - quite expensive and associated with a comfortable life of luxury. So if you are "в шоколаде", you have a comfortable life and you are probably quite wealthy as well.
18. Work is not a wolf, it does not run into the forest
How do you pronounce: worka ne volk, v les ni ubezhit
Literal translation:Work is not a wolf, it does not run into the woods
Similar English language:Never do today what you can leave for tomorrow
Meaning:There are two interpretations of this language that contradict each other. Both are based on the fact that postponing a little bit doesn't do the job. Historically, in Tsarist Russia, this meant that no matter what you do, no matter how much you procrastinate, it won't get done by itself and you'll have to do it anyway. Later, a more "lazy" interpretation appeared, which eventually became more popular: it's okay to postpone work for a while, it will still be there after a break. Someone still wonders: why is the word "wolf" used in the language, were the Russians so bad at preventing wolves from running away?
19. There the dog is buried
How do you pronounce: vot wo sabaka zaryta
Literal translation:It's where the dog is buried
Similar English language:This is the point; then the shoe pinches
Meaning:Animal-related expressions exist in many languages, and some of them are quite morbid. Discovering the truth behind something is like discovering a buried dog! It's figurative, of course, but still pretty dark. There is no clear interpretation of how the language came to be. Some believe that the word "dog" was used by treasure hunters instead of the word "treasure" to hide their true intentions.
20. Friendship is friendship and tobacco is separate
how is it pronounced:druzhba druzhbai, ein Tabachok - vroz'
Literal translation:Friendship is friendship, but let's separate our tobacco
Similar English language:Friends are fine if they don't get in the way
Meaning:The meaning of this Russian expression is that every friendship has limits. There are things you just don't share, not even with friends. Often this Russian idiom is used in a financial sense, like B. "Do not lend money, even to friends" or "We are friends, but I will not pay for you." While nowadays it's not uncommon for smokers to gift a cigarette or two to a stranger, tobacco used to be a luxury item, rare and very expensive, which probably led to this petty idiom.
21. The family has its black sheep
How do you pronounce: v sim'ye ni bez uroda
Literal translation:In every family there is an ugly person
Similar English language:in every flock there is a black sheep; There is always a bad apple
Meaning:This Russian idiom has a similar meaning to "black sheep": it describes a person who, from the speaker's point of view, generally stands out negatively from his family or other group because of his appearance or character. It's a pretty nasty language - the word "урод" (an ugly person) has very strong negative connotations in the Russian language.
22. Fools neither sow nor reap, they themselves are born
How do you pronounce: Durakov ni seyut, ni zhnut, sami rodyatsya
Literal translation:Fools are neither sown nor reaped, they appear of their own accord
Similar English language:Fools grow without watering
Meaning:This one is quite cheeky and funny, but be careful when using it - it can also come across as quite rude. This phrase is used when someone is doing something stupid, which means you don't need any special talent to do stupid things, a lot of people do that.
23. They say that chickens are milked
How do you pronounce: gavaryat, whatever you do
Literal translation:They say they milk chickens
Similar English language:"that's what they say" is half a lie
Meaning:Don't believe everything you hear, especially when someone starts a sentence with "they say" and offers no proof - anyone can say anything, but that doesn't make it true. The next time you hear someone spreading rumors or unfounded opinions, respond with this ironic Russian expression: "говорят, что кур доят".
24. Gradually bend the alder
How do you pronounce:ispadvol’ i al’khu sagnyosh’
Literal translation:You can bend an alder if you do it slowly.
Similar English language:small blows fell big oaks
Meaning:Alders, which belong to the birch family, are quite large and strong. You can't just walk up to one and bend it (although that goes for just about any tree unless it's a young sapling, but Russians love their birch trees - even in their language!). However, given enough time and patience, you can accomplish anything gradually - even bending or felling a giant tree.
25. The first pancake is always lumpy
How do you pronounce: p'erviy bl'in vsigda comm
Literal translation:The first pancake is always a bubble
Similar English language:it is the first step that is tedious; Practice creates masters
Meaning:Russian pancakes, called blini, differ from their Western counterparts: they are larger in diameter (usually the size of a pan) and very thin, just a few millimeters. Flipping such a thin dough to cook on both sides is difficult and takes practice. In reality, not only the first, but also the second, third and fourth pancake can come out like a bubble. And everything is fine! They can still be pretty tasty bubbles, and with practice, you'll learn to do this easily. This doesn't just apply to flipping pancakes: every beginning is good and difficult, but practice makes perfect. Be patient and you'll be baking perfect pancakes in no time!
26. Don't lead horses!
How do you pronounce: Loss!
Literal translation:Don't rush the horses!
Similar English language:take it easy; do not hurry; slow and steady wins the race
Meaning:This is obvious. Doing things in a hurry rarely brings good results. Rushing the horses will result in a bumpy ride and could even lead to an accident. Rushing a job can lead to mistakes; Even if you save some time, you will have to spend it on fixing. So don't rush your horses, literally or figuratively, and you'll be fine.
27. Tie a blanket over your nose
How do you pronounce: zarubi sib'e e nasu
Literal translation:Make a notch on the nose
Similar English language:mark my words; Put that in your pipe and smoke it
Meaning:The meaning of this expression lies very deep in history. When writing appeared in Russia, there was no paper. One of the things used for "writing" on the go was a small piece of wood to carry around. Carry means "носить" (nos'it) in Russian and the piece of wood was therefore called "нос" (nos). You can cut "no's" to write something down. So don't worry, you don't really need to hurt your nose to mark someone's words!
28. Hold your ass at gunpoint!
How do you pronounce: mantenha khvost pistal'etam!
Literal translation:Hold your dick like a weapon!
Similar English language:Heads up
Meaning:You can say that to someone you want to cheer up. Guns aren't really associated with cheering people up, but somehow this idiom came about. There is no clear explanation about its origin, but it probably has to do with the image of an animal (for example, a cat) holding its tail up when it is happy and confident. Similar expressions are "держи хвост трубой / морковкой" (derzhi khvost truboi / markovkai) - raise your tail like a whistle / carrot.
29. No goalkeeper
How do you pronounce: bez tsarya v galav'e
Literal translation:without a tsar in mind
Similar English language:awkward a little dark on the top floor, the light is on, but there is no one home.
Meaning:You can use this very Russian idiom to describe a person who is reckless, troubled and not very smart. But who is this Tsar and why do you need one on your head? In ancient Rus, the Tsar was considered the wisest man in the country. If you don't have "a Tsar in mind", you lack wisdom and common sense.
30. Make a fool of yourself
How do you pronounce: valyat 'Narr
Literal translation:lie/shake the fool
Similar English language:pretending to be silly joking
Meaning:The meaning of this Russian language is quite similar to English: behave stupidly, joke. But why does it say "lie/shake the fool"? There are at least two possible explanations. One has to do with trying to lie downVan'ka-der-Narr– a reclining Russian doll that can be laid down – and another with fluttering pieces of woollovers– Russian snowshoes. Both are meaningless activities, and whether the language comes from one or the other, the meaning does not change.
31. Christmas tree sticks
How do you pronounce: gema-palki
Literal translation:firs and sticks
Similar English language:shout out loud! Love me! What do you know?!
Meaning:This is a colloquial Russian exclamation that can mean just about anything: disappointment, anger, surprise, joy, or even admiration. The exact origin of the expression is unknown. One of the possible explanations is based on the tradition of decorating spruce trees for the New Year, which after the holiday dry up and turn into “sticks” that are thrown away.
How do you pronounce: boba!
Similar English language:Shoot! Cum! Damn it!
Meaning:This exclamation is used to express negative emotions such as anger or disappointment. However, pancakes are tasty treats, so why use them so negatively? Similar to English "shoot" and "frick", it starts with the same letters and is similar in length to a Russian swear word, which is very rude and unacceptable in many situations - instead of saying it, you can say "блин" .
33. Don't give mate
How do you pronounce: zamorit' chervyatschka
Literal translation:to kill the worm
Similar English language:satisfy the hunger
Meaning:In fact, this is not a Russian expression, but a French one. This oneFrench Language"tuer le ver" literally means "kill the worm", but its original meaning was quite different: to drink some alcohol on an empty stomach. Somehow, when migrating from one language to another, the expression changed its meaning to "eat something to satisfy your hunger".
34. Lie down behind the collar
How do you pronounce: zalozhit'za worotnik
Literal translation:slip under the collar
Similar English language:refuel
Meaning:This expression means "to get drunk" and dates back to the time of Peter the Great. When building his fleet, he ordered that the best workers be rewarded with a special mark on the neck or near the collarbone (under the collar). You can show this sign at drinking establishments and drink it for free.
35. When cancer whistles on the mountain
How do you pronounce: kogda rak na gore svistn'et
Literal translation:when a lobster whistles from the top of a mountain
Similar English language:when pigs fly
Meaning:When lobsters whistle on top of mountains? Around the same time, pigs fly - so never! When you emphasize that something will never happen, you can say it will happen "когда рак на горе свистнет".
36. No down or feathers
How do you pronounce: neither money nor money
Literal translation:no down/fur or feathers
Similar English language:to break a leg
Meaning:The reasoning behind this idiom is similar to that of 'breaking a leg', taken from hunting jargon, not theatrics. When wishing a hunter good luck, you can hex him and he won't catch anything, so you should (of course!) wish him the opposite - don't catch an animal (fur) or a bird (feather).
37. Hands are not enough
How do you pronounce: ruki ne dokhodyat
Literal translation:My hands cannot reach you
Similar English language:I never got around to doing this
Meaning:This is another Russian language based on a literal meaning translated into figurative. If your hands can't reach something, you can't do anything with that object. If you can't find time to complete a task and you keep procrastinating, you can also say "руки не доходят", although this has nothing to do with your physical distance from the object or task. So now, if you ever need an excuse not to do something, you know what to say!
38. Making an elephant out of a fly
How do you pronounce: d'elat' iz mukhi slana
Literal translation:make an elephant out of a fly
Similar English language:make a mountain out of a mound
Meaning:Even if there are no elephants in Russia, this language is quite common. It also exists in other languages, with the same meaning: to exaggerate, to make a problem seem more serious than it is. The explanation is simple: this language has its roots in ancient Greece; from there it “traveled” to other languages, including Russian.
39. No cat, mice away
How do you pronounce: bez kata misham razdol'ye
Literal translation:Without a cat, mice feel free
Similar English language:When the cat is gone, the mice play
Meaning:People don't function well without supervision and don't want to follow the rules - "running around" is fun, just like mice in a house without a cat. It's not clear why the expressions in English and Russian are almost exactly the same, but it could be that different people made very similar observations years ago.
40. Love Is Evil, Will You Love A Goat
How do you pronounce:lyubov' zla, pal'ubish' i kazla
Literal translation:Love is evil, you could fall in love with a goat
Similar English language:love is blind
Meaning:The English language sounds much prettier, it just says that love is blind - and not elaborate. Russian not only calls love "evil", but goes on to say that if you're not so lucky, you might even fall in love with a goat (anything goes in Russia!). However, the message is the same: we do not choose who we love.
41. What you sow is what you reap
How do you pronounce: what paseyesh', zu i pazhnyosh'
Literal translation:what you sow you will reap
Similar English language:You reap what you sow
Meaning:Not all expressions are about lazy people, silly people or "bad love", some of them teach us valuable life lessons, such as that our actions have consequences. The Russian and English versions are almost identical as they come from the same source: the Bible.
42. There is no truth in legs
How do you pronounce:v nogakh pravdy nyet
Literal translation:there is no truth in (your) legs
Similar English language:Sitting is as cheap as standing;to sitLow,takesaweight(aburden)ForayourFoot; Feel free
Meaning:This language is multifaceted. It sounds strange: why would you look for the truth in someone's legs? The meaning is polite: you can say this phrase when asking a guest to sit instead of standing. The origins of the language are really quite horrible. "Pravda" in ancient Rus' meant debt, and a person who owed money to a boyar (a member of the ancient aristocracy in Russia who was closest to the prince) was punished with metal bars on his legs . This hardly brought the desired results, because after such a punishment, the person not only failed to pay the debt, but was also unable to work! The expression "в ногах правды нет" was born and the punishment was later abolished.
43. Control Yourself
How do you pronounce:vzyat' sebya v ruki
Literal translation:solve the problem with your own hands
Similar English language:control yourself
Meaning:This Russian expression has a double meaning. You can say to someone who is freaking out or about to have an emotional breakdown: "возьми себя в руки", pull yourself together. It can also be used when you see someone out of control in your life and you want to motivate them to be more focused and goal-oriented.
44. Without flour there is no science
How do you pronounce:ohne muki n'et science
Literal translation:without torture there is no science
Similar English language:No pain no gain; Knowledge has bitter roots but sweet fruits
Meaning:Science is torture? Well, for some it might be, but the idea behind this expression is a little different: you have to work hard to get real results. When things are tough for someone, this is a helpful reminder that patience and perseverance can lead to better things.
45. Catching a flea
How do you pronounce:padkavat'blakhu
Literal translation:shoe a flea
Meaning:This is one of the few Russian languages that has no English equivalent, not even a rough one. It comes from a Russian story about a man who was so skilled that he could put tiny horseshoes on a flea. The phrase is used when someone is really talented, especially in a craft that requires meticulous, detailed work.
46. Hanging noodles on your ears
How do you pronounce: veshat'lapshu na ushi
Literal translation:hang noodles on ear
Similar English language:throw sand in someone's eyes; pull someone's leg
Meaning:You might think that pasta has nothing to do with lying, and you'd be right. There are several versions of the origin of this language, and none of them contains real mass. According to one version, the expression evolved from a Russian verb “облапошить” (“oblaposhit”), which means “to cheat” and sounds very similar to the word “лапша” (noodles).
47. The ears wither
How do you pronounce:ushi v'yanut
Literal translation:my ears are withering
Similar English language:makes you sick to hear
Meaning:Imagine hearing something so disgusting, so rude, that your ears are ringing! The idiom is based on the unpleasant bodily sensations that swearing can produce. If someone swears too much (or keeps talking annoyingly), you can ask them to stop because it's making your ears dry.
48. No knot, no burr
How do you pronounce: bez suchka, bez zadorinki
Literal translation:no problems
Similar English language:like clockwork; clean as a whistle; starts in no time
Meaning:When something goes smoothly without any unexpected difficulties, you can say it went like clockwork – and now you know how to say it in Russian: “без сучка, без задоринки”.
49. You can't get a fish out of a pond without difficulty.
How do you pronounce: bez truda ni vytashchish’ i rybku iz pruda
Literal translation:without effort you don't take a fish out of the pond
Similar English language:a cat with gloves does not catch mice; no pain no gain
Meaning:This is another way of saying "no pain, no gain" or if you're too polite or careful, you might not get what you want. Whether in Russian or English, things that are really worthwhile - likelearn a foreign language- require some effort.
50. One foot here, one foot there
How do you pronounce: adna naga zdes', drugaya tam
Literal translation:one foot/leg here, one there
Similar English language:make it short; make it short; Be brief; show your heels
Meaning:This phrase can be a promise like "I'll be back soon", "одна нога здесь другая там". It can also be an order where you tell someone to get something or do a task quickly.
51. Jump out of your pants
How do you pronounce: vyprygivat' von shtanov
Literal translation:jump out of your pants
Similar English language:like a dog with two tails
Meaning:Have you ever been so happy that you jumped a little? Turn that feeling up a notch and you'll understand the picture behind that idiom; You're so happy it makes you jump out of your pants!
Which of these Russian phrases is your favorite? That's it 'Hold your dick like a weapon!' or 'don't rush the horses' - the act of running your fingers lovingly through someone's hair. Share your favorites in the comments. Can you think of other Russian phrases? Let me know in the comments and I'll add them to the list!
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