Russian Word of the Day: Пятница/Пьяница

I always try and tell my students that it’s not only okay, but even funny to make mistakes in the language you’re learning. It actually gives natives a good laugh here and there. Like the time my Ukrainian friend called “chewing gum” “jewish gum”. To this day, my husband and I ask each other for a piece of “jewish gum”.

And I’ve made many such many mistakes in Russian.



When I was first learning Russian I mainly learned aurally, meaning by ear.  Very rarely did I see something written down. So when I learned the word Friday I never saw how it was written. For anyone who has walked around on a Friday night in Moscow, you know that the word for a drunkard also comes in very handy in Russia. And it is often accompanied by a little gesture where you flick your neck with your fingers.

I had a friend who spoke English really well and I could ask her all the questions I had and she would explain things very nicely and would congratulate me when I cleverly noticed a connection.  Well one day I went to her to tell her about what I thought was a clever connection that I had made between two words.

See, Friday is written Пят-ница, the root here is -пят- meaning ‘five’.  It’s the fifth day of the week.

Пьяница is a drunkard.  I had only ever heard the word and hadn’t seen it written I didn’t realize there was a ‘т’ in there.

I told her that it was so fitting that the word for Friday in Russian is the same as the word for a drunkard.  Because all you see on Friday nights are drunkards strewn about the town.  She roared with laughter and thought that this was very clever and astute but hilariously wrong.

But maybe we should give drunkards their own day of the week. It’s only fair. The women get their special day (March 8), the men have theirs (Feb 23) and even students get a day of recognition (November 17). Someone start a petition!

So for all you blog-reading drunkards out there who are feeling left out today, желаю вам счастливой пятницы-день пьяниц!

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