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Words new to me: размое-мое

October 10, 2013

I saw this odd-looking word in Leskov’s No Way Out (Некуда, 1864):

Lobaczewski and Rozanov he led into the living room and introduced to the woman he lived with, a fat individual wearing a headband, with black teeth and a kind, stupid face.

“Nyura! Nyurochka! Shasha!” called Parmen Semenovich, walking up to the door, and at this call appeared two extremely nice-looking girls, one who appeared extremely modest, and the other with bold, cunning eyes that resembled her father’s, but both of the so-called “razmoe-moe” type. (book 2, chapter 8)

Maybe you can guess what this means, but if not, it was more or less spelled out in a Leskov story from the year before:

When Petrovna got back home, she started thinking about Nastya as well. Now at that time Nastya was already going on seventeen. She completely took after her mother and had started to resemble her in personality, only she seemed to be even meeker. She wasn’t a beauty, she didn’t turn any heads, but still she was a comely girl. She was tall, dark-haired, with dark eyes, rosy cheeks, pink lips; only she was lean, that’s what the boys didn’t like, and they didn’t hanker after her. It’s the fashion around here for a girl to be what they call “razmoe-moe,” for her to have a little flesh on her [телеса чтоб были]; well, Nastya didn’t, so they called her Scrawny Nastya. Around here everybody’s got a nickname attached to them, men, women, and girls too […] It wasn’t like Nastya was a bony skeleton or anything, though, she just didn’t have very much of that flesh [только телес этих много не имела], but otherwise she was all right, she was a comely girl. (“The Life of a Peasant Martyress” [Житие одной бабы, 1863], part 1, chapter 1)

So it seems to be a slangy way of saying “voluptuous” or “curvy.” My picture of a typical nineteenth-century Russian novel has lots of references to young women’s necks and shoulders that may or may not be a euphemistic way of talking about breasts. In No Way Out Leskov avoids that trick, instead using a word that draws us away from its meaning to its linguistic interestingness (at the time, anyway, to judge by the “so-called” and “what they call” and its rarity). It reminds me of his use of навек не человек.

Leskov used размое-мое yet again in “Russian Society in Paris” (Русское общество в Париже, 1863). I’d say the word was popular around 1863-64 and disappeared, except that if you go far enough in the search results, you’ll see it was used in a 2010 piece of online erotic fiction that I won’t link to. Here a Russian blogger quotes half of this passage from “The Life of a Peasant Martyress,” but neither he nor his commenters remark on the word.

In Aleksandr Levitov’s “Homeless” (Бесприютный, 1870), there’s an instance of размое мое without the hyphen. It’s not clear to me what it means there. It’s an exclamation in an old man’s story about a doctor who became a drunk and started stealing things while under the influence, but kept working as a doctor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Vika Thorstensson permalink
    October 10, 2013 10:15 am

    Could it be “размоё-моё”? Or, I would, perhaps, say: моё-размоё. Meaning “моё” and a thousand times “моё.” I think people use this раз- as an intensifier; it gives the word a more “tender” feeling. I can say “красавица-раскрасавица” or something like: “дорога-раздорога.” It definitely refers to the girl’s forms here but it can refer to anything else.
    Erik, I am assuming you are readin No Way Out in Russian. Right?
    I really want to start working on translations for some of “my” anti-nihilist stuff. I was thinking a short story first. But, Erik, seriously, do you want to translate No Way Out? And work together?

    • October 10, 2013 9:48 pm

      Interesting – I wondered about раз- as an intensifier. The order is strange, though, right? Every time Leskov uses it, it seems to be in this specific meaning. And yes, I’m reading No Way Out in Russian. Translating it together is an exciting idea (though a big project)! I’ll send you a message about it.

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