An unusual taste (English/Russian)

I have studied Russian for 10 years and my first visit to Russia on a school exchange in St Petersburg in 1998 led to the first of many amusing slip ups. I had seen the word preservativ and with no context to deduce the meaning I made the logical guess that it means 'preservative' and filed it away for test use at the earliest opportunity.At breakfast with my host family the following morning I ask for khleb s preservativom. Under the impression I was asking for jam on toast I was confused by my host's shocked reaction. As it transpired I had in fact asked for 'condom on toast' as a subsequent check of the dictionary revealed. Needless to say I have never forgotten the word preservativ or the correct word for jam, varenje, since!

Sent by: Greg


Anne, Russia 2010-11-22

You can say djem (jam) in Russian instead of varenje, it is easier to memorize

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hils, UK 2010-07-03

If you are English and wish to erase a written mistake when in America don't ask to borrow a rubber to do so... you'll cause no end of embarrasment or giggles... Americans use the word rubber for what we over here call a condom.

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Paula, Suffolk 2009-10-20

Russian is a dangerous language - when arriving to stay with a host family in Yaroslavl' I announced to my landlady that I was a chicken, what i meant was that I was a smoker.....

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Rebecca 2008-07-21

Some years ago at a dinner party near Venice I was emboldened by several glasses of wine to join a discussion of macrobiotic food, which was all the rage then, by complaining about the preservatives in American food. Since it often worked to Italianize an English word, I stated, Il pane Americano e' pieno di preservativi, or what I thought was American bread is full of preservatives. Well, what I had said was American bread is full of condoms. After a brief stunned silence, we managed to straighten out the meaning. But the host's shoulders shook for the rest of the meal, and he kept saying: You Americans! So clever! Put it in the bread! ... The word I should have used was conservanti. Just a warning to those who think all you have to do to speak Italian is add a vowel to the English word ...

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Richard 2006-05-24

English is the odd man out in Europe with this word. Virtually all Romance and Slavic use a derivative of preservatif for condom. The English "no preservatives" on jam and yogurt etc is translated across Europe as a variant on "no conserves".

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Melissa 2006-04-28

While I was on study abroad in Spain two years ago, my American room-mate and I were having dinner with our host family. We were talking about eating habits in different cultures, and I mentioned that people who live in the mountains are said to have long lives, even though they eat very fatty foods, because they have less stress. To which my roomate added: Yes, those people eat food sin preservativos. My host family looked at each other quickly, fell into an awkward silence, and then quickly changed the subject. I could hardly contain my laughter. After dinner, I asked my room-mate if she had any idea what she had said. She was mortified to know she had commented that those people eat food 'without condoms'.

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Teresa 2006-02-15

... and the same problem can occur in Spanish. I was having dinner with some American friends and we were talking about how healthy fresh fish is, instead of tuna fish cans. One of my friends said: !Sin preservativos!, thinking he said 'without preservatives'. In Spanish preservativo means 'condom' and the correct word is conservador.

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Gavin 2006-01-18

... and the same problem can occur in French, with préservatif. The correct word for 'jam' in French is confiture, of course, which looks a lot like a Polish word, interestingly enough.

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Krystyna Dulak 2005-12-26

The same problem can occur in Polish, were prezerwatywa means 'condom'. The correct word for 'preservative' is konserwant.

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