Russian Word of the Day: Писать-to write, to pee
November 5, 2012
The theme of this week is words associated with mistakes I’ve made while speaking Russian.
There’s the great thing in Russian called ударение (word stress). Make it your BEST friend when learning Russian and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. It’s one of my weaknesses. I’ll be speaking smoothly and then I’ll start anticipating a word that I’m going to be saying and I psych myself out and I can’t remember where to put the ударение. Well, писать was one of the first ones that I always got confused about. When the word stress is on писАТь it means to write and when the stress is on ПИСать it means to piss or pee. The one saving grace about this pair is that they are conjugated differently so that helps.
Because most ать verbs are conjugated аю/аешь/ает/аем/аете/ают.
So it makes sense that a new learner of Russian would see the verb to write писать and think that they can say Я писаю, ты писаешь. I mean, those conjugations are grammatically correct but they don’t mean ‘I write’, ‘you write’. They mean ‘I pee’, ‘you pee’ etc.
Писать, meaning to write conjugates like this: я пишу, ты пишешь, он пишет, мы пишем, вы пишете, они пишут.
I’ve made so many mistakes with this pair(when I first started learning Russian and didn’t realize how important word stress is) it’s hard to remember all the instances.
When I first lived in Russia I taught English at a sports school. Let’s just say these athletes weren’t very mature and would roar with laughter whenever I said something vulgar (either knowingly or unknowingly).
I remember trying to tell a group of these athletes about my hobbies and I said Я люблю ПИСать, with the emphasis on the first syllable. I thought I was saying, “I love to write”, but nope, I was saying the other.
Another one that these got a HUGE kick out of is when someone was asking me if I had someone’s number and I said, “Да, я наПИСала себе”. My Russian was limited at this time and I thought I was saying, “Yes, I wrote it down for myself”. Nope, I was saying, “Yes, I peed my pants.”