Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Babushka

Catherine Breshkovsky, Babushka of the Russian Revolution
Catherine Breshkovsky, Russian socialist, better known as Babushka of the Russian Revolution

BABUSHKA

Noun. Mid-20th century.
[Russian = grandmother]

1 In Russia: a grandmother, an old woman. M20

2 A head-scarf folded diagonally and tied under the chin. M20

Babushka is a word that has carried itself all the way from Russia to reside as a beloved resident both in the English language and as a regular in lists of favourite words. Its sound encapsulates everything that a dear grandmother is: the soft, double-b of babu is filled with her warmth and hospitality, the softness of her gossamer cheeks as she pulls you close for a kiss, and the wry exasperation of recounting better, more honest times. Just as you have rounded the double-b, however, and are sounding the gentle sh of babush, you strike the hard ka, for the babushka is nobody's fool. With a mind as sharp as a razor and a tongue to match, she can smoke like a chimney and sting the ears off a sailor. She is the matriarch; she is the babushka.

4 comments:

  1. Your description has captured the essence of a grandmother, especially the last part!
    In Greece babushka refers to a Matryoshka doll. However, in some areas, like the one I live, βαβω (vavo) is the dialectal word for grandma. Could they be related?

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    1. The OED is frustratingly silent on the etymology of the word, stating is simply as 'Russian'.

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  2. Did not know the meaning of this word but it was like reading a description of my grandmother. Thanks for the memory!! (apart from the smoking bit)

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    1. You're welcome ... it was a fun word to write : o )

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