Questions for native Russian speakers

with 8 Comments

Here are some vocab terms / grammar points I’ve been wondering about lately. If you have any answers or explanations, I’d be very grateful to hear them!


#1. Why are some herbal teas called иван чай instead of just травяной чай? Is there some difference between the two terms or is marketing speak?


#2. What does дед сказал немца не мыть refer to? It means that if you have a German car, you shouldn’t wash it? Or is it a WWII reference?


#3. вы vs Вы: I read that to show respect in the singular form, this word should be capitalized (Вы). If it’s used for a group of people, however, it’s just вы. Is this a common practice or is it a grammar rule that people no longer follow?


#4. Why/when did people stop underlining cursive т and ш? My husband and I watched «Семнадцать мгновений весны» and I saw this letter was full of underlined letters.


#5. What’s the difference between сёмга and лосось? Does лосось only refer to a live fish?


#6. Is this true??? What does it have to do with кино or немцы?


#7. Is it проверьте соединение с интернет or проверьте соединение с интернетом? I’ve seen people write it either way.


#8. Why is Д often written as D in the names of businesses, even though the rest of the name is in Russian? Most of the time it seems to be connected with dental care but in this case it isn’t-

This week I even saw Н as N! It must be because it’s the “N Tour”?


Заранее спасибо за ответы! 😀

8 Responses

  1. Kate Widmer
    | Reply

    #1. Иван чай is a plant/herb. Травяной чай is more general term. Can you look at ingredients? Probably it’s going to be fireweed, great willowherb, or rosebay willowherb.
    #3. Common practice. If you don’t follow it’s misspelled.
    #4. No underlining in 1985. It was not in my прописи ( workbook on handwriting).
    #5 Лосось is more general term. Сёмга ( Atlantic Salmon) is more specific. It works both for fish and seafood.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Dear Kate, thank you for these explanations! I hope you and your family are doing well 🙂

  2. Lyttenburgh
    | Reply

    Спрашивали – отвечаем!

    1) Иван-чай is not a “tea”. It’s scientific name is Chamérion angustifólium and it is a destinct plant native to the Northern Hemisphere. So, while “Ivan-tchai” could be used for making a “herbal tea”, not every “herbal tea” is “Ivan-tchai”

    2) “It means that if you have a German car, you shouldn’t wash it? Or is it a WWII reference?”


    3) Capitalized “Вы” (and its derivatives) as a form of respectful address to a single person was only used in the official documents addressing the royalty. Now, all of us are commoners (I hope…), so ordinary “вы” will do if you are trying to be polite or addressing unfamiliar person.

    4) The answer is simple – in ages past, school kids used fountain pens “fed” by dipping its point into an inkwell. Back then proper calligraphy was a must, but also resulted in “т” and “ш” looking pretty much similar. Therefore a line was required.

    5) Сёмга (Salmo salar) belongs to the larger genus Salmonidae, of which лосось (Salmo) is only one particular example.

    6) In the post-war period there were a lot of War themed movies produced, some of them targeting teen/children viewership. Germans in these movies had been portrayed as deliberately comically villainous, blundering and easy to fool/defeat by (usually) young protagonists.

    7) Internet is a foreign word for Russians. Still, it does decline in accordance to the rules. So it should be “проверьте соединение с интернетом”

    8) “Why is Д often written as D in the names of businesses, even though the rest of the name is in Russian?

    “This week I even saw Н as N! It must be because it’s the “N Tour”?”

    Now, this is just dumb.

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Спасибо большое, Lyttenburgh- this is all very useful info! You blew my mind with that Д picture… how did I not realize that before?

    • J.T.
      | Reply

      I second Lyt’s opinion on #8. It’s like those obnoxiously-colored “Стогoff” books I pass often in the library, or the “Дом до sвидания” I saw in Piter…

      • Katherine

        До sвидания ???? I wish I’d seen that!

  3. Юля
    | Reply

    Hi, Katherine!
    Just wanted to share with you a link that I added to bookmarks about 4 years ago. I used to address people with capitalized “В” in “вы, ваш, etc.” when replying to comments in my blog. You’re supposed to be polite and using capitalized “B” was the (kind of) general rule, which I had followed in written business communication. Then I came across some very clear recommendations:

    • Katherine
      | Reply

      Thank you very much for this link, Yulia! I’ve bookmarked it to read together with my husband. 🙂

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