A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I use humor to help me remember vocab words for my Russian class. If you liked that article, you’re in luck, faithful reader, because this урок (“lesson,” or maybe “chapter” in this context) of Russian is very vocab heavy, so I have plenty of new mnemonics to share with you.
First — a grammatical concept. If you’ve studied a foreign language before, you’re no doubt familiar with the idea of verbs conjugating based on who’s speaking and what tense you’re using. In Russian, nouns also change form based on how you use them. Instead of the terms “conjugate” and “tense,” which we use for verbs, nouns “decline” into “cases.”
One of the first cases we learned was the prepositional case. The prepositional case has various endings that depend on the word you’re declining (-ия changes to -ии, for example), but words that end in three specific letters — и, о, or у — do not decline, and remain the same when you switch to the prepositional case.
Those letters are e, o, and oo, respectively. I had to come up with a way of remembering that those three are exempt from the prepositional case endings.
How’d I do it? Simple. I watched “Rick and Morty.”
Fans of “Rick and Morty” will be familiar with Mr. Poopybutthole and his distinct linguistic mannerisms. If you don’t watch “Rick and Morty,” there’s no easy way to explain what I’m about to say. Just look it up.
To remember these three letters, I just picture Mr. Poopybutthole saying, “Ooh-wee, Rick, the letters у and и don’t change in the prepositional case!” I then remember that the third letter in that list is о because “Mr. Poopybutthole” has three o’s in it.
Now, for some vocab words!
Комната and письмо
(KOHM-nah-tuh, meaning “room”, and PEESE-mo, meaning “letter”)
Bono has decided to send an open letter to the world. After decades of philanthropic work, there is still poverty and war and Bono has concluded that the world’s military-industrial complex is actively thwarting his efforts to bring harmony to mankind.
He has a dilemma, though. Surely the military-industrial complex pulls the strings behind the government, there’s no way Bono can trust the mail system. How will he send his open letter?
Despairing about how to send his letter, Bono looks out the window of his room, and in a nearby tree he sees a Natu.
Oh, by the way, in this universe, Pokémon exist.
Eureka! He can tie the letter to Natu’s leg, like a carrier pigeon, to deliver his letter free from government censorship. Seeing hope, Bono coaxes the Natu into his room by saying, “Come, natu!”
Problem (and vocab word) number two — Natus’ legs are very small, so the letter has to be very short. He only has space for a word or two. How can he send a message in so few characters?
He decides on his message — “Peace. More.” He thinks this grammatical inversion makes it more poetic. However, even this message is too long, and he runs out of space after the o.
The final message on his letter?
(soo-duh-VOL-stvee-yem, meaning “sounds good,” literally “with pleasure”)
High upon a hill, an ancient castle looms ominously over an antiquated Central European village. The castle has been abandoned for centuries since the execution of its last inhabitant, a 18th-century nobleman who was convicted of sorcery. Villagers still hear something in the castle, but no one truly knows who or what is up there.
The Scooby Doo–esque castle did once house a sorcerer whose only successful spell was to animate his household objects, and his execution left behind a decaying castle populated by living furniture (Think “Beauty and the Beast,” sans Beauty and Beast).
Within this castle is a secret room behind the library, concealed (of course) by a false wall, covered by a bookcase.
Our protagonist, Tom, is a wall in this library, and he is smitten with the rotating bookcase (named Michelle), but he’s never told anyone. We join him as he tries to gather the courage to tell his best friend, the neighboring wall Jackson, about his crush.
“Man, I just need to ask her out,” said Tom, wringing his nonexistent hands.
“Who, Tom?” asked Jackson. “You gotta tell me. Is it Jessica?”
“No, it’s not Jessica,” Tom muttered, metaphorically blushing.
“Well there are only four walls here, so it must be Michelle!” said Jackson. “You know she’s not a real wall, right? She’s basically a glorified door!”
“I don’t care, she’s the most beautiful wall I’ve ever seen,” Tom said, asserting himself a bit more forcefully.
“Hey, hey, that’s cool, man, I’m not tryna judge,” said Jackson.
Trying to smooth things over after some brooding from Tom, he asked, “So, are you tryna slide into that pseudo-wall’s DM’s?”
Quoth Tom, “With pleasure!”
You can send my Pulitzer to the Campus Times office in Wilson Commons.
Editor’s Note: If you have any funny mnemonic devices, short or long, for Russian or any other language you’re learning, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in a future edition of Learning Languages with Laughs.