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Author Topic: Polite ways to talk to family-in-law?  (Read 2599 times) Average Rating: 0
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Liz
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« on: October 27, 2009, 06:47:02 PM »

Hi there,

If anyone has a moment, I'd be glad of some suggestions as to how I might talk to my partner's Russian parents. His parents are divorced and both are remarried, so I was wondering what would be the polite way to address his parents' current spouses? My partner himself will tend to call both his biological father and his step-father 'dad', but doesn't refer to his step-mother as 'mum'.

Also, can anyone suggest friendly phrases I could learn? I'm especially thinking of Christmas coming up, and wanting to show that I have respect for the Orthodox traditions.

Thanks all!
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ms.hoorah
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2009, 06:53:13 PM »

Russians are somewhat formal in direct address and especially if you do not know them very intimately.  I would refer to them as Gaspazha  Soandso  and Gaspadin Soandso unless told otherwise by them.

Mr - Gospodin - pronounced as "gahspahdEEn"

Mrs - Gospoja - pronounced as "gahspahjAh"
« Last Edit: October 27, 2009, 06:53:46 PM by ms.hoorah » Logged
Liz
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2009, 06:56:04 PM »

Russians are somewhat formal in direct address and especially if you do not know them very intimately.  I would refer to them as Gaspazha  Soandso  and Gaspadin Soandso unless told otherwise by them.

Mr - Gospodin - pronounced as "gahspahdEEn"

Mrs - Gospoja - pronounced as "gahspahjAh"


Thanks very much. What does that mean literally? It sounds as if it's related to the word for God; is it?
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LBK
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2009, 07:04:54 PM »

Liz, the accepted form of address, irrespective of age difference, is their given/baptismal name, followed by their patronymic. The patronymic is derived from the person's father's name.

Example for a man: Given name: George. Father's name: John. Patronymic would then be Ivanovitch (son of John). So the proper form of address would be Gyorgy Ivanovitch.

For women: Example: First name: Helen. Her father's name: Nicholas. Patronymic: Nikolayevna. She would therefore be called Yelena Nikolayevna.

If you could provide your partner's parents' names, including their fathers' names, I can give you the patronymics.
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Liz
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2009, 07:12:11 PM »

Liz, the accepted form of address, irrespective of age difference, is their given/baptismal name, followed by their patronymic. The patronymic is derived from the person's father's name.

Example for a man: Given name: George. Father's name: John. Patronymic would then be Ivanovitch (son of John). So the proper form of address would be Gyorgy Ivanovitch.

For women: Example: First name: Helen. Her father's name: Nicholas. Patronymic: Nikolayevna. She would therefore be called Yelena Nikolayevna.

If you could provide your partner's parents' names, including their fathers' names, I can give you the patronymics.

Thanks. I may have to get back to you on this one; I'm not sure of the names. My partner's parents are Olga and Evgeny (Eugene - I'm not sure if there is a conventional English spelling for the Russian version). I think one grandfather is Fyodor, so would that by Evgeny Fyodorovitch/ Olga Fyodorovna?

Thinking about English, I know you can easily be polite to someone without ever using their name in conversation. Is that possible in Russian, or are you saying that the convention is to use the full name whenever you speak?
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2009, 07:19:14 PM »

Yevgeny Fyodorovitch is OK for your partner's father, if the man's father was called Theodore, but you'll need the name of your partner's mother's father for me to give you the patronymic for her.

It would be difficult not to use names in conversation, and I think it would also earn you a few "brownie points" if you were able to use the proper form of address.  Grin
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2009, 08:53:51 PM »

Russians are somewhat formal in direct address and especially if you do not know them very intimately.  I would refer to them as Gaspazha  Soandso  and Gaspadin Soandso unless told otherwise by them.

Mr - Gospodin - pronounced as "gahspahdEEn"

Mrs - Gospoja - pronounced as "gahspahjAh"


Thanks very much. What does that mean literally? It sounds as if it's related to the word for God; is it?

Rather, to the word "Lord." More precisely, "Lord" as applied to Christ is Господь (GospOd', with the stress on the second syllable and with a softened "d"). The "vocativus" derived from this word is Господи (GOspodee, with the stress on the first syllable); for example, Russians say Христос - Господь (Christ is Lord), but Тeбe, Господи (to You, o Lord). The term "gospodin" is very close to the term "Gospod'," but used in a secular context.

BTW, Ms. Hoorah, I would not call parents of my significant other "Gospodin" and "Gospozha." That would sound very cold, way too formal for a Russian ear. Smiley Just call them by their first names, maybe with patronyms. Of course, say "Vy" (a respectful form of "you"), never "ty."
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Liz
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2009, 09:16:21 PM »

Russians are somewhat formal in direct address and especially if you do not know them very intimately.  I would refer to them as Gaspazha  Soandso  and Gaspadin Soandso unless told otherwise by them.

Mr - Gospodin - pronounced as "gahspahdEEn"

Mrs - Gospoja - pronounced as "gahspahjAh"


Thanks very much. What does that mean literally? It sounds as if it's related to the word for God; is it?

Rather, to the word "Lord." More precisely, "Lord" as applied to Christ is Господь (GospOd', with the stress on the second syllable and with a softened "d"). The "vocativus" derived from this word is Господи (GOspodee, with the stress on the first syllable); for example, Russians say Христос - Господь (Christ is Lord), but Тeбe, Господи (to You, o Lord). The term "gospodin" is very close to the term "Gospod'," but used in a secular context.

BTW, Ms. Hoorah, I would not call parents of my significant other "Gospodin" and "Gospozha." That would sound very cold, way too formal for a Russian ear. Smiley Just call them by their first names, maybe with patronyms. Of course, say "Vy" (a respectful form of "you"), never "ty."

Thanks very much, I will try to remember this. I don't want to be too formal in any case, since they often send their love when my partner speaks to them on the phone, and I think they are keen to be friendly (as I am).

I do find (with virtually every language I've learnt) that the polite 'you' form doesn't come naturally. It's not that I'm naturally rude (I hope!), but that I don't remember that there is a second form of 'you'. So I think if you hadn't said, I would have called them 'ty'!

Btw, LBK, the names are Fyodor (my partner's dad's dad) and Nicholas (my partner's mum's dad).
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2009, 10:55:25 PM »

*Definitely* use the first name and patronymic, Liz.  "Gospodin" and "Gospozha" have a very old-fashioned sound in Russia these days, although they are sometimes used in Russian expatriate communities.  (Usually only in communities that left Russia in the early days of communism or before it.)  Your fiance will know his mother's patronymic; just ask him.
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LBK
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« Reply #9 on: November 01, 2009, 02:46:37 AM »

Btw, LBK, the names are Fyodor (my partner's dad's dad) and Nicholas (my partner's mum's dad).

So, then, the correct name and patronymic combinations for your partner's parents would be Yevgeny Fyodorovitch and Olga Nikolayevna (bolded letters are where the accent should be).

I also agree completely with what others have said about not using Gospodin and Gospozha. These days, it's only used as a general address to a group of people, in the same way as Ladies and Gentlemen is used in English, or Mesdames et Monsieurs in French. Otherwise, it's far too stuffy. I don't even recall hearing Russian folks who are now in their eighties use Gospodin and Gospozha as a form of personal address, so the custom must have faded away a good century or more ago.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2009, 02:48:41 AM by LBK » Logged
Liz
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« Reply #10 on: November 01, 2009, 08:02:09 AM »

Thanks very much!
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