Of all the hand-wringing phrases and cultural cringes in Soviet Russia, the commonest is the meek prefix 'pod-'. 'Pod' just means 'under'. But if you put it before a verb, it adds a hint of hesitancy just right for being humble with. 'Tell me, please!' is the standard, exclamatory, way to ask for information in Russian. But 'Won't you please pod-tell me?' which sounds wheedling and imploring, is a commoner way of saying the same thing.
And there's more to the pod-verbs than grovelling. They are as double edged as flattery. As you look down the dictionary entries for pod, you realise that the deceitfulness lurking inside the meaning keeps coming out. Pod- gives many words entirely new meanings, and the new meanings are almost always about sneaking off and bending the rules to suit yourself. To pod-work means to moonlight, to pod-listen to eavesdrop, to pod-make to forge. This is language shifting from the passive to the active, from self-abasement to sly, knowing, winking false-hood. I'll appear to obey you, these verbs say, but when you're not looking I'll be off on the scam.
From Vanora Bennett's fascinating celebration of Russia, The Taste of Dreams (Review/Headline ISBN 0755300645) - recommended.
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