The thing non-Russian speakers don’t really understand about Russian curses, or mat, is that we’re not just talking about your favorite one-syllable curse words here — mat is an entire language unto itself. Take the word “desk.” Not much you can do with it in English, right? But in Russian, I can “desk” something. I can get super desky and deskify it. I can be the deskiest! Because unlike English, Russian has hundreds of suffixes and prefixes.


For PRI’s The World [a co-production of the BBC]


[For a complete archive of my stories for PRI’s The World, click here.]