spasiba: thank you dasvidanya: goodbye chamai (second syllable pronounced just like English "eye"): Hello! (originally an Eskimo word, used throughout southwestern Alaska, including Ninilchik) xorosho: good, O.K. (the "x" is pronounced like a scratchy "h") sadyees: Sit down! pushkay: That's the way it is! (a fatalistic epithet, something like Spanish, Que sera sera!) Xristos vo skres: Christ has risen (said at Easter). vayestinu vo skres: Indeed, he has risen. kulich: Easter bread bulik: smoked salmon tyshee (as in the two English words "tie" and "she"): dried fish (tyshee is a slightly modified pronunciation of the Athabaskan Denaina word for dried fish.) pirok: meat or fish pie prestakisha: curdled milk riba: fish (Click on the Fish link below for names of different kinds of salmon and other fish.) marashki: light pinkish berries (with cluster shape similar to raspberries) sahat: moose sabaka: dog koshka: cat poochka: wild celery plant; poochki: wild celery plants babushka: grandmother dedushka: grandfather batushka: priest (an affectionate term for "father") matushka: priest's wife (an affectionate term for "mother") starosta: church caretaker siwash: a very derogatory Alaskan word for a person with Native blood, especially if they were more than half Native. This word illustrates the prejudice which people, including Russian creoles (people of Russian and Native blood) of lighter skin, held toward those of Native origin. Sometimes angry young men in Ninilchik would call each other siwashes. Alaskan census records list some members of Athabaskan Indian families in the Copper River area as having the last name of Siwash, and it appears that some even listed their tribal affiliation as "Siwash". So it may be that the word "siwash" was actually at one time a respectable word of Athabaskan origin, but was abused to such an extent that it came to become a derogatory term for any Alaskan Native person. Krasnay Mees: Red Point, a landmark area on the beach about 1 mile north of the present mouth of Ninilchik River (below the bluff where Elmer Banta lives now) lapka: snowshoe; lapkee: snowshoes nyoozhnik: outhouse, toilet ("zh" is the sound of "s" in "measure") banya: bathhouse kalyidor: enclosed porch, usually off the kitchen shapka: hat galoshi: galoshes, overshoesPeople who study languages can often tell where someone is from by the words they say or the way they pronounce them. Those who speak "fancy" or "educated" Russian have told us that Ninilchik Russian is "peasant Russian", and so it may be. Maybe our ancestors came from the peasant countryside of Russia. Or maybe our ancestors learned to speak the Russian of the common people after they came to Alaska. In any event, we can be proud of Ninilchik Russian, even if it is called "peasant Russian", because our people were hard- working. They didn't wear fancy clothes or live in fancy houses, they earned what they had and often grew or gathered what they ate. One word which does not come from "fancy" Russian is the word for "outhouse", nyoozhnik, a word which has been used by speakers of Russian throughout Alaska, not just in Ninilchik. (Maybe Ninilchik speakers borrowed the word from Russian speakers in other areas of Alaska.) This word would likely not be used by someone from Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Vladivostok.
For more of our Ninilchik words visit Bobbie Oskolkoff's Babushka's Language page. Also, see the announcement about our current project to study the Ninilchik language.