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четверг, 8 сентября 2011 г.

130. Cheaper by the dozen? Is it 12 or 10? Fun word study.

The word "dozen" is rather a common word in English. It literally means 12, which we would most likely translate into Russian as "дюжина". Whenever you go to a store you will most likely buy a dozen or half a dozen of eggs, then you will call "a dozen of your friends" to invite them to a party where you'll watch half a dozen of movies a night (well, almost)! This same term might refer to an approximate number of items or people, for example: I've met dozens of new doctors at this party. 

In either case, the literal translation "дюжина" will sound somewhat awkward as in Russian we generally buy eggs in "tens," meet "tens" of friends and generally refer to an approximate number of items as a "ten" - "десяток". Therefore, whenever you come across the word "dozen" make sure you don't translate it literally, but rather render the meaning. That is, a sentence "I bought a dozen of eggs," can easily be translated as "Я купила десяток яиц".

There are a few expressions in the English language that include the word "dozen", and I thought they might be of interest to you:
  • "six of one and half a dozen of the other" - about the same one way or another. It doesn't matter to me which way you do it. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other. What difference does it make? They're both the samesix of one and half a dozen of the other. (an example from thefreedictionary.com)
  • baker's dozen - чертова дюжина. Why is it "devil's dozen" in Russian? Most likely, there's a reference to the pagan Slavic-Baltic god (cf. Finnish pirun tusina (demon's dozen; piru is a cognate of Perun - pagan Slavic-Baltic god).
  • "Cheaper by the dozen" is the title of a a biographical book written in 1948 by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey who related their own story of raising 12 kids. When asked why they had so many children they answered, "They come cheaper by the dozen, you know." The book was followed by two movies, one in 1950s, and the most recent one was done in 2003. 
Of course, when translating this title into Russian one had to find an equivalent, as the title would not sound natural if translated literally. Thus, the Russian name of the movie is "Оптом дешевле" which, in my opinion, does justice to the general idea of the title. 


For more on "dozen" translation see the forum discussion here
Check out the "dozens" referring to the Russian heritage sites and more here.