Kettlebells keep you fit and teach you Russian

Kettlebells are iron weights which look like kettles but traditionally weigh 16 kilos (35 lbs).  They are used in fitness training.

I know that because I have just finished looking it up.  It all started  because a French lady had seen something on a fitness forum about kettlebells and raised a query.  I didn´t know what the word meant either.  The person who was using them comes from an island in the south Pacific, now living in the US.  The forum host is in New Zealand and the kettlebell originated in Russia, where it is called a girya, apparently.   We do, undoubtedly, live in an international world. 

Today, shall we learn the Russian for a kettlebell?  This seems an extremely useful idea, you never know when you might be able to astound your friends with the range of your vocabulary.  

I speak no Russian except Perestroika and Kiosk, but perhaps we can extrapolate (figure out) the four letters in the word above, with a little help from our friend Google. Someone will have to correct me if I guess wrongly: that is what happens all the time when you are learning a language.

Г The G sound looks like a Gallows
И The I sound  looks like two pillars   It has the sound of eeeeeee.  Can you see Hercules, the diagonal line, taking his ease (eeese) leaning (leeening) with his feet against the first pillar and his head against the other pillar?
Р The R sounds  looks like a P, presumably Rasputin begins with a P too.  I looked it up.  Yes, it is written Распутин.  Remember Rasputin, the evil monk, with a beard like yarn?
Я But does the Ya sound look like Yarn?   The round bit at the top looks like a ball of yarn.  The yarn has to go up the slope, then down the straight.  What or who would cause yarn to roll up a slope? Rolling away from  Rasputin on his way  to the gallows?  Why would Rasputin be chasing yarn up a slope then drop it?  I am not sure, my history lessons didn´t include that bit.  He just did.  When things are ridiculous they are easier to remember so we will leave it that way, unless you have the explanation. Rasputin died in 1916 but you can still see the “up-slope and drop” path taken by the yarn that he was chasing.

Now we need to know how to pronounce гиря.  Is the г  hard like Gallows, or soft like stroking a Giraffe?  I searched the internet for “Russian text to speech” and pasted the word  гиря into the box.  Result? The G is hard like the gallows, good.  (My thanks to )

Next we need to put the letters back together and concoct a way to  remember that kettlebells are G I R Ya in Russian.  Does one of these similar-sounding associations work for you, or can you suggest another?

  • Self defence: carry a    …..     Girya 
  • A fitness coach says “for a few dollars I can girya (give you) some tips in using kettlebells safely”
  • Girya in Syria is not yet as popular as it is in the US

I will Гиря a day or two to think about it.

Congratulations, you just  read and pronounced (in your head) a word in Russian script and you know what it means and how to write it.  Not many English-speakers can do that!


About Fun with languages

Blogging about learning languages, making it fun Hobbies: paragliding, cycling, reading, BBC radio 4.
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