Ukrainian is the official language of Ukraine, but nearly everyone also speaks Russian. They are distinct languages, but share many words and sounds in common. Thus, for someone like me, that speaks only one- and then poorly- it can sometimes be tricky to figure out what you are listening to.
A few days ago, I visited my favorite kiosk to satisfy my growing addiction to poppyseed булочки (buns). My love of them knows no bounds and I am beginning to wonder if there is more to the whole poppyseed=narcotic joke, but I digress…
Usually, all the buns are sitting near the window, but this day they were hidden away in some mysterious nook of the kiosk. I asked the lady, in Russian, if she had any buns with poppyseeds and with a slightly embarassed smile, she replied ‘oh yes, we have apple, cheese, cabbage…”
Here is where I will explain the double language issue. The word for tasty in Ukrainian is смачний, from the word taste, смак (smaak). It is one of the few Ukrainian words I know because it is on ads for ice cream and other snacks all over the city.( Not since Johannesburg, with its proliferation of over-the-top Magnum ads, have I seen a city so seemingly devoted to frozen treats.)
In Russian the phrase for “with poppyseeds” is с маком (smakom).
Do we see the problem?
In the end, I had an apple bun- which is probably better for me anyway.