I love reading Gasan Guseinov; among other things, he’s a reliable source of Russian slang and allusions that are often new to me. This column on the verbal formulas we use to help us find our way through life ends with a truck driver contrasting Western Europe with Russia, saying that when he goes west he says to himself “Все продумано” (Everything has been thought through), so that if he doesn’t understand something he thinks about how things might be arranged for the greatest convenience of the user and he can usually figure it out (in this section I learned the colloquial use of the word азимут ‘azimuth’ from the phrase “и вот по этому азимуту идти” ‘and take my bearings from that’). But when he heads back east, he repeats to himself “Все схвачено”: “Значит, надо забыть об удобстве и тупо искать этого вот того, у которого все схвачено. Я так всегда делаю. И за двадцать лет ни разу не ошибся.” Literally the phrase means ‘Everything is seized/caught’: ‘That means you have to forget about convenience and dumbly/blindly look for the guy who has everything seized. I always do that, and in twenty years I’ve never once been mistaken.’ But that didn’t make much sense, so I went to my go-to guy for Russian allusions, Sashura, who explained to me that “Все схвачено” is a slang expression referring to someone who has all the right connections and reliable protection, who is “in control and using it for his own corrupt advantage, for profit.” He adds, “It’s very interesting that this expression, which I’d date back to the ’60s-’70s, that grew out of the shortages and controlled distribution of goods and services, has survived in our time of, supposedly, market economy.”
He finishes up with this intriguing question: “I loved his last phrase: Поэтому дома работа тяжелая, а там – трудная. How would you say it English? At home, work is a grind, over there, it’s toil?” I wondered the same thing; the first word for ‘hard, difficult,’ тяжелый, literally means ‘heavy,’ while the second, трудный, is derived from труд ‘labor, work,’ and we don’t have a comparable distinction in English. I tentatively suggested “here it’s a burden, there it’s a task,” but that’s not really satisfying, so I thought I’d throw it open for suggestions.