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Talking About Romanian Grammar Using the Christmas Story with Cultural Insights and a Comment about Communism at the End

It is finally wintertime here is Oklahoma, but it isn’t cold or snowy like it gets in Romania at all. It is barely cold enough for a coat, and no one needs a hat, scarf, boots, or gloves. However, the people are just going on and on about how cold it is. It seems to strange to us after living in places like S. Korea and Romania. I remember wearing two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks and boots in Romania because it got so cold in the winter. At times, by October, there was snow on the ground in Romania and it stayed until June. I knew the winter was short here, and it is really strange to hear them talking about how cold it is after where we have lived. It is barely cold here, and like everywhere else, Christmas is coming.

The last time I talked about the Romanian grammar from the Christmas story, I did Matthew 1:18, so today, I will do Matthew 1: 19.

Iosif si Maria era logodit, dar el a pus de gand s-o lase pe ascuns. (Joseph and Mary were engaged, but he thought about leaving her in secret.)Photo by Cinestyle India on Pexels.com

Verse 19: Iosif, barbatul ei, era un om neprihanit si nu voia s-o faca de rusine inainte lumii ; de aceea si-a pus de gand s-o lase pe ascuns.

Iosif, barbatul ei, – “Joseph, her man.” “Iosif” means “Joseph.” It is just pronounced “yoseef,” but it is the same name. After the name, there is a comma, and after “ei” is also a comma. That means that what comes next renames “Iosif.” People who know about commas call this an apostrophe. The word “barbat” means “man.” The “ul” on the end of “barbat” means “the.” “ul” is a masculine “the” because “barbat” is a masculine noun. The “ei” that comes after “barbatul” means “her,” the possessive pronoun. Yes, Romanian has possessive pronouns after the nouns they possess.

Iosef era un om neprihanit. (Joseph was a righteous man.)Photo by Nasser Almutairi on Pexels.com

era un om neprihanit – “was a righteous man.” “Era” means “was.” “Un” means “a.” “Un” is a masculine “a” because it comes before “om.” “Om” means “man.” Yes, “barbat” also means “man,” but “om” means a man like mankind, and “barbat” emphasizes that he was masculine. “Neprihanit” means “righteous.” “Neprihanit” is an adjective. In Romanian, adjectives usually come after the noun like it does here. There are times that adjectives come before the noun, but only if they are trying to emphasize the adjective.

si nu voia – “and didn’t have a will.” “Nu” is the negative in Romanian that means “no” or “not.” “Voia” is related to “vointa” which means the noun “will.” In some ways, you could translate it “didn’t want.” However, the way to say didn’t want is “nu a vrut.” “Si” should have a comma attached to the bottom of it and be pronounced like our word “she.” “Si” means “and.”

Just one finger like this on the cheek in Romania means that something is a shame (o rusine). Photo by Hiago Italo on Pexels.com

no voia s-o faca de rusine – “didn’t have a will to make her a shame.” Already, “no voia” means “didn’t have a will.” The “s-o” is a contraction. If you want to say “He didn’t want to make,” You would say “El nu a vrut sa faca” or “He didn’t have a vill to make,” would be “El nu voia sa faca.” “A face” means “to make” or “to do,” but it is just the basic form. To make “a face” into “to make” or “to do” inside the sentence, you have to say “sa faca.” That “o” is a feminine direct object pronoun meaning “her.” To make it shorter, they take the “a” from “sa” and add a hyphen and the “o,” and it becomes “s-o faca.” “De” means “of,” but that really doesn’t fit if you translated straight through to English. “Rusine” means “shame.” This word “rusine” is extremely important in Romania. They shame one another into doing the right thing. They even have a signal. The put their pointing finger on their cheek and don’t say a word if they think someone has done something shameful.

rusine inainte lumii – “a shame in front of the world.” “inainte” means “in front of.” “Lume” means “the world” referring to people. If you put “i” on the end of “lume” instead of “e,” it can mean “s,” “the,” or “of.” There are two “i’s” here. The “world” would already be plural since you are talking about people, so those two “i’s” mean “of” and “the.”

de aceea – “Because of that” or “therefore.” “De” means “of.” “Aceea” means “that.” It is a feminine “that” because it ends in “a.” It is referring to “nu voia,” the will to not make a shame of Mary. If your grammar is right in Romanian, then things rhyme. like both of these ending in “a.”

si-a pus de gand – “He also thought.” “Si” should have a comma attached to the bottom of it, and when it does, it is pronounced like the English word “she.” “Si” means “and” or “also.” “a pus” means “he put.” They put a hyphen between “si” and “a” to keep them apart since they are two small words with vowel. If you want to make past tense in Romanian, you have to know how to conjugate the verb “have.” After that, you put “have” according to the person in front of the past tense form of the verb. It is like when we also use “have” or “has” in front of the past participle of the verb to make present perfect tense in English which is a kind of past tense. “Pus” comes from “a pune” which means “to put.” “Pus” is the past tense form.

Here is how you conjugate “to have“: I have = am, you have = ai, he, she, it has = are, we have =avem, you (plural and respectful) + aveti (with a comma on the bottom of the “t” that makes it pronounced like “ts.”), au = they have.

To translate this into making past tense, so this: I put = am pus, you put =ai pus, he, she it put = a pus, we put = am pus, you (plural and respectful) = ati pus (put the comma below the “t” again to pronounce it “ts.”), they put = au pus. As you can see, the addition before “pus” each time is almost the same as conjugating “have” in simple present tense with a few exceptions.

Let’s finish “a pus de gand.” “De” means “of.” “Gand” should have an inverted “v” over the “a.” It is pronounced “euh” way down in your throat. The sound doesn’t exist in English because none of our vowels are pronounced that far down. It is like a grunt. “Gand” means “a thought” so “a pus de gand” in a word by word translation would be “he put of thought.” However, we wouldn’t phrase it like that in English, so just say “he thought.”

El a pus de gand s-o lase. (He decided to leave her.)Photo by Emma Bauso on Pexels.com

s-o lase pe ascuns – “to leave her hidden or in secret.” The “s-o” is a contraction again. “S” comes from “sa” which means “to.” “O” is a direct object pronoun, and yes, it comes before the verb. They take the “a” from “sa” and replace it with “o” to make it shorter. “Lase” means “Leave.” “Lase” comes from “a lasa” which is the basic form that means “to leave.” Since Joseph is the subject, then “he” is embedded in “lase.” “Pe” actually means “on.” However, the Romanians use it in places we would never use “on.” For example, they say “Merg pe jos” which means “I go by foot,” but word by word translation is “I go on down.” They also put “pe” in front of a direct object noun that is a person like Spanish puts “a” in front of an object noun that is a person. An example would be “Am spalat pe capul ei” which means “I washed her head or hair.” They often use words in ways in Romanian we would never use the translation of that word in English. So, we have “pe ascuns” which literally means “on hidden” or “in secret.” “A ascunde” means “to hide.” “Am ascuns o” means “I hid it.” That “ascuns” is the past tense form of “ascunde.” They actually use the word “secret” just as we do, but here the translator decided to say “pe ascuns.”

Let’s put this all together:Joseph, her man, was a righteous man and didn’t have a will to make her a shame in front of the world; because of that, he also thought to leave her in secret.

Daca cineva din America face ceva pe care ei stiu e rau, ei poate sa devein treznit. (If someone from America does something they know is wrong, they can become crazy.)Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

Today, you got a little Romanian culture beside just the grammar and the meaning of the verse. Societies run differently. Some run on guilt. If someone does something wrong, it is wrong whether anyone knows about it or not in America, and if you do something you think it wrong, it can make you act really crazy. America thinks everything must be told no matter how bad it is because they run on truth and a conscience. Psychologically, if Americans cross lines they think are wrong, they can really have problems inside of themselves. Romania has what the people who study culture call “a shame society.” The biggest problem for them is not the doing of something bad as much as it is letting everyone know that you did something wrong. They keep one another in check by shaming each other. They are always afraid the neighbors will see. We have some of that in the old South in America, but not all over America. In Romania, they will tell one another “stop acting like a gypsy.” They are shaming one another into being good. They will put their finger to the side of their face if they think someone is acting badly to signal it is a shame. In a Romanian Christmas carol I found the other day, I felt like the author of the song was trying to shame the people who had been working in the fields to get up, clean up, and to look and act like a gentlemen because Christmas carollers were coming. Romanians want to put their best foot forward. They want dignity. They want respect.

Oameni din Romania sa porta hainele mai frumos mai mult decat oameni din America ca ei au grija despre ce oameni gandesc. (People from Romania wear nicer clothes than people from America because they care about what people think.)Photo by Minervastudio on Pexels.com

The class system still exists in Romania. They call the people in the village who work out in the fields or milking cows everyday “peasants.” It was a real shock for me as an American to hear them calling people “peasants” as if they were beneath them. In America, if we have a servant, we have a hard time telling them, “You are below me,” even though there are some who may think that way, if we see them doing it, we think they are bad. However, there has always been a difference in classes in eastern Europe. That is one of the reasons Communism was able to take hold. They were trying to abolish the class system, but it never happened. The only thing Communism did to their classes was to invert them. The people who were on the top were thrown ruthlessly to the bottom, and the people on the bottom became the leaders of the Communist party and took advantage of their station and took whatever they could from the state and became rich. When they threw Communism out, there were people who were ex Communist officials with Chrystal chandeliers, golden furniture, etc. in their houses. They had become as bad if not worse than the upper class was before Communism came. The people who had been rich before had become peasants living in the villages, raising animals, milking cows, and working in the fields to live. The ex Communist took advantage of the system even more. They were throwing the people out of their homes that had been given to them by the Communist government. If they were lucky, they had the money to pay for their homes and could stay, but some didn’t even know they could stay and others had no money, so there were people being put in the streets all over Romania after the revolution. There was furniture in front of the apartment buildings with people living on the furniture because they no longer had an apartment. There were people living under bridges. There were children living in sewers. It was extremely difficult for them to change back to a Democracy, and a lot of the problem was the ex big wig Communists who had all the money. I saw massive cheating by ex Communists.

The man who had been in charge of the farm co-op opened a butcher’s shop in town. He was buying his meat from the farm. He weighed perfectly healthy animals as if they were skin and bones so he could pay a low, low price and sell them in his butcher’s shop in town. He tried not to sell the apartments the farm workers were living in to the farm workers because he had a plan to make money from them too, but a friend of mine who had become a Christian outsmarted him and forced him to sell the people their apartments and became the hero of the village.

I went into an ex Communist big wig’s house that looked like this, and there were people all around him starving.//Photo by João Gustavo Rezende on Pexels.com

Romania has made progress since then. I want any Romanian to know I am not telling these stories to make Romanians embarrassed. I just want the world to know because there are young people who don’t understand what Communism is all about, and it is not all about the nice philosophy that everyone is equal and gets an equal share. People are people. People are greedy. People are selfish. It is just a fact of life. Everyone wants things for themselves. That is why the peasants before Communism became the big wigs in the Communist party and became rich helping to break the back of their country. That is why those same Communist party people after the revolution were still stealing from the people. Communism doesn’t work. Romania learned its lesson the hard way. It is climbing out of the hole now that it built for itself. I just want to urge anyone in America who is talking about Communism as being the solution to the problems in America, they are just asking for things to get worse if they bring Communism in.

Under Communism, if you had anything the others didn’t have, you hid it.//Photo by Luis Aquino on Pexels.com

Communism caused a lot of the “shame” mentality in Romania. The Romanians got in the habit of hiding everything from one another. When the Bible talks about Joseph not wanting to shame Mary, the Romanians really understand well, better than Americans.

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