Russian language is a miracle. Proverbs, saying and ancient eloquent expression attach extrinsic value to Russian. Such phraseological units don't just ornament our speech, but also infuse its unicity, soleness, and peculiar only to Russian language colour.
How great are eloquent expressions where mention of РУКА /hand/ is made!
If we want to punish a child or wean from doing something, we say сейчас по рукам дам /I'll slap your wrist/
The one, who knows how to do everything, is мастер на все руки /jack-of-all-trades/
To give support to somebody is подать руку помощи /to lend a willing hand/
To tell something in secret is передать из рук в руки /personally hand from one person to another/
The major part of eloquent expressions traces its roots to the ability to observe nature as well as usual life events. Some phraseological units came from fairy-tales, songs and riddles of that times, and some were borrowed from other nations.
For illustrative purposes, we are going to give some set eloquent expressions, which came into Russian speech. Let's try to unpack their primary meaning.
Долгий ящик /shelve/
When we don't really want or aren't able to deal with some business, we say "положить в долгий ящик"/ to shelve (literally: to put into a long box)/! The expression harks back to the times of tzar's governing in Rus, namely Alexey Mikhaylovich. To address the tzar a complaint or a kowtow, a person had to write a request on a roll of paper.
A special box, in which complaits were put, was fastened near the entrance into the palace of the tzar. Forasmuch as rolls were long, the box was made long too, and at that times it was correct to say "долгий". Well, insofar as at that time bribes have become a usual concern already, boyars and bureaucrats made use of it. If one wanted his complaint to be given consideration to in the shortest possible time, he had to give a bribe. Otherwise, a case would be put in a long box.
Сирота казанская /someone with a 'hard luck story'/
We call a person searching for our sympathy this way. Such subject can be really unfortunate or can just pretend to be.
The expression arised in the 16th century during the governing of Ivan the Terrible. After he conquered Kazanian tzardom, all local wealthy started to come over to his side, they even embraced Christianity. It was all done with purpose to save all their possessions. It smarmed over tzar, and he even invited some of them to Moscow. Those hypocrites made a poor mouth, in hopes to get as much privileges as possible. Moscovites called them joky сирота казанская /Kazanian orphan/.
Спустя рукава /in a slipshod manner/
Everything concerning this expression is pretty easy. In ancient times in Rus clothes were long-sleeved. They were so long that even could reach the ground. People needed to tuck up the sleeves for working. To tuck up the sleeves means to work fine, to leather away at the job. To do something with the sleeves took down means to do something slowly, carelessly, unwillingly.
Шиворот-навыворот или задом-наперед /arsy-versy or hinder part before/
To characterize a sloven, we say: "он делает все шиворот-навыворот" /he does everything arsy-versy/. In ancient times this expression was very disgraceful. For example, a thief, who was caught, was guided to judicatory in turned inside out clothes. And in times of Ivan the Terrible, tzar's court or boyar, who turned out to be in bad odour or the one who misconducted, was horsed face-off to the tail. He was worn turned inside out fur coat and carried over the streets.
Чучело гороховое /scarecrow/
To esteem an ungainly or bizarre person, we say чучело гороховое /scarecrow/. As a rule, such people's clothes, behavior or manners cause either mockery or open contempt in society. Nowadays, as well as earlier, we put a hobgoblin or a scarecrow to frighten away birds from fields and gardens.
Как пить дать /as sure as a gun/
When we say so, we want to underline firmness or exactness of our words or actions. There was a custom related to hospitability in Rus in ancient times. If a person asked for drinking some water, no one could refuse him. That's why when we say как пить дать today, we emphasize inviolability of what was promised.
Зарубить на носу /put it into your pipe and smoke it/
To remember something once and forever, we should зарубить себе это на носу. And self injury is certainly not the point here! There was a time, when illiterate and undereducated social strata used special tablets or labels. They made memorable cuts or marks on those writings. These tags were called "носы".