Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
You might think that "I want to find a book…
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
You might think that "I want to find a book [so as] to read" might be literally translated, without the "so as": "Ya khochu naiyti knigu chitat'". But no. If you wish to say, in Russian, that some action is/was meant to produce some effect, you can't just use the infinitive.
The "so as" is the conjunction chtobiy. "Ya khochu naiyti knigu chtobiy chitat'." And my Russian-learning classmates and I find it tough to remember to use chtobiy. Cinzia called it "the sneaky chtobiy." I called it "The Boris and Natasha of Russian grammar."
Perhaps the best way to think of chtobiy is as the middleman who transmits intent into action. He's the the very reserved but very efficient mafioso who gets your job done. As Cinzia put it, "Chtobiy wears a tie."
Maybe we're cracking up. Today I saw that the word for "three hundred" is "tristo" and I made a "Tristan and Isolde" pun that no one got. Maybe I should have made a Thomas Pynchon reference instead.