A Russian All-Righty

Лад: harmony, way, key, manner, style

Лад is
a nice little word. No one seems to know its origins, but etymologists have found
an early usage of the word in the south that meant a parents’ blessing to a
bride and groom. Now the word contains notions of order, harmony, and accord —
what good parents wish for their children.

In Russian
лад has a
range of meanings, all more or less connected with harmony, literal or
figurative. In music,
лад means a key, as in минорныйимажорныйлад
(minor and major key), or a fret — those bars on the
fingerboard of a guitar that helps a musician hit the right note. And if you are
ever a guest at a village wedding in Russia, it may be useful to know that the
keys of an accordion are also called

When you do
something in harmony or in rhythm with something, you do it
влад: Аркаша в лад своим шагам, сам себя убаюкивая, сонно и слабенько подпевал (In rhythm with
his steps and crooning a lullaby to himself, Arkasha sleepily and weakly sang
along.) With all this musical harmony, you won’t be surprised by the expression
recognizable as the Russian version of changing your tune.
положитьконецсвоейплохойзатее (He had to change his tune
and put an end to his bad scheme.)

figurative harmony of
лад has to do with getting along well with people or things. Домаон
бывалчасто, посколькус
владах (He visited us often since he and my mother were
on good terms.) Of course, sometimes the relationship is not harmonious:
невладахсзаконом (He had run afoul of the law.) Ссамимсобойонне
всегдавладах (He isn’t always at peace with himself.)

When things
are heading in the right direction, you say they
лад. Сначалаему
былонесколькотруднопривыкнутьктакимусловиямработы, нопотомвсёпошлоналад (At first it was somewhat difficult
for him to get used to such work conditions, but then things started looking up.)

Лад also
means the way something is done, a style or system. This kind of
лад is an in-depth, systematic
version of harmony.
Онвсёпеределаетнасвойлад (He’s going to redo everything the way he likes it.) Говорят, чтофильмподобиеКрестногоотца“, тольконарусскийлад (They
say that the film is like “The Godfather,” only the Russian version.)

And it can
be an emotional key or mode:
(We need to cheer him up, literally tune him to a cheerful

Лад has
a lexical relative, the commonly used adverb
ладно (all right). This is the word you use to show agreement: «Встретимсяпередтеатромвшесть?» «Ладно. Пока.» (“So we’ll meet in front of the theater
at six?” “It’s a deal. See you.”) But in that weird way of Russian, add “yes”
and a skeptical, dismissive tone to get the opposite meaning:
Даладно! (No way!) Or say Ну и ладно! to convey something in the middle: Oh
well, I guess that will do.

it’s the word that indicates the end of a conversation:
Нуладно, давай! (Okay,
then, bye!)

Or it can also express exasperation with лад: Ладно, кончай! (Cut it out already!)

Michele A
Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, author of “The Russian
Word’s Worth,” a collection of her columns. Follow her on Twitter