How Do You Say Remont?

If you live in a country where everyone knows the word remont, start off with these questions for pairs or small groups:

1. What are your associations with the word remont? Is it positive, neutral, or negative?

2. Think of your daily route from home to school or work. What places along the way are undergoing remont? Explain to your partner wear and what.

3. What kind of remont would you like to do, or have done at your home, in the stairwell in front of your home, in your apartment building or in your yard/courtyard?

4. Can you think of a time when some remont cause you a problem or frustrated you? Explain.

5. Has there been a time when you benefited somehow from a remont? Explain.
That’s Remont! (Audio 4:52)

The word remont is found in Russian, Polish, and several other languages. And it’s found often. There is no word like it in English.

Usually remont is rendered in English as repairs or remodeling. But remont is a big idea, a blanket term used for everything from fixing a shoe to remodeling a football stadium. So here are some English words that can convey remont-like meanings.

You can REPAIR things like shoes, kitchen pipes, cars, and eyeglasses – things that are broken or not functioning. You repair in order to get physical things working again.

You REMODEL, not so much to get things working, but to make things look different, nicer or newer. Thus you usually remodel an office, a house, an apartment, a restaurant.

You can FIX the same things you repair – your car, your coat, your computer. But fix is a bit broader and more conversational than repair. You can also fix your hair, your make-up, or a leaky roof. You can even fix your cat meaning have it neutered or spayed. Ouch.

REFURBISH means to make bright, clean, or fresh again, which is kind of what you do when you remodel and renovate. Nowadays the word is used often for computers with an added new component.

You RESTORE an old painting or a historic building, the goal being to bring it back to its pristine form at the time that it was built. People also try to restore ruined or polluted land to its natural state.

When you RENOVATE, you give something new vigor, you make it new again. This is usually for buildings (yes, similar to remodeling). Renovate often collocates with the word home.

All this is not to suggest that English is richer than Russian. Russian has specialized words for repairs and fixes too. On the contrary, English does not have any word approaching the complexity of remont. Remont goes beyond the physical aspects of repair. It is a state. It is a one-word philosophy. It is the admission that many of life’s questions must be left unanswered. It is infinite. An example: recently, in my hometown of California, a sign appeared on the local Starbuck’s coffee shop:

We will close at 7:00 p.m.
March 13-14
for remodeling

With this remodeling, we know the shop will be open in the daytime, as usual, but will close a little earlier in the evening. We also know when the shop will re-open. Remont, however, is often untroubled by time. The remont sign can hang on a door for years, and to ask too many questions about it is an exercise in futility. As Olivia Ward has written, remont is “an explanation in itself, unyielding and unchangeable.”

Because of remont’s extra meaning, English speakers who live in Russia quickly incorporate the word into their own English. They say, “We can’t go to that cafe; they’ve got remont.” Or “They’re remonting the stairs, so be careful.”

Perhaps, like the Russian words dacha, czar, and glasnost, for which there are no satisfactory equivalents, remont will make its way into the world English lexicon.

Hey, why not? Words are like people: they seem driven to cross borders. And, again like people, they cross even when forbidden or discouraged. We may as well welcome wayfarers of both kinds.

Fix-it Words: Vocabulary Exercise

Choose from the following “Fix-it” words and decide which go in the blanks. You may need to change the form of the words. All the sentences are authentic, having been excerpted from Internet discussion groups. Sometimes two words may work. Discuss the different possibilities and their nuances.

fix, remodel, repair, renovate, restore

1. The roofer came yesterday and ________________ the roof, I think. I’ll tell you when we have the next rainstorm!

2. It makes no sense at all to close the whole resort just to _______________ the restaurant.

3. In the past, surgeons ________________broken bones by grafting human or animal bones under extreme high temperature.

4. I received her antique treasure chest … but I noticed right away that… the top was warped and discolored. …. I have to do something to _______________ its original beauty!

5. Egypt announced plans on Sunday [Nov. 26, 2000] to _________________ one of the world’s oldest Christian monasteries.

Key:
1. Fixed. Repaired is just as good. Clearly, with the mention of rain, we are interested in repair rather than making new or better looking (remodeling, renovation, restoration).
2. Remodel. Renovate works fine too. Repair and fix are possible, but they usually refer to something broken. Is the whole restaurant broken?
3. Repaired. Sound strange? But repair is used for broken things. Fix works too, but it is less formal, and this is clearly not a conversational sentence.
4. Restore. Restore is best. It’s the idea of bringing back the beauty. Why can’t you renovate? You can renovate/restore the chest, but you can’t renovate or renew its original beauty.
5. Renovate. Restore works just as well here.

One thought on “How Do You Say Remont?

  1. I just asked someone what remont was in Minsk! What a coincidence that you have a whole mini-lesson on it!

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