Svetlana Boym on communicating with “half-words”:
There used to be a saying among Soviet intelligentsia—”to understand each other with half-words.” What is shared is silence, tone of voice, nuance of intonation. To say a full word is to say too much; communication on the level of words is already excessive, banal, almost kitschy. This peculiar form of communication “with half-words” is a mark of belonging to an imagined community that exists on the margin of the official public sphere. Hence the American metaphors for being sincere and authentic—”saying what you mean,” “going public,” and “being straightforward”—do not translate properly into the Soviet and Russian contexts. “Saying what you mean” could be interpreted as being stupid, naïve, or not streetwise. Such a profession of sincerity could be seen, at best, as a sign of foreign theatrical behavior; at worst, as a cunning provocation. There is no word for authenticity in Russian, but there are two words for truth, pravda and istina. It is possible to tell the truth (pravda), but istina—the word that, according to Vladimir Nabokov, does not rhyme with anything—must remain unarticulated.
In Russian cyrillic: istina = истина, pravda = правда. I would be delighted if any native Russians would care to comment on or critique this passage.
Svetlana Boym, Common places: mythologies of everyday life in Russia, Harvard University Press, 1994.