Babushka

In Russia, which relative might be known as "babushka?"

And the answer: grandmother.

Photo credit: Anatoly Maltsev /EPA

In Russian, "babushka" is an endearing term, meaning an elderly woman. For example, a child might call her grandmother "babushka."

Babushkas take on many forms in English and Russian alike. While the term is most commonly used to refer to one's grandmother, it is also the name of the headscarf typically worn by older Russian women. Or, if you like, it can refer to a set of wooden nesting dolls also known as the Matryoshka or Russian doll.

Photo courtesy: Brainy County

Babushka headscarves offer a longstanding cultural tradition in Russia. Most frequently, they're worn by women while attending church to signify their devotion to God – a tradition that is widely observed in Orthodox Christian practices. Headscarves or head-coverings of this nature are also used to indicate that the wearer is married, though the style can vary from that of the elderly woman's babushka. In fact, the headscarf earned its name in large part from its association with elderly women or grandmothers.

In the Western world, babushkas have been adopted as a style accessory. Throughout the early to mid 20th century, headscarves were a fashionable and glamorous way for women to keep their hair in check or, for movie stars like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, to remain anonymous. Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis often wore a head scarf with large sunglasses to avoiding photographers.

And now, a joke:

What's the worst thing about babushka dolls?

Answer: They're so full of themselves!


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