A reader wrote to call my attention to Barbara Partee’s Language Log post about the wonderful Russian nonword “lytdybr” and to point out that I had used it in the title of one of the earliest LH posts without bothering to explain it, which was quite cheeky of me. But in my defense, I’d been immersing myself in Russian blogs and didn’t really think of it as being completely obscure to whoever might be reading (not that there were more than three people reading at that point). So here, belatedly, is the explanation, in Barbara’s words: “it’s how the Russian word дневник, dnevnik ‘diary’, comes out if you’re typing on a QWERTY keyboard with the keystrokes you would use on a Cyrillic keyboard.” And as one of her students says, “It is often … used to tag posts in blogs that are nothing more than boring retelling of author’s life.” (I’m amazed to see that my original post is the #3 hit for it on Google! My apologies to anyone who may have clicked on it over the years hoping for clarification.)
Addendum. The reader who wrote me about it comments to say “Given that this could happen in any language with a non-roman keyboard layout, there is great potential for more examples of this as-of-yet nameless phenomenon.” An excellent point. So: Anybody have other examples?


  1. When I read that post at Language Log yesterday, I thought how isolated and uncommon the subculture of what is known as “RUnet” must be, if I, a native Russian and an IT engineer, have no idea what this word means…

  2. #3 google result for LYTDYBR?
    meh, that’s nothing compared with #1 for “who, if i cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders?”

  3. strangeguitars says:

    Aw, c’mon! (I’m the “reader” mentioned above.) I was kinda hopin’ that you’d have more examples to add, especially in other languages. But maybe this isn’t a phenomenon, but a relatively isolated thing.
    Given that this could happen in any language with a non-roman keyboard layout, there is great potential for more examples of this as-of-yet nameless phenomenon.
    Anybody have other examples?

  4. that’s nothing compared with #1 for “who, if i cried out, would hear me among the angelic orders?”
    Good lord, I thought you were kidding, but this 2003 LH entry is indeed the top result. How the hell did you discover that?
    Anybody have other examples?
    Good question—I’ll add that to the post.

  5. actually, liquorice gets the credit for that, after i posted a Rilke-related thingy elsewhere.

  6. It’s not a different language, but this is somewhat similar to the use of “furrfu” on Usenet in the 1990s (specifically on alt.urban.folklore, I think). “Furrfu” is “sheesh” rot13’ed. Wikipedia has a little on this at

  7. I remember seeing the username “Bqptiste” in some forum or server. It’s quite probably related to these sorts of keyboards.
    Wikipedia on Azerty keyboards

  8. This isn’t exactly the same, but your post makes me think of Japanese “mojibake.”
    Japanese keyboards are largely Roman-layout, and they use a conversion tool to select kanji or hiragana. But, when posting to the web, these characters sometimes become garbled. Instead of normal sentences, random characters appear. These random characters are called “mojibake.”
    Interestingly, the mojibake character that most often appears is 痴, which means “deviant.” It’s the same “chi” in “chikan” which means “(train) molester.” No one knows why 痴 pops up.

  9. No one knows why 痴 pops up.
    Some editors like Microsoft Word convert aprostrophe into U+2091 RIGHT SINGLE QUOTATION MARK (’). In Windows code page 1252 (sometimes called ANSI), this is 0x92. The common English sequence ‘s becomes ’s, which is encoded 0x92 0x73. In Shift-JIS, 0x92 0x73 is U+75F4 (痴).

  10. Throbert McGee says:

    Following up on Brian’s comment about the old Usenet practice of writing “sheesh” in its ROT13 form furrfu — one would assume that the custom was encouraged by the “celebrity” (i.e., in Usenet circles) of the poster named Joel Furr.

  11. I once encountered a Christmas CD liner with the following written in fake Greek:
    Λετ υσ πυτ τηε Χ βαχκ ιν Χριστοσ
    A friend determined that it was probably simply typed in the Symbol font as if it were on a QWERTY keyboard.

  12. I’ve had some trouble adjusting to UK keyboards, myself, but mainly because the punctuation differs from my Danish one.
    This in turn is due to needing room for æ, ø and å. So English written on a Danish keyboard would just show odd characters for punctuation. And Danish on an English would be oddly punctuated.
    I did have some trouble once upon a time with Window$ resetting the keyboard layout making me have to use trial and error to get things right.
    The main annoyance with this, I sp’ose, is that brackets and (back)slash are only available through shift and alt-gr making html &c more bothersome to use.
    More relevant to the issue at hand are wiigii-isms. The words one gets by missing the home row when touchtyping. College Roomies from Hell similarly uses “*flrrd*” (I pronounce it with /ɜː/, myself) from the mistyping of the action “*flees*”.

  13. If you type ‘Dvorak’ on a QWERTY keyboard as if it were a Dvorak keyboard, it comes out “h.soav”, which gets a moderate # of hits (ok, a teensy # of hits, but still a non-zero number);
    maybe it’s an example.

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