LYTDYBR EXPLAINED.

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?

Comments

  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
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROT13

  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);
    http://www.google.com/search?q=h.soav&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
    maybe it’s an example.

  14. I just ran across an amazing example in my copy of Sologub’s Тяжёлые сны [Bad Dreams]. The protagonist, Login, is at a party and various people are described, including a woman he’s attracted to named Anna. One of the sentences about her reads, in not only mine but all versions Google Books turns up, Перчатки и веер цвета сгёте [Gloves and fan the color of sgyote]. I was completely thrown by “сгёте,” which is utterly un-Russian but not a clear borrowing of anything I could think of (though Goethe is Гёте [Gyote]); it was only when I did a wider search that I discovered сгёте is a transcription error for crème. So all current Russian editions have an unintelligible mashup of letters there (Google won’t show the prerevolutionary editions, presumably because they would distress the current publishers).

  15. сгёте

    The Scandinavian å comes out as a Cyrillic е if a browser is configured to display the Cyrillic encoding. As a result, the name Åke is transmogrified into Еке, which I’ve heard quite a few times on TV.

  16. The “let’s type on a qwerty keyboard as if it were a йцукен one” example I remember most is ЗЫ for PS. But remember is a correct word, it already passed into “once upon a time” realm.

  17. IMHO -> ИМХО

    В русском языке существуют такие варианты (порой шуточные) расшифровки аббревиатуры ИМХО:

    Имею Мнение, Хочу Озвучить.
    Имею Мнение, Хоть и Ошибочное.
    Индивидуальное Мнение Хозяина Ответа.
    Имею Мнение, Хрен Оспоришь.
    Имею Мнение, Хрен Откажусь.
    Истинное Мнение, Хрен Оспоришь и т.п.

    ИМХО

  18. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Back in the days were ISO-646 character sets other than ASCII were common (as recently covered) it was standard procedure to use the same keyboard layout in terms of character codes regardless of the intended display character set — even though VT200 terminals might in fact have had settable keyboard layouts, I don’t remember.

    In any case we got used to seeing Blåbærgrød come out as Bl}b{rgr|d, but that was not pronounceable so it didn’t give rise to any fun expressions. (UNIVAC EXEC 8 used FIELDATA (6 bit chars, 6 to a word, supported by hardware counted-string operations IIRC) and a local convention: BL&B#RGRQD).

    Also if you type at Google Search in qwerty with your keyboard set to йцукен, it will helpfully convert to equivalent keystrokes if that gives a more sensible search term. Try сщкщтфмшкгы — coronavirus. (Maybe your language preference has to be set to something with a latin alphabet).

  19. I’ll be damned:

    Showing results for coronavirus
    Search instead for сщкщтфмшкгы

  20. Tried searching on BL&B#RGRQD and got:

    It looks like there aren’t any great matches for your search
    Tip: Try using words that might appear on the page you’re looking for. For example, “cake recipes” instead of “how to make a cake.”
    Need help? Check out other tips for searching on Google.
    You can also try these searches:
    nonqaba rwaxa
    hawug hawug
    millilitrasta litraksi

    What I want to know is, how the hell did they come up with those searches to try?

  21. Lars Mathiesen says:

    I think there are EXEC 8 systems still running but they probably use ASCII now. I don’t know if they ever got Internet capabilities or even email — the CS department switched to UNIX (and DR DOS) in ’85 or so.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    В русском языке существуют такие варианты (порой шуточные) расшифровки аббревиатуры ИМХО:

    And here I thought foire aux questions was clever…!!!

    millilitrasta litraksi

    …That looks Finnish.

    “[how many] of milliliters in a liter”? That might be connected to “cake recipes”. On the other hand, it’s really hard to imagine that the Finnish school system ever produces a person who doesn’t know how many ml there are in a l.

  23. John Cowan says:

    The use of cake recipes is quite independent of what you search for, at least in Anglophone googling. I get it constantly now, because of using searches like [“dethel” site:languagehat.com], which has exactly one hit (until now), triggering the useless warning. On the other hand, [“mustard mine” site:languagehat.com”] also has one hit, the same page, and yet no warning. Perhaps Teh Goog thinks that finding just one page is appropriate when you do phrasal searches.

  24. Maybe I should post in the other thread, but a mustard mine reminds me of this scene from one of the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. (The key joke is at about 13:05, but I have queued it up so you can get the whole scene.) However, I just now learned that the Lemon Mine is apparently a real bit of Canadian folklore (and sadly, it’s merely a gold mine named after a prospector named Lemon).

  25. Thanks, the MST3K commentary made me laugh several times.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    There’s a Diamond mine near Linton, Ohio.

    It was a coal mine.

  27. David Marjanović says:

    11:20:

    Always be yourself.
    Unless you can be Batman.
    Then
    Always be Batman.

  28. My favorite mine name belongs to a tungsten mine in Colorado. (I ate at the Tungsten Grill restaurant in the nearby town of Nederland, where they did indeed have a huge grill custom made out of tungsten, rather than steel.) The mine was named “Wolf Tongue.”

  29. David Marjanović says:

    W for Wolfram…

  30. Don’t explain the joke!

  31. SFReader says:

    Diamond mine

    I wonder how it feels to work as a stripper in a strip mine with a stripper name…

  32. Rodger C says:

    a stripper in a strip mine with a stripper name

    Coming soon to a New Country music station near you.

  33. John Cowan says:

    Not even Batman is always Batman. Sometimes he’s the millionaire playboy.

  34. @John Cowan: I don’t know. There is a famous scene from Batman Beyond in which Bruce Wayne reveals that, to himself, he is always Batman.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    Perfect.

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