I’m reading my first truly contemporary Russian novel, Не стану взрослой (Amazon) by Andrei Kuzechkin; it came out last year and is set in 2009 (Michael Jackson has just died). I’m only starting the second chapter, but there are already enough linguistically interesting bits I want to share that I thought I’d post about it. To start with, how do you translate the title? The actual equivalent they’re using is Young 4 Ever (and I presume a translation of the book is forthcoming under that title), but how to render the actual Russian title in English? In a sense it’s simple, “I Won’t Grow Up” or “I Won’t Become an Adult”; the problem is that in Russian взрослой is clearly feminine (which means there’s no risk of a reader’s being tempted to apply it to the male protagonist), and there’s no good way to include that in English. “I’m a Girl Who Won’t Grow Up”? “I Won’t Become a Grown Woman”? No, I don’t think it can be done with any elegance or concision.
To move on to the text of the novel, in the first chapter one of the characters says “Я понимаю, что ежа голой задницей не удивишь” [I realize you can’t astonish a hedgehog with (i.e., by showing it) a bare ass], which greatly amused me; Google tells me the more common form uses the more vulgar word for ‘ass/arse’: ежа голой жопой не удивишь. A few pages later there occurs this interesting bit of prescriptivism: “Слово “компьютер” она произносила с отчетливым “е” вместо привычного “э” в последнем слоге. И у этой женщины — высшее образование и должность бухгалтера!” [She pronounced the word komp’yuter with a clear ye in place of the usual e in the last syllable. And this was a woman with higher education and a job in accounting!]. And the first page of Chapter 2 has three such bits in a row. First the protagonist calls Koreans the worst StarCraft players in the world and says “Вот поэтому мы их и дерем как сидоровых коз” [That’s why we beat the crap/stuffing out of them—literally ‘beat them like Sidor’s goats’]. I’d never heard the “Sidor’s goats” expression (usually in the singular: драть как Сидорову козу), but it’s one I like and will try to remember. Then he says to Vadim, the guy he’s just beaten at StarCraft, “Ты надеялся удивить меня “зерг рашем”? Серьезно?” [You were hoping to surprise me with “zerg rashem“? Seriously?] I was completely thrown by zerg rashem; fortunately, Google came to my aid again and explained to me that the Zerg are “a race of fictional parasitic insectoids and the overriding antagonists of the StarCraft series” and “The term ‘Zerg Rush’ or ‘zerging‘ has entered video gaming jargon to describe sacrificing economic development in favour of using many low-cost and weak units to rush and overwhelm an enemy by attrition or sheer numbers. The tactic is infamous, with most experienced RTS players being familiar with the tactic in one form or another.” So it’s just one of the many, many English words and phrases taken over intact in the youthful Russian of the novel (and the -em is the instrumental ending), but not being a player of video games I had no chance of getting the allusion. Then there comes this description of Vadim’s linguistic habits (Russian after the cut):
He’s constantly shoving in bits of internet jargon. Instead of “funny” he says “lol” or “ololo,” instead of “uninteresting” he says “UG” (short for unyloe govno [downer shit]), he calls girls “chan” like they do in Japan.
All I can say is: ololo!
The original Russian:
Постоянно вворачивает словечки из интернет-жаргона. Вместо “смешно” говорит “лол” или “ололо”, вместо “неинтересно” — “УГ” (сокращение от “унылое говно”), девушек называет “тян”, на японский манер.