Surplussed Barrelware.

As I said in my review of Sasha Sokolov’s Школа для дураков (A School for Fools), Sokolov was bowled over by Aksyonov’s Затоваренная бочкотара (translated by Joel Wilkinson as Surplussed Barrelware) when he was just beginning to write, so I followed up my reading of Bitov’s Жизнь в ветреную погоду (Life in Windy Weather; see this post) by tackling the Aksyonov, which I read years ago with minimal comprehension. As with the Bitov, I’m really glad I returned to it, both because it shed new light on Sokolov and because I now fully realize why it was such an event in Soviet literature. To give you the basic idea of what it’s about, I’ll quote the summary in Russian Postmodernist Fiction: Dialogue with Chaos, by Mark Lipovetsky and Eliot Borenstein:

The plot of this story is extremely simple. The driver Volodya Teleskopov is bringing empty barrels (the “surplussed barrelware” of the story’s title) to Koryazhsk, the regional center. Along the way he is joined by Gleb Shustikov, a marine; Irina Valentinova, a schoolteacher; Vadim Afanasievich Drozhinin, a scholar; the retired activist Mochenkin; and others. During their travels, strange things happen to them: All of them have lyrical dreams about a “Good Person,” and all of them grow strangely attached to one another and to the barrelware, without which they cannot even imagine their lives. So when the bureaucrats in Koryazhsk refuse to accept the empty barrels, the group decides to continue their journey with their beloved barrelware, only now they have no apparent destination whatsoever. […]

The absence of a mimetic dimension completely transforms the utopian discourse itself. Utopia always considers its own possible application to reality. In Aksyonov’s novel, the presence of “reality” itself seems problematic. In Aksyonov’s hands, the Soviet utopia turns into a kind of children’s fairy tale. The barrelware becomes a magical being, leading the unlikely traveling companions to the magic kingdom; in his letter to his girlfriend, Volodya Teleskopov writes: “Simka, you want the truth? I don’t know when we’ll see each other again, because we go not where we want to go but where our dear barrelware wants us to go. Understand?” […]

[Aksyonov] basically removes the spell of the Soviet utopian myth by transforming it into belles lettres rather than a “reflection of life.” In this case, the text obeys only the laws of literary play.

But not only is it a subversive deconstruction of Soviet myth, it’s an encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet cultural references: poetry from Pushkin and Lermontov to doggerel chastushki, music from Mozart to pop hits and Gulag songs (I was astonished when an entire stanza of «Этап на Север, срока огромные» was quoted — how did that get past the censors in 1968?), and all sorts of Soviet realia that I had to have explained to me by Yuri Shcheglov’s «Затоваренная бочкотара» Василия Аксенова: Комментарий. If you understand the references in this novella, you basically understand the mentality of Aksyonov’s generation.

So what did Sokolov get from it? Beyond the invigorating “you mean you can do that?” effect, there are all sorts of details, like the unpunctuated monologues, the sexualization of teachers (Aksyonov’s flirty geography teacher Irina Seleznyova becomes Sokolov’s biology teacher Vera Arkadyevna, who goes with young men to their apartments and lets them do what they will with her), and the river that “runs through Russia” at the end of the Aksyonov, which could have suggested the river Lethe that may or may not exist in Sokolov; there are butterfly nets in both; even the unusual word земснаряд ‘suction dredge, dredging barge,’ which I have encountered only twice in my reading, occurs in these two texts. In general, there’s what Shcheglov calls “all these fantasies, dreams, doubles, mirror reflections, and excursions into zaum [всех этих фантазий, снов, двойников, зеркальных отражений, экскурсов в заумь], which Sokolov drew freely from. But the main thing is that they’re both superb modernist works that will repay your investment in them; I have only seen Google snippets of the Wilkinson translation of Surplussed Barrelware, but it seems all right, and it has good annotations. Give it a try!


  1. J.W. Brewer says:

    Most google hits for “barrelware” turn up references to this book. Is the Russian word in the title a fanciful variant or extension of the normal Russian word for “barrel(s)” that would have caused the translator to think a novel coinage was in order? There isn’t afaik even an exotic English word for “a whole buncha barrels” other than “barrels.” I had a vague sense that “cooperage” could work in an extended sense, but I can’t quickly google up a natural example where “cooperage” refers to a collection of the actual end product rather than to the craft or process of making barrels or a business establishment where that craft/process is practiced.

  2. Dmitry Pruss says:

    They aren’t just barrels, they are empty barrels which can be used for storage. The word “tare” exists it English for deadweight / packaging material, right? It’s тара in Russian, the second part of the compound root.

  3. Yes, theoretically “barreltare” would be closer to the Russian, but it sounds awful and I don’t think many people would be able to parse it.

  4. Catanea says:

    Millions of people must know this, but I was – & perhaps am still – a little mystified by the fact that my useful, inexpensive Lidl supermarket battery operated kitchen scale requires me to touch the “On” button a second time for /Tare to return the weight shown to zero so that I can weigh the contents of a vessel without the vessel’s weight. My only aquaintance with any form of the word before was that babyfood containers are “tarrina”s here in Catalonia, or perhaps in Spain as well. I’m not at all sure what language the scale thinks it is speaking, as the only other indications are g for grammes, oz for ounces…

  5. Dmitry Pruss says:

    but it sounds awful

    The Russian one sounds positively horrid / nonsensical, which is probably the reason why it was chosen. My hunch is that the word is of the early Soviet newspeak coinage, alongside with other accounting monstrosities like зернобобовые or пивобезалькогольные. But I don’t know for sure.

  6. I have only encountered the word tare in English in connection with the weight of an empty container, which needs to be subtracted to get the net weight of its contents. It can be used as a transitive verb, meaning “set the zero point on [a scale].” It also appears in the fixed phrase tare weight and a few other less common locutions.

    However, even those kinds of usages are not necessarily that well known. Somebody might encounter the word in high school chemistry and then never again. I was once trying to buy bulk olive oil, using a refillable glass bottle. I weighed it at home and wrote on it, “TARE WEIGHT:” and whatever the weight actually was. Unfortunately, I either wrote it in ounces, when the scale at the store read decimal fraction of a pound, or vice versa. The cashier didn’t know how to convert the units, nor did she know how to subtract the weight of the bottle from the calculated bulk price. She called over the manager, and I explained the situation. However, the manager didn’t listen to me; she listened to the confused explanation that the cashier followed with. Ignoring my statements that the weight was already known, they proceeded to find an identical bottle, weigh it, and the manager subtracted that weight correctly. Then she started to chide me, telling me that next time, if possible I should have the bottle weighed in advance, to save them the rigamarole. At that point, I had to interrupt and point out, calmly, that the tare weight was written right there, in Sharpie, on the side of the glass, as I had tried to point out to her several times.

  7. J.W. Brewer says:

    Yes, in my personal experience “tare” is in current active usage in English only in the “tare weight” context, i.e. making sure you are weighing the contents (generally because you are buying them priced by weight) net of the weight of their “container,” which could be anything from a plastic bowl to a multi-ton truck.

    Which reminds me of an ingenious criminal scheme from about 30 years ago (I had some professional involvement in the appeal from conviction at the beginning of my own legal career). The perpetrators were ripping off a wholesale scrap metal yard somewhere in western Pennsylvania, which had a pretty simple pricing system where you drove your truck in empty, it got weighed, and then you drove it out full after it was weighed again, paying per pound for the difference. But the price per pound varied by metal, and in those days, at least, scrap copper was worth significantly more per pound than scrap steel. So the perpetrators would load their truck almost full with copper but then put a camouflage layer of steel on top of that and pay for the whole truckload at the lower steel price. After driving away, they would clean off the steel (easy with a huge magnet hung from a crane) and resell the copper to another scrap dealer across the state line for profit. (NB: the crossing-state-lines part was what got them prosecuted in federal court.) The scheme almost certainly needed a co-conspirator working inside the victim scrap yard to work, but the prosecutors were apparently never able to establish who that was.

  8. which is probably the reason why it was chosen.


  9. SFReader says:

    The word has surprising etymology.

    Middle French tare, from Italian tara, from Arabic طَرْحَة‎ (ṭarḥa, “that which is thrown away”), a derivative of طَرَحَ‎ (ṭaraḥa, “to throw (away)”).

    Who would have guessed, it sounded so Russian.

  10. About the strange sound of “barrelware,” would the idea of the alienation effect come in handy?

    I mean: a word in advertising English that always throws me off balance is “shirtings,” and I’d guess that’s intentional. (You funny peasant! Do you mean to say you call that thing you’re wearing just a shirt?) The psychology isn’t new; compare Trabb the tailor patronizing Pip about fabrics in Great Expectations.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    I’m not at all sure what language the scale thinks it is speaking, as the only other indications are g for grammes, oz for ounces…

    English. Ounces are mentioned at all, therefore English.:-|


    …whoa. My head spins.

    Unfortunately, I either wrote it in ounces, when the scale at the store read decimal fraction of a pound, or vice versa.

    …what I just said.

  12. I only know the word from this book’s title. tara (uncountable) is, in professional speech, any container your goods are transported stored or sold in, be that a bottle or a box.

    The only compound with -tara that was familiar to me was steklotara. “Glass-tara”. That is bottles;) The word was used in the context of recycling, there were “points of steklotara reception”, you could come there with empty bottles, get paid for each and then buy something.
    The price of a bottle was a substantial portion of the price of the bottle with a drink.

    If “bottle” sounds very human, uncountable “glasstare” sounded a bit inhumane:)

    Then bochka. A barrel. This word sounds warm. It is rounded and soft phonetically, and it is somethign from good old times. Diogenes lived there, wine is there in cellars. It is wooden.

    It is opposite to dehumanizing steklotara in too many ways.

    The compound is illogical, why “bochko-tara”, when you can just say “bochki”? It is not a name of a material, (unlike steklo, “glass”), “bochka” would be semantically equivalent to bochkotara.

    I have no slightest idea if such a word was used by warehouse professionals.

  13. About the strange sound of “barrelware,” would the idea of the alienation effect come in handy?

    Sure. It sounds just as strange in Russian (see drasvi’s comment), so it’s a good choice.

  14. Dmitry Pruss says:


    definitely not just bottles. Back when the glass jars were standardized (майонезные, поллитровые, литровые…) one would turn those glass jars in for cash, too. And they were taken in not as recyclable-glass for melting and reprocessing, but in the true meaning of the word “tare”, to be reused as containers.

    Стеклопосуда was a common name for the recycled glass as well.

    I saw references to керамическая тара, clay-containers, for amphorae and various storage pots in Russian archaeological literature.

    The meaning must have jumped from “subtractable empty-container weight” to “reusable empty containers” at some point. Quick-checking Ngram doesn’t shed light on it.

  15. The meaning must have jumped from “subtractable empty-container weight” to “reusable empty containers” at some point.

    Huh. I hadn’t thought about it, but of course you’re right.

  16. David W says:

    That makes sense; if “tare weight” is the weight of the container, then the container must be the tare.

    The derivation from “that which is thrown away” sheds some light (for me, at least) on the connection between “tare weight” and “tares and wheat”.

  17. John Emerson says:

    In the KJV Matthew 13 “tare” means “weed”, contrasted to “wheat” and thought perhaps to be darnel, and symbolically means the sinners who live alongside the righteous in this life but will be separated from the righteous in the end. It appears in a familiar hymn.

  18. I wonder what rastfarians think about that hymn…

  19. The meaning must have jumped from “subtractable empty-container weight” to “reusable empty containers” at some point.
    That’s actually the main daily use that I am familiar with. Есть какая-нибудь тара? is, in my experience, a totally normal way to ask for a container to put e.g. leftovers in, or food to take on a journey or to give to guests to carry it home.

  20. from “subtractable empty-container weight” to “reusable empty containers”

    Well, hoenstly, I do not know at which point of this transition (I do not think it was a “jump”) the compounds steklotara (apparently from *steklyannaya tara, “glass tara”) and bochkotara were created.

    Есть какая-нибудь тара?
    Quite common colloquially. Still with avareness that it is a jargonism, and still uncountable.

  21. The contrast of tare versus wheat is from another (older) sense entirely—originally the small seed, later the whole, of the vetch plant.* The OED has this to say about the etymology:

    A word of obscure origin and history: known first c1330 in sense 1, also c1400 in wiilde tare, a vetch of some kind, and in the later Wycliffite New Testament, 1388, used to render Greek Latin zīzania. For the form Kluge compares Old Dutch *taruwe, Middle Dutch terwe, tarwe, a name of wheat, cognate with Lithuanian dirva a wheat-field. But no satisfactory explanation has been offered of the transference of sense.

    The OED also lists the weight sense as appearing in the fixed phrase tare and tret:

    the two ordinary deductions in calculating the net weight of goods to be sold by retail…; also, the rule in arithmetic by which these are calculated.

    For the rarer term tret (which I was completely unfamiliar with), it has:

    Commerce. Obsolete exc. Historical
    An allowance of 4 lb. in 104 lb. (= 1/26) on goods sold by weight after the deduction for tare.
    The reason or ground of the allowance was apparently forgotten already in the 17th cent., and has been variously given since….

    * I had no idea what “vetch” was until around the fourth time I read A Wizard of Earthsea. Estarriol is a much nicer name.

  22. John Emerson says:

    Goes back to Wycliffe.

    When I was teaching ESL I thought tare would be a good vocabulary word, since you could basically learn the two meanings and be done with it, in contrast to messy words like “go” or “take” which are always producing new usages. You’d have this satisfying feeling of success.

    My fellow teachers did not agree for some reason.

  23. John Emerson says:

    Vetch is an cultivated democracy crop, cultivated for fodder and nitrogen fixing and edible by humans (though less valuable than wheat). Some think the biblical tare is darnel ryegrass, an entirely different plant which is poisonous and was part of Mithridares’ pharmacopia.

  24. @Brett, JE:

    i wonder if the semantic motion – based on the “that which is thrown away” derivation – could’ve been from vetch (or other less-desirable plants growing within wheatfields, which would want to be separated out and likely discarded) to chaff (or all of the inedible parts of the wheat plants, likely separated out at the same time), and then to the wheat-field (including not only the grain, but the full plants).

    (and then i wonder whether “ṭarḥa” could have any relation to “tarhan”, the surname of a kurdish onetime acquaintance of mine from istanbul)

    to me, “barrelage” is what would come to mind if i needed a mass noun for empty barrels. i don’t think i have the “ware” in “barrelware” as a productive suffix, just (always pluralized) as part of established fixed units like “housewares”, or as a stand-alone unit. but it’s pretty transparent, as long as the clunkiness is the point…

  25. Aksenov liked his “surplussed barrelware” and used it in some other works. Quick search shows at least two. One in Round the clock non-stop [Круглые сутки нон-стоп], his American travelog, he found it among other industrial junk in Long Beach. Another is in The island of Crimea [Остров Крым]. Quote: “Дожил до седых волос и никак не избавится от мальчишества ― вот и сейчас явно фигуряет своей советскостью, этой немыслимой затоваренной бочкотарой.” — “Lived to gray hair and still can’t get rid of his boyishness, and now he is showing off his Sovietness, this unbelievable surplussed barrelware.” In this instance, it is a clear self-reference.

    Everyone seems to jump onto (careful, not into!) the “barellware/tare”, but the first word затоваренная, translated as “surplussed” is, I think, even more interesting. товар means “goods” and затоваренн* (with all sorts of endings) means “too many goods”. In English, I guess, the closest thing is overstocked, and surplussed is a bit different thing, but perhaps. What surprised me is that it is not the meaning that Aksenov uses and his usage seems to be rare. First, his “barellware” is not “surplussed”. Ordinarily, затоваренная бочкотара should mean something like “overstocked barrels”, that is there is too much stuff inside the barells, which obviously not at all the Aksenov’s meaning. But even if it can be interpreted as “too many barells” (because really no one wants them outside the troop of merry travellers) it is not how Aksenov uses it in the text. It is used three times in the novella and always accompanied with “covered in yellow flowers” that is it is in no good condition. I have found only one usage like this outside of Aksenov.

  26. The Hebrew verb טרח ṭrḥ formally is exactly the same as the Arabic, but its meaning seems to be the opposite: Hebrew ‘to burden’, vs. Arabic ‘to cast away’. Gesenius unties the semantic knot by arguing for an ultimate meaning of ‘laying down’, and hence placing something on someone’s back (as in Hebrew), or putting something on the ground, and hence getting rid of it (as in Arabic).

  27. A shirting isn’t a peasant-excluding word for a shirt, it denotes a material a shirt is made of

  28. In my island city the shopping center parking lots are always full of shipping containers, every one of them marked TARE in big letters followed by a weight in kg and lb. I should think almost everyone who has worked in a job that requires weighing would know the word.

    But the real mystery language on the shipping container used to appear (but no longer seems to) on a plaque riveted to the loading door. This read,

    “Homologated by Bureau Veritas.”

    And I’ve been afraid to look it up. Its mystery has always seemed too beautiful to spoil by solving.

  29. Well, then

    1. zatovarennaya bochkotara
    Definitely one reason why the author liked these two words.

    Stress in bold. -r technically belongs to the following syllables, but nevertheless it matters. -ar- -ar- Unstressed syllables are reduced.

    2. then, I know both words from this title, even though zatovarennaya exists outside of it.

    It is literally over-good-ed (overstocked, as D.O. translated it),

    za- as in za-poln-it’ “to fill”, (poln-yj “full”), that is “[to complete by]-[filling]”.
    tovar (countable and not) “goods”. Still sounds as a loanword, even if an old one.

    Applied to (according to derivation) a store or warehouse overfilled with goods, unsold for whatever reason and (contadicting the derivation) to overstocked goods as such.
    To me it sounds like an exotic professional term, whose second meaning (as applied to goods) I can’t even reconstruct. But I think for Soviet readers it was far less exotic.

    3. as I said already, bochka is a nice, warm, rounded word describing a nice, warm, rounded object.

    The overall effect is comical and a good translation must be funny.

  30. Actually it seems, what I call the second usage was the most common.
    But etymologically it must be secondary (unless they understood “goods” in a highly abstract sense)

  31. January First-of-May says:

    but it’s pretty transparent, as long as the clunkiness is the point

    That’s my impression as well: the connotations of бочкотара are pretty much “barrels, but described in a clunky bureaucratic way”, which is fairly well rendered by barrelware.

    To me [затоваренная] sounds like an exotic professional term, whose second meaning (as applied to goods) I can’t even reconstruct. But I think for Soviet readers it was far less exotic.

    Again, this is basically my impression as well. Intuitively it feels like it should mean something like “leftover” – surplussed in the sense that there’s too much of it to sell and it’s starting to go bad. I have no idea whether that’s the correct meaning, or even where I got it from (залежавшаяся? затор?), but it seems to fit the context of the title.

  32. SFReader says:

    Ushakov’s dictionary defines “zatovarit'” as “due to the lack of economic sense or prudence, to stock up goods in larger quantities than the market requires, or not to release them on the market at the right time, so that the goods remain unsold.”

  33. Interesting that a dictionary from the 1930s should use the word рынок (“market”); the 4-volume dictionary prepared by A. P. Yevgenyeva in the 1980s carefully avoids this word in its definition, even in the 1999 edition:

  34. John Emerson says:


  35. I had no idea what “vetch” was until …

    For me the moment to realize that vetches had the same Biblical Matthew 13 meaning as Russian плевел came only with tango. Botanically, Russian плевел is ryegrass, a contaminant in food grain which is toxic when the contamination is strong. (It needs to be added that both rye and oats started out as undesirable weeds which contaminated wheat and barley crops up North, before becoming a famine food, until finally people started cultivating them on purpose)

    The most famous of the vetches, blue sweet pea Lathyrus sativa likewise made its way from a contaminant weed to famine food to traditional meal in parts of Spain, called almorta, before the Spanish government finally banned it some 50 years ago. It also contains toxins which threaten severe damage to the human nervous system on extended-period consumption, a threat known by people since times immemorial. One of Goya’s sketches, “Gracias de la almorta”, shows a crazed, debilitated family of vetch-eaters ( )

    But it is also a beautiful flower, and a classic folk song in the Bierzo region of Spain is about an olive-skinned beauty picking its blue flowers in the field. In the XX century it has become a tango song, with the old-country vetch replaced by an Argentinian flower, and you may read about it & listen to it on my blog if interested.

  36. @Dmitry Pruss: Vavilovian mimicry.

  37. Well, rye is a poster child of Vavilovian mimicry theory, because it is so similar to wheat and because its wild sibling in Europe looks so different … but this storyline is largely wrong. For one thing rye is a very close relative of wheat, and its giant genome packs within it the DNA of several related species, a phenomenon called reticulate evolution, where species separate and rejoin and separate and rejoin like a giant flowing river with arms and islands. A little bit of the reticulate past is now known even for our own species, but of course it’s more traditional to think of evolution as of a tree of life rather than of a reticulate stream! Back to rye, it contains within its genome the toolkits of being an annual grain and a perennial weed, and is known to be able to cross the boundaries between these forms in both directions. When it looks like its close relative wheat, it’s because it had the necessary genes all along, and when it looks like a weed, it’s the same story.

    Secondly, just like wheat and barley, it’s a Middle Eastern domesticate, probably from the chilly times of Younger Dryas, the pre-pottery Neolithic stages. But as the climate warmed up again, rye lost its significance and lingered on largely as a contaminant grain, and sometimes reverted to a weedy form in the wild, until it’s become useful again thousands miles North-West from its original home. But it really never needed to learn the mimicry in Europe. Rather, it was imported as an already wheat-like cereal, and it got there because of its being cultivated at a much earlier time.

  38. @Dmitry Pruss: When it looks like its close relative wheat, it’s because it had the necessary genes all along….

    Of course, that’s just the nature of natural selection when it acts over short time frames. As to regression to the atavistic form when selection pressures are relaxed, that was one of the earliest observations that Darwin made with his pigeons (and one of the first topics discussed in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection; when he bred the birds indiscriminately, no matter how derived their forms had become they reverted to looking like common rock pigeons in just two generations.

  39. What D.O. said. The average Soviet reader might doubt if бочкотара was a real word but would easily understand it. A typical bureaucratic coinage, similar to стеклотара, a common term in the late Soviet years (run a Google image search for “прием стеклотары”). The tricky part is затоваренная. Overall, a great title, rich in assonance, as drasvi notes. Perhaps Aksyonov was out to prove poetry is possible in any language, even in Soviet bureaucratese (if so, he was following the Lianozovo group in this – Kholin, Nekrasov, Satunovsky, Kropivnitsky, Sapgir et al.). Aksyonov deconstructed Soviet myths to create his own, an unusually optimistic myth for post-WWII Russian literature.

  40. “Ushakov’s dictionary”…

    3 consequent dictionaries define it differently.

    As applied to people – As applied to goods. – As applied to warehouses.

    The first (reflexive) is something I could produce myself if I used the word “goods” often enough. It is very intuitive.
    But the dictionary refers to Cherepanov, a Tobolsk yamshik, who wrote a “Siberian chronicle” in 18th century.

    The second sounds to me as a jargonism, and as I said, I would not be able even to reconstruct this meaning without context.

    The third sounds… logical. But still as a jargonism.

  41. затовариться

    I just remembered:
    запастись – to stock up
    закупиться – (from a root “buy”, “to buy up”) to buy enough [or a lot] of something in a store. Said casually (about milk, copy-books, anything).

    затариться (by analogy with the above, but the root is substituted with the very same tar[a] that we are discussing here) – a slang variant of the same, often about alcohol, but not necessarily.

  42. Hence the line (three times repeated in the novel) “Затоварилась бочкотара, зацвела желтым цветком, затарилась, затюрилась и с места стронулась.”

  43. made me think of:

    нахуя дохуя нахуячили, расхуячивайте нахуй. (with variations)

    “Why did you put [or made] so much of it here, remove it, please””

    But he changes roots, preserving the patterns, while the linguistic construction workers in the joke do the opposite.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    нахуя […]

    Oligosynthesis, hold my smurf!

  45. PlasticPaddy says:

    Is part of the joke or the rationale here the use of a syllable identical or near to khui or is this just me 😊?

  46. It’s various permutations of хуй, parallel to English “Put the fucking fucker some-fucking-other fucking place.”

  47. Yes, ENlgish uses “fuck” this way.

    Dick for [you] dicked it up to dick!? Disdick it, for dick’s sake!

    “For dick’s sake” is inaccurate, the Russian profanity, apart of insistance, is often used with verbs of desctruction, so “decisively”, “utterly”.

  48. хуй

    I’ve gone through a Yazghulami-Russian dictionary in search of the mysterious kalgaspor, to no avail so far, but come across the following:

    1) head of family; head of clan
    2) head of home
    3) senior in age
    4) superior in rank; head

    It sure figures…

  49. When I was a child one mystery was, what Russian mat (a collection of a few most profane words) means. I heard children accusing children in things like “he was swearing with-mat!”. When I was maybe 5 an older boy led me deep into the woods (200 meters, but in that age I hardly would go that deep on my own) and said very solemnly: “I will tell you what is mat! There are words blyad’ and khuy. Never say them.”. Then we went back.

    I was really happy how the mystery was resolved.

  50. SFReader says:


    This is particularly funny.

  51. I did not know how I was supposed to translate нахуй:( Please came out naturally in the register and is appropriate. I found it funny too (after the fact):)

  52. John Cowan says:

    head of family; head of clan

    Patriarchs are often dicks.

  53. @Catanea:

    My only aquaintance with any form of the word before was that babyfood containers are “tarrina”s here in Catalonia, or perhaps in Spain as well.

    Not the same word; Corriente says that tarro and derived terms are also from Arabic, but from a strictly Andalusian word ultimately from Berber.

    Tara does exist in Spanish, though, and is the common term for tare weight in the sense discussed above. I’m not sure how familiar it is to most speakers; my grandfather having been a lorry driver, I had plenty of opportunity to hear it as a child.

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