From ru_slang I got to this article (in Russian), which alleges (Russian readers can tell me how accurately) that the phrase na samom dele ‘in reality, in (actual) fact’ characterizes the positive, confident generation of intellectuals who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, whereas kak by ‘as if, as it were’ characterizes the uncertain, postmodernist generation that grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. Example: On prishel ‘He came’; Na samom dele on prishel ‘[There is an objective reality, and] he really came [—I know what I’m talking about]’; On kak by prishel ‘It seems that he came [but reality is so fluid and indeterminate that there’s no guarantee of anything].’ Interesting.


  1. I didn’t see this at all. The major generational distinction that I saw was that my generation says koroche all the time, and we’d always laugh whenever my host mom appropriated the term klassno.

    Then again, maybe Krasnodar isn’t cosmopolitan enough for the youths to be as postmodern as moskvichi. 🙂

  2. Both na samom dele and kak by have been very much diluted in their meaning, when used in this way as sentence appetizers. I’d say that kak by roughly corresponds to American kinda, while na samom dele is more like actually.

    Just as “kinda” doesn’t really denote uncertainty in many contexts, neither does kak by.

    I strongly disagree with the heavy significance Rudnev ascribes to usage of these phrases; in my opinion it’s a typically naive application of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (that’s generally characteristic of Rudnev’s work, BTW). It is true that kak by entered widespread use as a “slovo-parazit” later than na samom dele, but it’s not even true, for example, that na samom dele was replaced by kak by; some people who grew up during the ’80s and the ’90s are likely to overuse one phrase, others are likely to overuse the other.

  3. Aha! Thanks, Avva; I figured it was probably overstated, if not actual bullshit, so I’m glad to get the lowdown. (How would you say “the lowdown” in current Russian?)

  4. Fifteen years, and still nobody knows how to say ‘the lowdown’ in Russian?

  5. The word that comes to mind is подноготная, and I’m pleased to see Wiktionary renders it as “lowdown, ins and outs.”

  6. GT agrees, but I am not convinced. подноготная for me has a strong connotation of spilling out dirty secrets. Dirty is important here. Simply giving someone detailed info wouldn’t count. But this is just my “perspectivist” point of view.

  7. So what would you suggest as a better alternative?

  8. Spam filter ate my very imperfect answer

  9. Can you transliterate it (or e-mail it to me)? I’m really curious.

  10. Sure. I have made two imperfect suggestions: detali and podrobnosti. Used descriptively, they are neutral (not informal) words and my feeling is that standalone detali is not especially informal either. Standalone podrobnosti is informal like in A iz zala mne krichat: “Davaj podrobnosti!”. But both of those really mean details, not the whole picture (that is, big picture + details).

  11. Yeah, I’m afraid they’re too official to be suitable renderings. But thanks!

  12. John Cowan says

    Of course, there’s a big difference between (knowing) the lowdown and (being on) the down low. The great and mighty English language…

  13. There’s also the adjective lowdown, as in You’re a lowdown, sneaky crook..

  14. @John Cowan: It is not clear whether “on the down low” first originated in AAVE as meaning “keeping things a secret” or the more specific meaning of “keeping the gay sex a secret.” The OED has its earliest cites for both of them from the early 1990s. The more general meaning is usually now indicated by use of the abbreviation “dl,” with the sexual sense dominating when the full form “down low” is used.

    It is not clear to me whether down low (whichever was the original sense) was formed by a deliberate inversion of lowdown, or whether it arose independently by the same mechanism as lowdown itself did, about a century earlier.

  15. John Cowan says

    I haven’t seen it much in print, only heard people tell me “Keep this on the down low, willya?” To which I reply “Sure” and do my best to forget whatever I was told. (Which is easier than it used to be, to be sure.)

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