The excellent Russian-Israeli blogger Avva has a great story about a taxi ride with a driver he’d used several times before: “Judging by his face and Hebrew, a typical sabra (native Israeli), an Ashkenazi, about 45… He tells me he lived in America a long time; sometimes he switches to quite good English.” They had just exited from a tunnel and were behind a car that refused to move; the driver was turning into the next lane to pass when a bus shot out of the tunnel and sped past in that very lane. “The driver leans on the brake with all his strength and hollers” a stream of Russian obscenity, “without any accent whatsoever.” (I won’t bother reproducing the mat because anyone who could read it might as well read Avva’s whole entry—it’s short and funny.) As one commenter said, “It’s always like that—we speak in one language, switch to another, and curse in Russian.” I have to say that Russian is the best language for cursing I know, bar none.


  1. Russia is certainly one of the best, but I have to consider Mexican Spanish a serious competitor. And English isn’t too shabby – any language that comes up with things like “ass-crack of dawn” and the TV series “Deadwood” certainly is rich in profanity.
    I would nominate Japanese as the worst language for cursing. I have been told over the years by various Soviet fraternal peoples (Kazakhs, Latvians and Kyrgyz) that their native languages have no native swear words, instead they resort to Russian.
    For that matter how would modern Hebrew have developed any swear words since it was resurrected from mostly sacred literature? Were they imported from Yiddish? Arabic? Russian? All three?

  2. English isn’t too shabby
    Oh, I agree — it’s a fine language for cursing (and poetry — the two seem to go together). But Russian is the all-time champion.
    I’ve heard the same about Japanese, and wondered the same thing about Hebrew. (I’ve been told by another Russian-Israeli that ebyona mat’ has become naturalized in Israeli Hebrew, so Russian is obviously a prime source.)

  3. Michael Farris says

    I haven’t gotten up (down?) to that level, but supposedly Hungarian isn’t too shabby for cursing. German cursing, on the other hand, is just lame.

  4. But you know the Hungarian National Curse, right? Lófasz a seggedbe!

  5. Rick Grimm says

    And what of Québécois French? It is harsh, crude, beautifully anti-ecclesiastic and superbly poignant. To me, c’est de la poésie, crisse!

  6. I have heard that the Finnish curses are very good.
    Contra Vanya, I think that a language with a religious literature would be especially good for deriving curse words.

  7. janes_kid says

    “Soviet fraternal peoples” claim their languages have no native sear words. I knew a Siberian Yupik translator who claimed his native language had no swear words. He too used Russian for cursing.

  8. For example, the story of Noah and his daughters.

  9. I consider european Portuguese a very serious contender. Eight centuries as an independent country gave us plenty of time to fine-tune our cursing and swearing. Go have a look…

  10. Firstly, I have always considered a good rhythmic language, with strong consonants interspersed with simple vowels, to be of prime importance for providing the necessary oomph to swear words, so top marks go to Spanish, Italian and Greek (Portuguese is too closed mouth for swearing to be an unfettered joy).
    And secondly, grammatical flexibility is of paramount importance so that one can be inventive and pepper even the most common of phrases with blasphemy. English, as far as I know, is the winner on this count.
    Combining the two criteria however, I find Greek to be the best. It’s more flexible grammatically than the other rhythmic languages I mentioned, and shits on English for rhythm and oomph.
    How does Russian compare on these counts?

  11. Russian is tops. It has extremely strong consonants and all the flexibility you could want. Just try saying the basic Russian swear word khuy ‘cock’ (rhymes with “phooey!”): go on, give that kh a big juicy gargle, round your lips for that satisfying oo sound, and finish up with that derisive relaxation of the lips into the terminal –y. Felt good, didn’t it? You probably want to say it again. Fuck is a good word, but it’s over too soon — to draw it out you have to artificially say “fu-u-uck,” or you can emphasize it by shouting it, but it doesn’t have the easy grace, the self-prolonging naturalness of khuy. And that’s just one word. It’s the combinations that reveal a true master. To quote Edward Topol (from his classic Dermo):
    “I don’t know how it is in other languages, but in Russia the operative word when it comes to cursing is tier, as in a three-tier or triple-decker curse, which consists of three levels of different curses stacked one on top of the other. (For example, хуем пизданутый мудак, khuyem pizdanuty mudak, jerk-off fucked by a prick…)”

  12. khuy… yeah, that was enjoyable and I wasn’t even angry!
    Have started learning French. Swearing in French I imagine would bring comparatively little joy because of the stressless nature of the words and the lack of decent consonants.
    Am very tempted to move to Russian with all this talk of triple-decker blasphemy.
    And just because it’s so good, here’s my favourite swear word in Greek. It’s ϲϜ958;ϲϜ949;ϲϜ954;ϲϜ959;ϲϜ955;ϲϜ953;ϲϜ940;ϲϜ961;ϲϜ945; or ksekoliara. It means a female whose arse has come unstuck from anal sex. Ksekoliaros or ϲϜ958;ϲϜ949;ϲϜ954;ϲϜ959;ϲϜ955;ϲϜ953;ϲϜ940;ϲϜ961;ϲϜ959;ϲϜ962; is the male colonic equivalent.
    Did you hear Greeks invented sex?
    Yeah, and it was the Romans a little bit later that started doing it with women.

  13. Oops, that should be ξεκολιάρα and ξεκολιάρος respectively.

  14. I don’t speak or read Catalan, but from this example, it ought to be in the running.
    From Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression:
    Mecagum Deu, en la creu, en el fuster que la feu i en el fill de puta que va plantar el pi,
    “I shit on God, on the cross, on the carpenter who made it and on the son of a whore who planted the pine.”

  15. Michael Farris says

    Polish used to hold its own with the best, but the last ten years or so have seen an enormous vulgarization of public life and obscenities have become so common in even (especially) children’s speech (thank you American movies!) that they’ve mostly lost the power to provide shock or awe.
    A side effect of this is that no one works at swearing anymore – they just keep up a unimaginitve barrage of the common words and their derivatives (kurwa, (c)huj, pierdolić, jebać, dupa) dropping them in a few times every sentence. A sad state of affairs considering the graphic power of older usage.

  16. “Have started learning French. Swearing in French I imagine would bring comparatively little joy because of the stressless nature of the words and the lack of decent consonants.”
    Oh, I’m going to have to take exception to that. While I agree that it’s not as satisfying as Russian (I have a little theory about curse words and the sensation of spitting/horking), the French definitely hold their own, what with the ability to draw out syllables putain-ain-ain.. which could be followed by the immensely satisfying: quel con!
    To name but two.
    Though it’s true that the absence of aspirates, particularly a lovely phlegmy ‘xh,’ is clearly a drawback.

  17. Nick, I asked a Catalan friend, who is also fluent in Castilian, French, English and Italian, what language he would swear in if somebody came up behind him and stuck a knife in his ribs.
    Without hesitation, he told me he would say, “Oh Fuuuuuuuuck!” So, no discredit to Catalan, but when push comes to shove, perhaps the simplicity of the anglo-saxon prevails.

  18. Michael Farris says

    I can think of two possibilities regarding the Catalan speaker.
    Swear words in foreign (no matter how fluent you are) languages are easier to use since they are, after all, in a foreign language and don’t have the visceral impact that offensive words in your native language have.
    This goes double if you’re living in a foreign language environment. Where did you ask him and where was he living then?
    That’s why I find myself tearing into the Polish word kurwa (literally ‘whore’ but used like ‘fuck’ in the US) with a long trilled r (kurrrrwa!) when I’m upset, much more satisfying than a simple fuck! or shit! with none of the guilt (my parents discouraged casual swearing as low class). A win win situation.

  19. “For that matter how would modern Hebrew have developed any swear words since it was resurrected from mostly sacred literature? Were they imported from Yiddish? Arabic? Russian? All three?”
    That’s exactly right. I can’t think of any purely-Hebrew curse words (that is, with an inherent negative connotation) except “zayin” (penis) and “zona” (whore; they might even be from the same root, I’m not sure though and it seems unlikely — “zona” being a biblical word and “zayin” modern).
    “I’ve been told by another Russian-Israeli that ebyona mat’ has become naturalized in Israeli Hebrew, so Russian is obviously a prime source.”
    Yep. Although it’s pronounced “kibinimat” (which may be my misinterpretation of your transliteration, as I don’t know a thing about Russian 🙂
    (Misinterpretation of a transliteration…Man, am I arrogant)

  20. Theoretically, Poland should be on top, being a) heavily Catholic and b) Slavic, with all the same basic words as in Russian. Why do you think it hasn’t happened, Michael?
    Actually, “blasphemy” doesn’t apply to Russian, there is no tradition of religious cursing; dirty words, no matter in how many tiers they are, never touch on the Virgin, Jesus and the rest of the Christian Pantheon.
    I remember being shocked when first encountered (in Little Italy, Manhattan)an expression “Jesus F*cking Christ!”; and I’m not even a Christian, let alone Catholic. Something like “Porca Madonna” is inconcievable in Russian.
    You’re quite right, Michael, about native language cursing. One of my former bosses, Polish-American, born and raised in MidWest, would periodically swear in Polish, but never in English: Polish was a foreign language for her. I, on the other hand, couldn’t control blushing when hear her casually mention …um … doggie-style activity in the middle of the meeting with national account’ client.

  21. Michael Farris says

    Tatyana, I wrote earlier in the thread that Polish cursing used to be pretty impressive but has faded badly in recent years due to unimaginitive overuse of a few key terms. I remember when a single loud instance of the k word would send an entire streetcar into tut-tut disapproval (young and old alike) now 8 year olds talk about kurwa this and pierdolony that and chuj the other and no one bats an ear. Very depressing.
    Now that you mention it, blasphemous obscenity is extremely rare in Poland too (though I think obscene language combined with Jesus would be considerably less shocking to Poles than would combinations with either Mary or the Pope).

  22. Poland is not the only Catholic area where there is little blasphemy. Germany also has large Catholic areas that have never really been strong with blasphemous curses. I think this has to do not with piety but with the amount of control the Church traditionally had over daily life. In areas where the Church, until recently, played a strong political role in people’s everyday lives and behavior – Italy, Spain, Ireland, Quebec, Mexico – the tradition of blasphemy is very strong. In Catholic countries where the Church was in opposition to state power, or at least not directly aligned with it – Germany, Poland, France – blasphemy was less effective, maybe because there was less resentment towards the Church in people’s daily lives. Note how blasphemy has almost vanished in France, a trend that began, I believe, after the Church was displaced in 1789, while blasphemy still remains strong in Quebec where the Church was powerful until the 60s. Is it possible that the traditional political weakness of the Orthodox Church explains the absence of blasphemous obscenity in Russian?

  23. Rick Grimm says

    Strange indeed.
    “Just try saying the basic Russian swear word khuy ‘cock’ (rhymes with “phooey!”)”.
    The French also – although not a swear word, per se – have couille [kuj], which just so happens to rhyme with ‘phooey’.
    Y’know, I love this site. I can read/talk about Greeks having sex, balls and cocks… all within the context of academic discourse. Man, I can’t WAIT to be a prof!

  24. You know, I don’t think that had ever occurred to me — I must keep French and Russian in completely different parts of my brain!

  25. My guess on Hebrew cursing (based on five years in Jerusalem, though I never got anywhere with either Hebrew or Arabic [to my everlasting shame], but these are the words you learn quickly) is that most of it is Arabic. But that might also depend on the community. Watch as everything turns out to be a laugh for the Arabic speaker. Do you breathe air (dick)? I’m just being a tease (ass). And finally, though you need to be speaking German, küß (cunt) mich. It never ends.

  26. I’ve heard my Russian friends and colleagues (at least half of them female) use “fuck” freely while speaking Russian. It’s foreign and thus relatively mild and socially acceptable. “Факи так и сыплются” is how one might describe such a conversation. “Fuck-up” is particularly useful: “На работе случился большой факап,” “Я сегодня крупно факапнулся.”

  27. My impression is that “fuck” and “shit” are fairly widespread in Hebrew as well, and also quite a bit milder than the commonly-used Arabic obscenities. Speaking of blasphemy (very interesting comment, vanya!), I wonder why Israeli Hebrew doesn’t have much anti-rabbinic blasphemy (or at least not that I’m aware of), given the not inconsiderable power there of the rabbinate. Maybe it’ll arise in the next 50 years or so.
    I think I’ve mentioned in a previous LH comment my lexicographic fantasy of a Hebrew-Yiddish-English dictionary of obscenities. One can always dream.

  28. Michael Farris says

    I haven’t heard the kind of uses mentioned by Alexei in Polish but fuck (usually in the form fuck you) and shit are common enough. Sometimes they are written phonetically fakiu and szyt. A friend claims to have heard “fakiu się” (się is reflexive) but I’m sceptical.
    A colleague/former student told me a student named Alicja got the nickname “who the fuck” (hudafak? hudefak?) after the song about Alice (European reference those in the US probably won’t get).
    Only tangentially related (in other words not at all). There’s an up and coming tv/film actor in Poland with the unfortunate last name Szyc (pronounced “shits”). I almost hope he manages an international career …..

  29. I don’t speak russian, but – as far I can tell – “fuck” seems to feature a couple of times here:
    And personally, I find finnish extremely useful for swearing while trying to keep your cool. In all other circumstances dutch will be used.

  30. I know a certain Israeli who is very knowledgeable in the Gmara. From time to time he curses in the most exquisite (Talmudic) Aramaic. The Hebrew-speaking listeners turn literally green: they understand they’re being cursed, some get what is said, but none respond in kind!

  31. Hi,
    I live in Australia and found this site while doing some searching on languages. I’m Polish born, but came to live here at a young age. As you probably all know, Australia has all sorts of people here, and there are plenty of Slavs that’s for sure. It’s a bit different here, when someone uses the work Kurwa (it’s known here well because of the large amount of Slavs obviously) and say at schools mostly if you’re heard saying it, you will probably get more punishment than swearing in English. I’d say it’s because it’s foreign, but the fact that most people know that it also means Whore, more than anything else. Which is why the female’s hate it.

  32. Here in New Zealand all the young people use Korean swear words

  33. Really! How does that happen? Are there a lot of Korean immigrants?

  34. new zealand? cool….
    im korean and i now have a new respect for new zealanders….XD
    hmm maybe its becase our swear words are fairly simple and there are so many~

  35. When talking about spanish curses and bad words, it’s useful to know thah not only mexican spanish is worth to be studied… In Chile we have a lot of funny words. The most used are:
    Huevón!(also used in mexican spanish): you’ll never find a word wtih so many meanings, from ‘guy’, ‘old friend’ or simply ‘any person’, to ‘jerk’, ‘asshole’ or ‘completely moron’. Also the verb ‘huevear’ can mean ‘to dance’, ‘to flirt’, ‘to bother/disturb’, ‘to do stupid things’… a wide etc.
    Pico!: dick! cock! (as when you say ‘oh, s**t!). Also can be used like ‘nevermind!’, ‘it doesn’t matter’.
    Conchatumadre!: your muther’s pussy (used like ‘motherf***er’).

  36. I wonder why Israeli Hebrew doesn’t have much anti-rabbinic blasphemy

    We don’t swear by our fellow human beings unless they are somewhat sacralized, like the Prophet. Nobody in America, for example, would say “Reagan, I just dropped my cell phone”, or “Obama, it’s hot today.” Here’s Mark Rosenfelder on the strange oaths in Asimov’s Foundation series:

    By the spaceways! The stars forbid! Galaxy! All those science-fictional oaths never convince me. This is a culture that’s been spacegoing for 12,000 years; why would it swear by such banalities? It’s as if we swore by airplanes or supertankers. People swear by what they hold sacred (so the occasional swearing by Seldon does make sense).

  37. In Russia, there is an ongoing debate on whether blya/blyat’/blyad’ is a (swear) noun or an interjection. The reason being, I suspect, is if it is recognised as an interjection it might be exempted from a ban on ‘mat’ in the press.

    I was once playing volleyball in Pisa, Italy, and everybody was swearing in English (f, sh etc). Incidentally, you can’t say Pisa in Russian without people around blinking nervously, it sounds so close to c* in Russian.

  38. Incidentally, you can’t say Pisa in Russian without people around blinking nervously

    Native English speakers get similarly edgy when Germans utter a certain word.

  39. you can’t say Pisa in Russian

    Well, if you pronounce it in English fashion as [pizə] I can see why, but in Standard Italian it’s [pisa], which would rather suggest to me писать, a harmless sort of verb. I don’t know how the Pisans pronounce it.

  40. Paul: Never mind that, what about the philosopher? That got Sidney Morgenbesser (he of the famous “Yeah, yeah” double positive) into trouble once:

    [An] unfortunate encounter with the police occurred when he lit up his pipe on the way out of a subway station. Morgenbesser protested to the officer who tried to stop him that the rules covered smoking in the station, not outside. The cop conceded he had a point, but said: “If I let you get away with it, I’d have to let everyone get away with it.” To which Morgenbesser, in a famously misunderstood line, retorted: “Who do you think you are, Kant?” Hauled off to the precinct lock-up, Morgenbesser only won his freedom after a colleague showed up and explained the Categorical Imperative to the nonplussed boys in blue.

    I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that precinct.

    Other Morgenbesserisms not on the above page:

    On being beaten by the police during a protest march in 1968: “It was unjust but not unfair […] unjust because they hit me over the head, but not unfair because they hit everyone else over the head.” (This is often quoted with “unjust” and “unfair” transposed, including on the Wikisource page, but it makes no sense.)

    A question on a philosophy exam he set: “It is often said that Marx and Freud went too far. How far would you go?”

    To B.F. Skinner: “You think we shouldn’t anthropomorphize people?”

    On theories of everything: “To explain why a man slipped on a banana peel, we do not need a general theory of slipping.”

    On dualism: “It was Lovejoy, I think, who once wittily suggested that Dewey hated the number 2, implying that Dewey was opposed not merely to dualisms but even to important distinctions.” (Computer folks, like me, only deal in the numbers 0, 1, and ∞, thus putting us one-down even from Gamow’s Hungarian aristocrats.)

    On Morgenbesser (by Robert Nozik): “I majored in Sidney Morgenbesser.”

    On Morgenbesser (by Art Danto): “Someone recently asked me what Sidney Morgenbesser was known for, and I had to say that he was known for being Sidney Morgenbesser.”

    On John Cowan, after he had suggested that lying on one’s resume was a Bad Thing (by Geoffrey Pullum): “What are you, some kind of Kantian guidance counselor?”

  41. Anatoly had a post (almost a decade old now!) in which he (convincingly, to my mind) proposed бля(дь) as the best Russian equivalent of fuck; both can be used in virtually any syntactic circumstance. (I once knew a Russian who used блядь in just about every sentence.)

  42. It’s sexist but, strictly linguistically, I agree, it is.

  43. See what refurbishing you site does to you, you have a nr 10 year old post revived and discussed with relish, b-t!

  44. Yes, it’s great!

  45. In a similar fashion to what Sashura, Paul Ogden, and John Cowan have mentioned, a decent Czech person can’t feel at ease letting out a perfectly innocuous “Fakt, jo?!” (“For real?!”) around an English speaker. It literally means “fact, yeah?” — it even corresponds etymologically — but the befuddled Anglophones tend to hear it a little differently… (It doesn’t help that the ‘t’ is often elided in speech!)

  46. David Marjanović says

    Now that you mention it, blasphemous obscenity is extremely rare in Poland too (though I think obscene language combined with Jesus would be considerably less shocking to Poles than would combinations with either Mary or the Pope).

    When a catastrophe happens, you have the options o Jezu and o kurwa, depending on whether you’re more sad or more angry about it, I think.

    a decent Czech person can’t feel at ease letting out a perfectly innocuous “Fakt, jo?!” (“For real?!”) around an English speaker.

    Maybe that’s why the version I’ve encountered is just “Faaaaaaaakt???” with a clearly audible, released [t]. I doubt that, though. 🙂

  47. From Dovlatov’s Affiliate
    Мистер Хиггинс рассказал нам о задачах симпозиума. Вступительную часть завершил словами:
    — Мировая история едина!
    — Факт! — отозвался из своего утла загадочный религиозный деятель Лемкус.
    Мистер Хиггинс слегка насторожился и добавил:
    — Убежден, что Россия скоро встанет на путь демократизации и гуманизма!
    — Факт! — все так же энергично реагировал Лемкус.
    Мистер Хиггинс удивленно поднял брови и сказал:
    — Будущая Россия видится мне процветающим свободным государством!
    — Факт! — с тем же однообразием высказался Лемкус.
    Наконец мистер Хиггинс внимательно оглядел его и произнес:
    — Я готов уважать вашу точку зрения, мистер Лемкус. Я только прошу вас изложить ее более обстоятельно. Ведь брань еще не аргумент…
    Усилиями Самсонова, хорошо владеющего английским, недоразумение было ликвидировано.

    Mister Higgins informed us about symposium goals. His introduction he finished saying:
    “World history is one.”
    “[It’s] fact!” — said from his corner a mysterious religious personality Lemkus.
    Mister Higgins became a bit wary and added:
    “I am sure that Russia will soon move toward democracy and humanism.”
    “[It’s] fact!” — Lemkus answered with the same energy.
    Mister Higgins raised his eyebrows and said:
    ‘I see future Russia as a thriving and free state.”
    “[It’s] fact!” — Lemkus said without alteration.
    At last, mister Higgins looked him over and said:
    “I respect your position, Mr.Lemkus. I only ask you to explain it in more detail. Swearing is not an argument.”
    Samsonov, who knew English well, helped to clear this misunderstanding.

  48. God, I love Dovlatov. Every time I read a little of him, I want to read more of him.

  49. H.L. Mencken, The American Language 4th ed. (1936):

    But darn and doggone are hardly more than proofs that profanity is not an American art. The chief national reliances are still hell and damn, both of them badly shop-worn. To support them we have nothing properly describable as a vocabulary of indecency. Our maid-of-all-work in that department is son-of-a-bitch, which seems as pale and ineffectual to a Slav or Latin as fudge does to us. There is simply no lift in it, no shock, no sis-boom-ah. The dumbest policeman in Palermo thinks up a dozen better ones between breakfast and the noon whistle. The term, indeed, is so flat, stale, and unprofitable that, when uttered with a wink or a dig in the ribs, it is actually a kind of endearment, and has been applied with every evidence of respect by one United States Senator to another. Put the second person pronoun and the adjective old in front of it, and scarcely enough bounce is left in it to shake up an archdeacon.

    Worse, it is frequently toned down to s.o.b., or transmogrified into the childish son-of-a-gun. The latter is so lacking in punch that the Italians among us have borrowed it as a satirical name for an American: la sanemagogna is what they call him, and by it they indicate their contempt for his backwardness in the art that is one of their great glories. In Standard Italian there are no less than forty congeners of son of a bitch, and each and every one of them is more opprobrious, more brilliant, more effective. In the Neapolitan dialect there are thousands.

  50. I regret to this day having passed up the opportunity of buying a dictionary of Italian (or specifically Neapolitan?) curse words, many years ago.

  51. David Marjanović says

    So, is that true about Korean swearwords being used in NZ?

    On theories of everything: “To explain why a man slipped on a banana peel, we do not need a general theory of slipping.”

    But to explain how a man slipped on a banana peel, why banana peels are slippery in the first place…

  52. David Marjanović says

    Only you гондомы can prevent охуенные forest fires, блядь.

    Meanwhile, the satrap of Dagestan has had it up to here with all these дебили [cut], бля!

  53. Four блядь’s in one sentence — impressive! (That’s the first clip.)

  54. David Marjanović says

    Reminds me a lot of the Pole I heard on the light rail in Berlin once. He was basically making a list on the phone: “A, kurwa… B, kurwa… C, kurwa…” and so on for a long time, kurwa.

  55. A certain number of speakers of Russian in Israel, when speaking Hebrew, have trouble keeping a straight face when hearing or pronouncing the Hebrew for ‘postdated check’ — /čεk daˈxuj/.

  56. David Eddyshaw says

    A, kurwa… B, kurwa… C, kurwa

    Reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s Army Creole, in which the word for “Yes” is (one gathers) “Fucking A.”

  57. go on, give that kh a big juicy gargle, round your lips for that satisfying oo sound, and finish up with that derisive relaxation of the lips into the terminal –y. Felt good, didn’t it?

    Savvateev’s mantra….

  58. This Savvateev? What’s the connection?

  59. Yes, this one. It seems both J1M and I know him. The connection is that in 90s I knew хуууууйййй…… as “мантра Савватеева”. Presumably because he used the word in this capacity but perhaps he just joked about it once:)
    Anyway: either when trying to reproduce the mantra back then, or when thinking about Russian phonology in company of Russian learners much later I came to the same conclusion that you put in words here.

  60. Two children behind my window right this second:

    – А завтра будет срочное поднятие флага?
    – По идее да… Бля-а, вот бы завтра проспать бы.. нахуй. […..] А у нас будет экология во вторник или в понедельник? А чё нам задава-али?

    (no, nothing interesting – but I enjoy random conversations of people in langauges that I learn/study, so I regret that I don’t have my recorder at hand. The children were very expressive)

  61. David Marjanović says
  62. Да, бля!

  63. And the other voice screams “Yeaaaaah”. Globalization! (When Americans pick up something other people came up with it is called “cultural appropriation”, when other people pick up something Americans came up with it is called “cultural imperialism”. Kidding!)

  64. David Marjanović says

    If swearing will be taught from textbooks, this will be a textbook example.

    And the other voice screams “Yeaaaaah”. Globalization!

    Юмбү ёёёё юмбү еэээ,
    юмбү ёёёё юмбү yeah.

  65. If swearing will be taught from textbooks

    …we won’t swear anymore.

  66. David Marjanović says

    I was thinking in terms of foreign-language teaching.

    Meanwhile, the trifecta: Ёбанные суки, блядь!

  67. Also сволочи блядь, пидарасы блядь, идиоты блядь, and for variety блядь сука.

  68. David Marjanović says

    I just went to the park and heard потому, что блядь in such an unemotional tone that I’d translate it as weil halt or at most weil eben. Unfortunately I didn’t get the context.

  69. Can you elucidate weil halt for us non-germanophones?

  70. It means, “Just because,” like what one would reply to a whiny child saying, “Aber Mutti, warum?” I don’t know if this is the actual etymology, but I parse it as being equivalent to English, “Because, full stop.”

  71. Stu Clayton says

    I’d translate it as weil halt or at most weil eben.

    Is this Austrian ? All I’ve ever heard is weil darum [pronounced “weil DArum”].

  72. Grimm has the adverb halt (meaning no. 2) as central and upper German, regions with which I associate it as well. It’s very much bleached and doesn’t mean anything like “stop!” or “hold!” anymore; in English its nearest equivalents are “just”, “(well,) you know”.

  73. David Marjanović says

    Yes, bleached far beyond etymology, and not northern. “After all” is the strongest meaning it can have. Eben is more common in the north, and I think it generally has meanings at the stronger end of the spectrum.

    das ist halt so – “(well,) that’s the way it is(, you don’t need to think about it further)”
    weil das halt so ist – “because that’s just how it is”
    Eben nicht! – “no, the opposite!”

    “Because, full stop.”

    No, that’s “Weil” halt. – “Well, ‘because'”. Weil – darum! is the same: “Because – therefore, that’s why!”

    (I’m not familiar with either, but they’re obvious enough.)

  74. Stu Clayton says

    That gives me a good guess about the stress pattern:

    In “weil eben” and “weil halt”, “weil” may be given a slight-to-strong stress. High-low tone pattern.

    But in “weil DArum” the “da” is always strongly stressed. Several tone patterns can be used.

    What the expressions mean is obvious. I was wondering only about stress and tone pattern.

  75. Stu Clayton says

    Stress and tone patterns are almost always ignored in discussions here, unless these are about “tone languages” like Chineses and Vietnameses. Why is that ? Seems pretty book-bound.

    Stress and tone patterns are just as important as IPA-mediated “pronunciation” (with rudimentary stress notation) when it comes time to Assign Meaning. Or even just to wrap your head around what is being said.

    For example: a German not familiar with weil halt would be perplexed on hearing “weil HALT”, because that production of halt means “stop!”. “Because stop” has no meaning, “just because” has meaning..

  76. Stress and tone patterns are almost always ignored in discussions here

    Not true at all. A site search on “stress” provides lots of examples.

  77. Stu Clayton says

    But not tone patterns, which accompany stress patterns. I mean various combinations of these that are used in a dynamic way, in practice, to provide various meanings – not to statically distinguish dialects or idiolects from each other.

  78. January First-of-May says

    I believe the Russian term for those is интонационные конструкции (lit. “intonational constructions”). I’m not sure what they’re normally called in English.

  79. Stu Clayton says

    That sounds like what I’m trying to describe. “Construction” is better than “pattern”. And “intonation” is spot on, I just couldn’t think of a better word than “tonal”.

  80. Strangely, identified only in 70s.
    I learned about them from a foreign learner of Russian.

    Pattern is a good word, “roots and patterns” is a good description of what happens in Semitic. But it does not have a good Russian translation:(((
    Russian Arabists say “models”, but it is not good at all.

  81. The girl was efficient in making natives feel dumb:)

    She: “is this IC-2 or IC-3?”
    Native speakers who volunteered to help: “….”.

  82. Stu Clayton says

    Native speakers who volunteered to help: “….”.

    Early on I learned not to ask native German speakers about the “gender” or “grammatical gender” of a word. That drew blanks. A more productive question is “sagt man ‘der’, ‘die’ oder ‘das’ X?”

  83. David Marjanović says

    Yes, there’s a блядь in this video, but I’m posting it to ask what the rest of that language is, because it’s not Russian.

  84. Missing link.

    “there’s a блядь in this video”

    I remembered an obscene children rhyme (in the rhythm of жили у бабуси два весёлых гуся – can be found on youtube)
    а у тёти Нади
    все три дочки бля…
    не подумайте плохого,
    блЯхами торгуют!

  85. David Marjanović says

    Oh, I managed to botch the link somehow. Here it is.

  86. “Cannot retrieve Tweets at this time. Please try again later.”
    Elon is in the house?

  87. Sounds Turkic to me; I hope somebody can ID it.

  88. I managed to botch the link somehow

    Ah for the good old days when we could only blotch the ink.

  89. David Marjanović says

    сука as sarcastic intensifier: “an oh so fucking important village”.

    пидарас as completely random insult chanted in choir.

  90. David Marjanović says

    “#Lithuanians raised $250,000 for a maritime drone for #Ukraine with the name “PEACE Дец”.”

    Meanwhile, #NAFO is raising money for another one and holding a vote on Twitter (while it still exists) on whether it should be named “Ra[c]coon’s Revenge”, “Aqua Bonker 9000”, “HMS Bonquerer” or an abbreviation for “Dynamic Instrument for Liquid Defense Operations”.

  91. “PEACE Дец”

    I love it! For the benefit of non-Russophones, this is a play on the wonderful word пиздец (pizdets).

  92. David Marjanović says

    The voices in this video (watch it while Twitter still exists!) speak Russian and Ukrainian. I’m not sure if they also curse in both languages.

  93. I have seen this spelling.

    Usually п…ц is 3.14дец, звиздец, кабздец, капец, трындец, песец, абзац.

    Absatz is becoming less common (but there was a programme Полный Альбац by a journalist Albats on the Echo of Moscow).

    песец gave rise to пушной зверь and other euphemisms for the animal itself (also improvised)

  94. Гонец из Пизы (used as title by Veller).

  95. @DM, I don’t know. At 0:12 there is a sequence “[shot down] да, ракету, да?” where I don’t understand the word for [shot down]. IF in Ukrainian they can use ï/єбали in the sense of “shot down successfully”, then they swear in Ukrianian. But maybe I just misheard the word?

  96. пизда на хуй

    пизда – пиздец (in the sense “wow”)
    на хуй – a punctuation mark, “.”

  97. David Marjanović says

    weil (…) halt (…) translates straightforwardly into Newfangled French: parce que […], quoi.

  98. David Marjanović says

    So that’s interesting: interjectional ебать – infinitive. Is this some kind of in-joke about English?

  99. No. It existed well before anyone in Russia knew anything about English (I mean, at least from 1980s, from personal experience)

  100. When Americans pick up something other people came up with it is called “cultural appropriation”, when other people pick up something Americans came up with it is called “cultural imperialism”.

    Yookoohoo translation theory.

  101. Also

  102. Foreign influence is not excluded of course – also it can be schooling, for in school infinitive is the citation form (one has an impression that in Russian as such imperative was: e.g. it is used in trade pidgins, alongside with possessives as personal pronouns).

    (Not say that Russian does not have its ways to use infinitives that could motivate such expressions)

  103. David Marjanović says

    I shouldn’t keep the Twitter handle Грета Туборг @qretaxyeta from you.

    (As I keep saying, one of my mental ages is 8.)

  104. David Marjanović says
  105. xueta
    Greta-xujéta (as schm- just xuj-).

    xujetá is more or less the same as xujnjá, where xuj- is emotional and mass noun suffix is pejorative.
    Cf. суета сует “vanitas vanitatum“. Суета itself now means something else, while xujetá is more or less vanitas.

  106. David Marjanović says

    Bakhmut. Prologue and epilogue in Ukrainian, with [ɣ] and at least some final devoicing and plenty of swearwords, at least one of which is recognizably Russian; combat footage (the enemy is never seen) in Russian, with [ɣ] and apparently even total disappearance, and also disappearance of the в in автомат. And about as many swearwords as shots.

  107. @DM, are you familiar with FYLOSC swearing?

    (If yes, Russian profanities must sound just as cute to you as their profanities sound to us…)

  108. David Marjanović says

    are you familiar with FYLOSC swearing?

    To some extent. “I fuck you, the god who created me” is a classic, also the P word.

  109. David Marjanović says

    A German pun in Russian: Wunderwaffeln!

  110. David Marjanović says

    You’d think the Russian language is plenty self-sufficient in swearwords. But sometimes you’d like to replace же by a swearword, and what happens then is…

    “Что я вижу?!? Что я fuckkkking вижу!?!”

  111. That’s a great clip. (The subtitles go wrong with Россия в говно, which is ‘Russia [has fallen] into shit,’ not ‘Russia is shit.’)

  112. haven’t seen it, just want to note that “в говно” is often found in phrases like пьяный в говно etc.
    When it is “Russia” it can be раздолбать в говно etc.
    So it works like “to pieces”.

  113. Ah, thanks — a subtlety that had escaped me.

  114. Agian, I haven’t seen it (this war keeps destroying my mood, so sometimes I just don’t want to watch another war video…) and of course в говно can be used in “fall into shit”, cf. “сраная рашка катится в сраное говно”. The normal directional meaning of “in ACC”. And of course in some contexts – where the verb is obvious from the context – the verb can be omitted. But there is another meaning of the accusative, as in “[shatter] in pieces”, and when I hear “я был в говно” (and the phrase is the only indication of what could be omitted) I understand it as “я был [пьян] в стельку” and when it is “машина в говно”, I understand it as “[удолбана] в говно” or something like that.

  115. David Marjanović says

    Oh, this is not a war video (unlike the others I’ve posted in this thread).

  116. It’s a Masyanya video. (But about the war.)

  117. Oops:) I thought it maybe isn’t but then checked the link and saw twitter again and thought if I want to trun on the VNP and realised that I’m not just in the mood … Masyanya is generally cool (though there is a war video by Kuvayev, namely the clip for a song by ногу свело)

    P.S. sorry didn’t notice “but about the war” at first.

  118. I tink to вундервафля I should add шушпанцер (not a ‘German pun in Russian’ though).

  119. Just learned that in context of etching nitric acid is called крепкая водка, an obvious calque of aqua fortis/eau-forte (eau-forte is the Russian name for “etching”, офорт). Царская водка is in turn the official name for aqua regia.

    So translations of aquae get -ka when they do not mean “water”.

  120. PlasticPaddy says

    Krepkaja vodka-I suppose this label led to many unfortunate accidents when unauthorised persons accessed the acid cabinet…

  121. Just add 200 ml of eau de Cologne and a bit of varnish and it’s all good, comrade!

  122. David Marjanović says

    Grammar lesson: бля goes before the noun, блядь after.

  123. David Marjanović says

    A war video, but not a combat video: a Russian soldier calmly demonstrates that a new artillery shell is empty. His intonation is calm, that is. His vocabulary is very much not.

    In case someone’s wondering: @GirkinGirkin is evidently not that Girkin…

  124. David Marjanović says
  125. Some remarkable verbiage there.

  126. Arcipreste wrote:

    “ When talking about spanish curses and bad words, it’s useful to know thah not only mexican spanish is worth to be studied… In Chile we have a lot of funny words. The most used are:
    Huevón!(also used in mexican spanish): you’ll never find a word wtih so many meanings, …”

    In Mexican Spanish, huevón is used much more simply than in Chilean Spanish. It is a noun or an adjective for someone who is lazy, and lazy acts are called huevonadas. It’s relatively mild, so I would never use it in a formal context, or to my boss or my teacher, but one can usually get away with using it in front of one’s parents or even grandparents.

  127. It’s relatively mild, so I would never use it in a formal context, or to my boss” – Yes, formal contexts and bosses require stronger swearings…

  128. David Marjanović says

    A bit more topic drift: this video (8:39 long). (It shows what passes for a battle these days, but nobody gets visibly hit.) There’s only one swearword in it, the ethnonym підер-. But what fascinates me is how the narrator switches between languages: I think 2/3 of the sentences are in Ukrainian and 1/3 in Russian. The narration is clearly stitched together, but sometimes I can’t find a cut between two sentences in different languages. I think he’s capable of talking without noticing which language he’s using.

    Given what Ukrainian sociolinguistics is like, I’d have guessed this is a native speaker of Russian who uses his fluent Ukrainian for this promotional video for his brigade, but perhaps not. Yes, his Ukrainian has final devoicing, like Russian – but also like Polish, and his /lʲ/, at least in Ukrainian, is identical to its Polish cognate: it’s just a very front [l̟], at the front end of the German range but not palatalized.

    Also noteworthy: the first word, in a sentence that turns out to be Ukrainian, is танк, and it not just lacks [ŋ], it ends up getting an epenthetic vowel instead. [ŋ] is also absent from Russian and from some part of Polish (I have no idea about the geography of this); I think I’ve heard it in Ukrainian, but I’m not sure.

    Further, танк gets a diminutive танчик. The only tank in the video is a T-80, which I’d have thought is neither particularly small nor particularly cute… Also, the armored vehicle M-113 is емка/эмка in both languages.

  129. John Cowan says

    [ŋ] is also absent from Russian and from some part of Polish

    You expect not to find [ŋ] in Slavic at all, because the Open Syllable Law, which gets rid of nasal+consonant clusters (along with all other clusters). Then when the Fall of the Yers brings them back, there is no existing source for velar nasals (unlike /m/, /n/, /ɳ/ which have their own sources), and so there aren’t any.

    neither particularly small nor particularly cute

    Heavy users of tools often feminize/diminutivize their tools.

  130. David Marjanović says

    You expect not to find [ŋ] in Slavic at all

    …but the rest of West, and I think all of South, Slavic have brought it back. My uncle Janko had one.

    BTW, annoyingly, ɳ is the retroflex one. The palatal one is ɲ; I remember it by thinking of it as j + n.

  131. John Cowan says

    West, and I think all of South, Slavic have brought it back. My uncle Janko had one.

    Huh, must be the fugitive rose madder Western European substrate, Germanic or Romance as the case may be.

  132. David Marjanović says

    I’d rather say [nK] > [ŋK] has a certain probability of happening spontaneously, and in some areas (perhaps ultimately with adstrate influence) it has happened, in others it has not.

    I wonder about Hungarian, actually.

  133. John Cowan says

    ɳ is the retroflex one

    Yes, all the retroflex letters hook to the right. I simply clicked on the wrong column of Weston Ruter’s IPA chart.

  134. I wonder about Hungarian

    Which happens to have, independently of Slavic, also eliminated preconsonantal nasals and any original Uralic *ŋ too, so probably some stage of Sufficiently Old Hungarian had no [ŋ] either. There was a process of nasal assimilation of at least /m/ in medieval times though, seen e.g. in the 1st person plural ending: OHu. -muc */-mʊk ~ -mʏk/ to ModHu. -unk, -ünk; or ‘nobody’: sem ‘not even’ + ki ‘who’ → senki (does not seem to be actually attested with **mk though). If there were any [nk ng] still left, by this time they too probably would’ve assimilated to [ŋk ŋg]. Which yes is the mainline standard pronunciation, if that’s what you were asking.

  135. David Marjanović says

    I was, thank you.

  136. David Marjanović says

    Thread topic averted, as TV Tropes would say: “Рускій корабль, іди” “Гей! Гей!”

    (I mean the background music. The video shows grenades being dropped on abandoned armored vehicles.)

  137. David Marjanović says

    Video of a Russian soldier’s fast-paced rant. The English subtitles try to get maybe a third of the obscenities across and just give up on the others. Many of them really are used as punctuation – and they’re diverse; it’s not just блядь that gets used for this purpose.

  138. But you can’t write “of course, .”, while I can say “of course блядь, на хуй”.

  139. And they didn’t even try to reproduce the difference between русская (армия) and российская, leading to the absurd “This isn’t a Russian army, it’s a Russian army.”

  140. Всё хуё…

  141. David Marjanović says

    “This isn’t a Russian army, it’s a Russian army.”

    I noticed, but the original doesn’t seem to make sense either: the Soviet army in WWII is supposed to have been ethnically Russian?

  142. @DM, perhaps vagueness of “ethnicity” as a concept can make it work.

    It is not just a bundle of cultural “isoglosses” (iso- what they are if they are “cultural”?) “what you eat, what you wear and what you speak”, it is imagined as a real thing.
    So perhaps it can be extended on other ethnicities.

  143. “Rusky” is poorly defined, respectable and has history.
    “Rossijan” is well defefined and does not have history.

    (Also, attacking Kiev makes utterly no sense for Rusky army, because they are historically Russian too and stopped to call themselves so very recently).

    He means that “Rossijan” is abstract. It is defined at the level of paperwork.

    I wonder what those of Chechens who are patriotic think of this. Do they find this removal of ethnicity in “Rossijan” attractive (for “Rossijan” includes it) or they rather join “Rusky”?

    Anyway, the guy is a child basically. He is offered a bunch of ideologies and loud names and tries to make sense of them and build his own rhetoric.

  144. How to confuse the helvete out of Google Translate, part MCMLXXVIII:

    – А завтра будет срочное поднятие флага?
    – По идее да… Бля-а, вот бы завтра проспать бы.. нахуй. […..] А у нас будет экология во вторник или в понедельник? А чё нам задава-али?

    So despite the disclaimer “nothing interesting”, I decided to run this through GT and got this:

    – Will there be an urgent flag raising tomorrow?
    – In theory, yes… Fuck, I wish I could sleep through tomorrow… fuck it. […..] Will we have ecology on Tuesday or Monday? What did they ask us?

    (I have no idea what an “urgent flag raising” may be, but that may be a cultural rather than a GT-specific problem, so I’ll refrain from mocking it.) But unfortunately I had left GT set to “[Assume the input language is] German” rather than “Detect language”, and so on my first try I got this instead:

    – What is the national flag?
    – According to the idea… Well, both of you are interested. […..] What is the ecology in the door or in the floor? А чё нам задава-али?

    So that was pretty incoherent, although the rhyme was cute, not to mention that GT left the last sentence untranslated. GT will eventually give up if the input is too long, but it has to be a lot longer than this. So next I set the source language to Italian, and got:

    – How did you like this?
    – Well that’s… Baby, that’s what happened. [… How did you like it?

    Setting the source language to English (which should do absolutely nothing, since the target language is set to English too), doesn’t actually work: it sets the target language to Italian (presumably because of the last lookup) which takes us from WTF to WTFer:

    – La tua bandiera avrà un effetto positivo?
    – По идее да… Бля-а, вот бы завтра проспать бы.. нахуй. […..] А у нас будет экология во вторник или в понедельник? E chi sono i tuoi figli?

    ‘And who are your children’??! Riiiiiight…

    Taking a different tack, I set the source language to Bulgarian and got a fairly clear translation:

    – Will the flag be raised urgently tomorrow?
    – In theory, yes… Shit, I’d fall asleep tomorrow… fuck it. […..] And we will have ecology on Tuesday or Monday? And what does he ask us?

    Moving on to non-Slavic languages, Kazakh gives me:

    – Will the flag be raised tomorrow?
    – The idea is… Hell, I’d like to sleep tomorrow. […..] Will there be ecology on Tuesday or Monday? A chyo nam zadava-ali?

    Note again the problem with the last sentence. For Turkmen, things progressively fall apart:

    – And tomorrow there will be an urgent raising of the flag?
    – Po idee da… Blah-ah, vot bi bir spapat bir .. nakhui. […..] А у нас будет екология в турсия или в понедельник? А че нам задава-али?

    Tajik, however,spits back the input completely verbatim, untranslated and even un-transliterated.

    (There is no significance to the number 1978, except that I used to see copyright dates of that form a lot, and LXX ‘the Septuagint’ is of course familiar.)

  145. January First-of-May says

    The English subtitles try to get maybe a third of the obscenities across and just give up on the others.

    They also miss out on some of the non-obscenity fun; when the subtitles say “ranks change all the time”, his actual words are that they change “at the speed of sound” (discounting a bunch of obscenity punctuation, which really does show up multiple times per sentence).

    I’d estimate the amount of obscenities that do make it to the subtitles as more like 1/5, not 1/3, but I don’t really feel like counting. OTOH I do have to admit that there probably isn’t a good way to translate блядь на хуй (as an interjection) into English.
    (…Is it на хуй or нахуй? Pretty sure I’ve seen both spellings.)

  146. David Marjanović says

    which takes us from WTF to WTFer:

    One of those famous LLM hallucinations!

    OTOH I do have to admit that there probably isn’t a good way to translate блядь на хуй (as an interjection) into English.

    In context, it can be done, but I won’t judge “good”:
    “of fucking course, fuck!” – more repetitive than the original
    “well, of fucking course!” – loses half the obscenity
    “of fucking course, bloody hell!” – I don’t know if that’s realistic

    German is harder. How about…
    verdammt ja, verdammte Scheiße! – sounds a bit foreign in regions where “damned” has fallen out of use

  147. I think “fucking of course” is more idiomatic than “of fucking course”. Maybe.

    (A real linguist could tell you which parameter is responsible for the anomaly. Or which rule reordering.)

  148. Funnily, I was not able to correctly identify the position of блядь in

    “Куда командиры…. чё, блядь, они там решают, гадают – хуй его знает, ни хуя, ебать, не понятно…”

    I clearly can hear that the sequence is блядь-coloured.

  149. Also he is a speaker of the educated register.

    Но, проблема в том, что [mumbling: не знаю, как сказать так…] … Всё хуёво.

  150. Speaking of curses, I admire an insult that packs a lot in a few words. I recently saw an online comment in an Israeli paper, aimed at a certain politician: לך תאכל את עורלת אחותך lekh toxál et orlát axotxá ‘go eat your sister’s foreskin’. It’s so very wrong.

  151. I don’t know if that’s realistic

    Not to my ears; b.h. is relatively mild, so it’s mixing levels of obscenity.

    ” f’fuck’s sake … of fucking course!”

    I think “fucking of course” is more idiomatic than “of fucking course”.

    Oh? My intuition is the other way round. But either will work in the appropriate context. For the first to work for me it’d be “fucking! … of course”.

    The rule I’d go by is the expletive is to be gratuitously inserted in the middle of a fixed phrase.

    (@Hat’s away, the expletives come out to play.)

  152. David Marjanović says

    I clearly can hear that the sequence is блядь-coloured.

    A suprasegmental clitic! Take that, Kusaal!

    (Day saved.)

    The rule I’d go by is the expletive is to be gratuitously inserted in the middle of a fixed phrase.

    Right in front of the stressed syllable maybe? There’s at least one paper on expletive infixation: Phila-fucking-delphia, San Fran-fucking-cisco… people vary in how much they let that override morpheme boundaries. ^_^

  153. I’d definitely say “of fucking course” rather than “fucking of course,” but on the other hand, I’ve had students who write “ofcourse” as one word. (Not suggesting that Y does this.)

  154. David Marjanović says

    Interpreting something as one word doesn’t always stop the infixation!

    I wonder if ofcourse is backformed from the abbreviation ofc, which crops up out there on the intarwebz sometimes and has probably been used in millions of text messages.

  155. For me, un-fuckin’-cool works but *of-fuckin’-course does not. I think that is because, with emphasis, un- can carry stress but of never can. By McCarthy’s explanation, the first does not break a foot, the second does.

  156. Right in front of the stressed syllable maybe? There’s at least one paper on expletive infixation: Phila-fucking-delphia, San Fran-fucking-cisco…

    abso-bloomin-lutely (as my grandmother used to say — also quoted at Y’s link).

    I think opportunities for gemination help — hence the f-expletive is appropriate in the examples @DM quotes (I might even go San Fran-fucking-frisco), but a b-expletive for my grandmother’s. So I’m surprised at @Y’s preference. And the f-expletive insertion examples at Y’s link don’t work for me at all.

    If no such opportunity, I think DM’s tentative adjacent stressed syllable rule is on to something: shut the fuck up for me gives more expressive scansion than a -ing or -y form.

    the first does not break a foot,

    I’ ain’t bloody boetry you want in the ‘eat of the momen’.

  157. abso-bloomin-lutely

    The reduplicated imma-bloody-material is also recorded from Downundria.

    San Fran-fucking-frisco

    Apparently reflecting an underlying San Franfrisco. (I refrain from asterisking this.)

    I’ ain’t bloody boetry

    “I hate all Boets and Bainters.” —King George I

  158. David Marjanović says

    An exploration of хуй and its morphological possibilities.

  159. Хуй and блядь, properly mixed, are the foundational ingredients of the glorious cake that is demotic Russian.

  160. “Но у них там танчики-хуянчики, а нас ХУЙ! блядь, и ни хуя, ебать” is excellent.

    “they have tank-DIM-s–xujank-DIM-s and we have dick (whore) and not [even] a dick (fuck).

    We have nothing and no nothing!

    (massive publication of videos that show how difficult is the situation of Russian army in (pro-)Ukrainian sources is paralleled by stories about Ukrianian problems in Russian propaganda. Do not expect the resulting picture to be objective. I do not know who has more problems presently, but if I want to learn it (which I do not want at all) I’ll look elsewhere. But yes, I would not expect from ordinary Russian soldiers a clear idea of why the fuck the war is needed – in this and the fomer videos soldiers express a doubt)

  161. That is a spectacular sentence and should be included in advanced textbooks.

  162. “танчики-хуянчики” sounds so…cute.

  163. There is an extremely popular Belarusian online multiplayer game World of Tanks. Perhaps the diminutive was popularised in context of this game.

    Ох вы бомбочки мои водородненькие, ай ты зимушка моя термоядерненькая…

  164. Let’s grab the vodka and the garmoshka 😀

  165. David Marjanović says

    That is a spectacular sentence and should be included in advanced textbooks.

    Oh yes. Oh yes!

    (I didn’t point it out because I missed it. I still don’t have enough practice parsing Russian spoken under realistic conditions.)

    Like… “they have fucking tanks and we have fuck-all”, only more so… like, two tiers more so…

    “танчики-хуянчики” sounds so…cute.

    That reminds me of Ojibwe, where “spider” is expressed as “net.make-ᴘᴇᴊᴏʀᴀᴛɪᴠᴇ-ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇᴍᴘᴛɪᴠᴇ”.

    Ох вы бомбочки мои водородненькие, ай ты зимушка моя термоядерненькая…

    Day saved. Here’s to diminutives of adjectives, sadly lacking in German!

  166. Spare a thought for us English speakers; we barely have diminutives at all!

  167. Yes, also adverbs (bystren’ko is absolutely normal).

    In baby talk infinitives: spaten’ki, bain’ki.

  168. we barely have diminutives at all

    A few-ish.

  169. I would not say so.
    Russians now don’t use them as often as they did (perhaps influenced by book education), English has -y which is immediately noticeable… and what is ADJ-ish?

  170. PlasticPaddy says

    Some dialects can approximate the Russian but with less variety in the expletive. I can sort of imagine Billy Connolly saying something like “They got wee fucking fuck-off tanks, and what have we got? Fucking fuck-all!”

  171. ADJ-ish is ‘somewhat ADJ’: youngish, reddish, largish, etc. It’s not fully productive (productive-ish?), but more so in jocular use.

  172. Keith Ivey says

    We could perhaps talk about a tanklet, but a tankie is something else entirely.

  173. it’s a mystery to me why I know so well the word “tankette”. I simply can’t remember a book or a movie which features them.

  174. English has -y which is immediately noticeable… and what is ADJ-ish?

    The former is not productive, and the latter is not a diminutive. They may be less used in Russian nowadays (though I’d want to see some actual stats), but they’re used a fuck of a lot more than in English, where you could easily go your whole life without ever using one.

  175. It defenitely would be interesting to see stats, but my impression is that it used to be very common to have (vypit’) chajkú and became much more common to have cháyu now.

    Regarding -ish, I understand well “reddish” (красноватый) but some other usages that I encounter here (including, say, “largish”: we say eti botínki mne velikováty these shoes to-me large-slightly, but not “this [object] is big-slightly”, bol’shevat, “a big-slightly [thing]” etc.) are difficult to me, I don’t understand the pragmatics (and semantics). That’s why I said “what is this?”

  176. Anyway, there is some overlap with diminutives, say eti botínki mne velikováty can be said to soften the claim that the shoes are oversized.
    Pragmatically diminutives are also used for softening, except that in this case we are speaking of an undesirable quality (softening it by indicating there is not much of it).

    And while goryáchen’kogo chajkú is affectionate, tyóplen’kij can be interepreted as dissatisfaction with that it is warm (warmness itself is a slight amount of heat compared to hot) or as absence of full amount of warmness, “warm would be too loud a word”.

    Compare malen’kij “little” where diminutive intensifies the characteristic “small” (presently malyj is not used). Diminution itself is not exactly the same as affection, it can also express negligence and maybe in tyoplen’kij it is diminution proper.

    Somewhat X is adding a fraction of X to zero.
    X-DIM (when not affectionate) takes X as input and then either indicates that it’s a property of a small object or decreaces X.

    tyoplen’kij is not of course merely a continuation of a row chut’ tyoplyj “barely warm”, teplovatyj “somewhat warm”, it is marked for register and importantly for cuteness.

    Productive -ish enthusiastically used here is clearly aslo marked for register (that’s why I thought about it) but as far as I can tell is not cute.

  177. Compare malen’kij “little” where diminutive intensifies the characteristic “small” (presently malyj is not used)
    I’d rather say that malen’kiy has become the new neutral form and if you want to have a word with diminutive force, you need to go for malyusen’kiy.
    Productive -ish enthusiastically used here is clearly aslo marked for register (that’s why I thought about it) but as far as I can tell is not cute.
    Yes. It’s nearest equivalent is -o/evaty, as you noted yourself.

  178. Yes, I was not clear. malen’kiy is the neutral form.

    As for -ish, I have an impression that here it is often also used to mark a certain tone or register.

    In this it is comparable to diminutives.

    -ovat- can be used to indicate a presence of reddish/greenish hue or in a conversation as in:
    для этого платья я слегка толстовата, но это не страшно
    for this dress I slightly fat-ovata, but this not scary [not really a problem]

    …to indicate slight excess of some quality for a specific purpose. You don’t expect to find this specific usage in bookish language (imprecise and personal: “AJD-er than what the speaker needs”. It assumes subjective point of view, which books avoid, and it softens the message) but usually you don’t use such forms for other purposes (related tot tone)

  179. David Marjanović says

    …and the Oscar for calmest delivery of spontaneous invective to express righteous wrath goes to…

  180. spontaneous invective

    He he that’s a clever pun on ‘strap-on’ [in the translation]. Is it equally idiomatic in the original?

  181. David Marjanović says

    Is it equally idiomatic in the original?

    The word itself is simply borrowed.

    Meanwhile, the Dutch resort to English at a large scale.

  182. @LH, apparantly I’m incompatible with the Hattery:(

    I would absolutely hate to disappear from here in a scandalous fashion (which is why this comment). Conversely, I reserve the right to comment here when I’m in the mood to comment here, I’m not offended by anything, I am just observing that the set of constraints imposed by you and myself results (again an observation) in zero-drasvi surface representation (but everyone is free to intorduce an underlying drasvi for analytical simplicity – as many of underlying drasvis as parsimony requires. Perhaps a continuum…). I hope the forum will benefit from my absence.
    This was an issue for me from the start: despite impressive overlap in our interests (maybe “Russian literature” is something that you find interesting and I… also find interesting but dare not dig at the moment:)) I was not sure that my my presence is not making the forum worse.

  183. @LH, apparantly I’m incompatible with the Hattery:(

    Good heavens, I hope not! I was about to send you an e-mail to see if you were OK. The only constraint I impose is not to get too heavily into contentious politics. You are a valued Hatter, and I would be very sorry if you vanished from the comment boxes. Если обидел, прошу прощение; не поминай лихом!

  184. @LH, yes, politics.

    I’ll explain then. Generally, it is very difficult for me to communicate in English-speaking spaces.
    In Russian I can be maybe 60% myself (not as with my close friends, but a habitual and comfortable online character) and everyone understands me and I don’t even look too strange. On some English forums 10% of myself can already be shocking, and people will upvote or downvote my comments without having a slightest idea what I actually meant. It is different here. I can simply be myself and abstain from filtering what I am saying – and I’m more or less acceptable.

    I came here after a long period of trying to look respectable, I was terribly tired from it, so I took a conscious decision: here I will fool around, I won’t try to look respectable, and as I can be myself here, then I will be myself here. It is NOT disrespect, conversely, I value this space greatly.

    Also during my first year or two here I tried to avoid conflicts. When someone attacked me I would shut myself up. Why? On the previous forum I frequented I liked when people downvoted my comments, too many upvotes bothered me (am I still myself? thought I). And I did not respect the space and the company who owns it at all. I constantly trolled it (I never troll people, I trolled the space itself). So when someone attacked me here I felt happy and… Wait, it is not a good sign when criticism improves your mood:) When people criticise you, presumably they are unhappy. Provoking it will make them even less happy.
    I was afraid that my habitual reaction would be “trolling the space” again, and this is what I’d hate to do here.

    Now, one particular problem is that these years I’m constantly in a very bad mood. A part of it is the known political developments. I won’t get used to this war, for example. It ruined my mood and it will keep ruining it.
    And this is why I often comment on social issues and politics.
    When I’m in a better mood I discuss more pleasant things… like languages (though I can’t contribute in linguistical discussion as an expert, only as an amateur).
    I knew about this issue, I still decided not to filter what I’m saying, but was ready to leave if I find my presence detrimental.

  185. There is also an independent issue: refugees.

    The thing is: they are “linguistics”, not “politics” for me. They are speakers and the speakers who’re either already in contact with us (“Europeans” by which I do not meant just “EU”) or want to be so.

    I absolutely don’t distinguish “languages” and “speakers” in my head.
    People were bashing xenophobes (Orbán), but it is the xenoi who’re interesting.

  186. So what I discovered is that in order to respect yoru constraints (which you do have the right to impose!) I must – for the first time – filter my own comments.
    And I’m too used to the idea that drasvi does not do this. This is why I’m observing the fact that I ceased to post without an actual intent to leave.

  187. I have somewhat similar relations with English. My accuracy leaves much to be desired, but English is a language I picked and it is so interesting to look at how it reacts at changes in input (e.g. I learned to understand English speech overnight in the literal meaning of “overnight” and since then I giggle when people say “you can’t learn a langauge overnight!”) that I don’t allow myself to “work” on it. It is just a fascinating experiment.

  188. PlasticPaddy says

    Re “understanding English speech overnight” I expect you mean a single voice in a known context, maybe several nights were needed to understand multiple voices/accents in an unknown or unfamiliar context (or noisy environment). Re “finding your presence detrimental”, why make theoretical assessments of others’ unstated judgments? You can just ask for reassurance/clarity on this point.

  189. @drasvi: I would like you to continue commenting here, too. Your comments often add interesting information or perspectives. If you don’t mind me saying that, one issue is sometimes that you word things in a way that it’s hard for me to understand what your point is, and I often in such cases lack the time (and, honestly, frequently also the motivation) to take up the discussion and find out. But that’s on me, not on you.

  190. January First-of-May says

    I would like you to continue commenting here, too. Your comments often add interesting information or perspectives.

    Плюсадын, as they say in Russia 🙂
    (…do they still say that? I hadn’t really been following up on Russian internet culture lately.)

    On “overnight”, I’m guessing that the “literal meaning” described by drasvi was something to the effect of “while studying only at night” rather than actually suggesting just one night. It still seems implausible for other reasons (why wouldn’t there be daytime studying too?) but I could just about see it happening if there was a sufficiently strong motivation.

    One thing you constantly do that I do dislike is your insistence on transliterating Russian text. But maybe you just don’t have the keyboard for it, or maybe there’s a cultural reason that I don’t quite get. I certainly wouldn’t want you to disappear from LH just because of that.

  191. Now, one particular problem is that these years I’m constantly in a very bad mood.

    I totally understand. I think I’ve been extra вспыльчив lately for similar reasons. I’ll try to keep in mind what you said about refugees being speakers and not misunderstand you. Let’s all try to tolerate each other’s oddities!

  192. Oh, and by all means be yourself. It’s better for us to get used to each other as we more or less are, even if it leads to occasional misunderstandings and/or outbursts.

  193. I wish SF Reader would come back…

  194. David Eddyshaw says

    I agree with Plastic, Hans, January and Hat.

  195. David Marjanović says

    All seconded, and I hope SFReader isn’t resting in pieces somewhere southeast of Bakhmut for example.

    “Overnight”… it does apparently happen that a language “clicks” overnight. I’ve met someone who learned French under unusual circumstances, involving – IIRC – full immersion in a camp in France where pronunciation was taught first or perhaps only, so she could say du bon vin blanc correctly before she was able to use it in a sentence. One day (or perhaps night), she had amassed enough words that suddenly she understood things.

  196. just chiming in to agree with the chorus!

  197. Trond Engen says

    @drasvi: Add me to the list of signatories. I understand you as well educated, broadly oriented, deeply concerned, and thoroughly rooted in humanitarian principles — with a vantage point that’s both similar to and interestingly different from my own boringly standard liberal Western European. I may not always reply to questions or arguments directed at me, but that’s because time is limited and I can’t keep up with everything, and because I (cowardly) try to keep my involvement in discussions of current events on a philosophical level, and further discussion might take more commitment than I can mobilize.

  198. David Marjanović says

    I learned a new verb!

  199. David Marjanović says

    Сука, летит гондом ёбаный “look, a drone”.

    (14 seconds, nothing visible other than smoke at very low resolution.)

  200. David Marjanović says

    I just came across a slightly disgusting Ukrainian nationalist song on YouTube. One stanza ends in “хутін – пуйло”.

  201. “хутін – пуйло”

    The Ukrainian equivalent of “Truck Fump.”

  202. David Marjanović says


  203. An annotation to a recent novella, The Philologist:

    Далёкое будущее, отстоящее от наших дней на много тысяч лет. Человечество освоило миллиарды галактик и решило все проблемы, кроме одной: чем могут занять себя всемогущие люди? Но перед молодым человеком по имени Верис такой вопрос не стоит. Он — филолог.

    GT (crappy):

    The distant future, many thousands of years distant from our days. Humanity has mastered billions of galaxies and solved all problems except one: what can omnipotent people do with themselves? But a young man named Veris does not face such a question. He is a philologist.

    Haven’t read it (Lem wrote two collections of annotations for imaginary books while the genre of imaginary libraries is well known since at least Rabelais. This particular annotation is not bad), but I have thought about similar stories.

  204. now i’m compelled to imagine that all historical philologists have been omnipotent beings, who only declined to revolutionize the world through technological achievements, belles-lettristic glory, or making mongolia the acknowledged world center of ninjutsu because it would have bored them to waste their talents on anything so easy.

    it’s good to see you, drasvi!

  205. it’s good to see you, drasvi!


  206. The translation seems pretty good, why crappy (for GT)? Also, hi drasvi.

  207. The name of Russian ship “Caesar Kunikov” which have sunk recently gave me a pause. First of all, calling a czar “caesar” is really overdoing it, and second, there were no czar by that name. But everything was made clear by Wiki. Цезарь is not a position, it is a name. Not an awfully frequent one, but not a vanishingly rare either. The most famous person in Russia of this name was Цезарь Кюи (née Цезарий-Вениамин). In any event, major Kunikov’s name should have been transliterated “Tzesar”.

  208. David Marjanović says

    I thought I had waxed lyrical about the word долбоёб here. I had seen it subtitled as “idiot” and wanted to know what this particular species of idiot is stupid enough to fuck. …Fucking itself, it turns out: the first part isn’t a noun, but the verb долбить, one of many that mean “hit, fuck”. Evidently it describes somebody who is absurdly stupid…

    …but that’s only a small aspect of the full meaning! I’ll copy this explanation by a native speaker:

    `Dolboeb’ is in fact a great word.  I’m entirely unsure how to translate it properly.  Perhaps, dipping into occult traditions, it could translate to something like `demiurge’ — one who, pretending to create reality, stuffs one’s mind with bullshit?  But then, there is also the implication that this bullshit is unsuccessful:  no one would ever listen to this guy.

    An unexpectedly useful word!

  209. David Marjanović says
  210. I think it’s “ебучий случай”.

  211. David Marjanović says

    Does that video feature “jesus fuck” – исус нахуй – or did I hear that wrong? (In any case I did not hear the extra [ij]- I’d expect of Иисус.)

  212. Does that video feature “jesus fuck”

    It does indeed.

    In any case I did not hear the extra [ij]- I’d expect of Иисус.

    No difference in pronunciation — that’s purely orthographical, part of Nikon’s set of stupid, counterproductive reforms that created the Old Believers and got a lot of people tortured and killed for no reason except the imposition of Rules from Above.

  213. There was a long speech by some drunk guy under my window which included:

    “Они за царя, у них иконы, хуёны…”

  214. David Marjanović says

    In vino veritas.

    Ah, Nikon strikes again. From the article: “В том числе в имя «Ісус» (под титлом «Iс») добавили еще одну букву, и оно стало писаться «Іисус» (под титлом «Іис»).” Seriously? Isn’t it Ι͡С Χ͡С in all the Greek originals (as also Μ͡Ρ Θ͡Υ)?

  215. I say Иисус Христос as 4 syllables, and try to make Иисус 3 syllables (as it ‘s written), just as I do with Маасдам.
    I’m not sure if there are glides.

  216. With those AIs and VPNs and everything I just checked a box in “please confirm that you’re human” captcha with a sincere hope that it won’t realise I’m not.

  217. David Eddyshaw says

    Don’t worry: the captcha actually only excludes robots. Foolish humans!

  218. Jstor now offers “streamed” searchable pdf instead of pictures as before. Unless it is just one article.

    And what is important about this is that I can save the pdf in my browser.

    Open the article, open “developer’s tools” in the browser (in Mozilla they can be called differently), open the tab “Network” in it (in Mozilla can be called differently), refresh the page. It lists the files which your machine loaded when you refreshed the page. One of them (in the field “Type” it is “fetch” but in Mozilla it can be called otherwise) has a large size and is your pdf. Right-click and “open in new tab”. And then in the new tab it can be saved.

  219. David Marjanović says

    “Both of these are quite charged and you should be aware not to use it around kids, parents of your partner, on television and around corgi dogs, as we learned they’re quite sensitive to swearing.” Ukrainian this time, but pronounce it in Russian and it’s Russian.

  220. I like the fact that she cracks up a bit. Swears are funny!

  221. David Marjanović says
  222. David Marjanović says

    How to express joy and relief: basically “fuck yeah” without the “yeah”. I noticed one word that wasn’t a swearword.

  223. АААА СУКА!

  224. A verse I composed some 20 years ago in enlightened state of mind, and in the mood to think of beautiful things rather than usual obscenities (I think I need to post it somewhere, why not here):
    На хуй хуй, в пизду пизду,
    в жопе место жопе.
    Я лучистую звезду
    видел в телескопе!

  225. Прелесть!

  226. Stu Clayton says

    Я лучистую звезду
    видел в телескопе!

    Some things have not gotten any better at Google, despite AI. This GT translation is artificial but not intelligent:

    Ich bin ein strahlender Stern
    Ich habe es in einem Teleskop gesehen!

    I figured it interpreted the line break as making a sentence out of the first line, even though the accusative лучистую звезду then makes no sense. I removed the line break, and sure enough it gave me

    Ich habe einen strahlenden Stern in einem Teleskop gesehen!

    I wonder whether ChatGPT “hallucinates” if you feed it abab couplets.

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