Occasional commenter (and gracious hostess) dameragnel has sent me a couple of her favorite off-color Russian expressions; I share them here, along with her remark: “I would love to know if others have heard these and would very much enjoy their comments and additions to the list.” (As they say on Википедия: Внимание! Ненормативная лексика или непристойное изображение!)

1. When things seem to be going from bad to worse:
Как пошло пизде на пропасть, и старцы ебут.
2. As a judgement of a woman; I like this one for its Gogolian syntax:
Ни сиськи, ни письки, ни цвета лица.
3. This one isn’t dirty but interesting in that it is what girls were taught for enticing a man. The instructions are about where to look (the угол, the upper right or the upper left). You can see a version of this in action if you watch Angelina Jolie at a photo op or in an interview:
В угол, на нос, на предмет.

(LH again:) The first includes two of the basic Russian “bad words,” пизда ‘cunt’ and ебать ‘fuck’; one of my favorite expressions involving the first is пизда пизде рознь ‘one cunt isn’t like another,’ used to warn against lumping unlike things together, as a medieval philosopher would say “distinguo.” And the rhythm and tone of the second reminds me of the chorus of Shriekback’s immortal “My Spine (Is the Bassline)“: “No guts! No blood! And no brains at all!”


  1. The second one is very grade school girly, and in that context probably not judgemental at all. It’s more like, “Buzz off baby, you are too physically immature to worry about big girls’ business”. Either just “Ни сиськи, ни письки”, or “Ни сиськи, ни письки, а жопка с кулачок”.
    The third one is wistfully archaic, they don’t teach it to actual youngsters, but the could use the phrase to tease them (“coquettish like in the old days”) or to tease them about their lack of eye-playing habits (“a governess would teach a noble girl like this in the old days”)

  2. Quoth Google Translate:
    1. How do pussy went to the abyss, and the old fuck.
    2. No tits, no pussy, no person of color.
    3. In the corner, on the nose, on the subject.
    The second one is a pretty impressive hybrid of the vulgar and the PC.

  3. This was the last place I expected to find a reference to a Shriekback song.

  4. “No person of color”, my word! This is hilarious because “лицо” (literally “face”, and should be translated here as such) is used in official/PC context as “person”: “лицо кавказской национальности” = “person of caucasian descent”. “Цвет лица” then could be interpreted as “a person’s color”, although this would be a pun rather then an actual usage, so much so that it never occurred to me to think of the phrase that way.

  5. @Valera: Does “kavkaskij” in Russian mean people from the Caucasus, or it’s, like in English, just a politer word for what was called Caucasoid?

  6. The dirtiest phrase I ever heard in Russian doesn’t actually involve any obscenities. Some friends and I were gossiping (fuelled by a fair amount of alcohol) about a very handsome, successful man’s affair with a woman we considered vastly inferior. We were speculating on the hold she had on him. Someone said: to li poperyok, to li zolotaya (maybe it’s set crosswise, or maybe it’s made out of gold).
    Amazing images come to mind.
    I’m not sure about young folks today, but 20 years ago everyone knew the eye tricks. I remember someone trying to teach it to me — my women friends regarded western feminism as a handicap to functioning in the real world – but I just looked like I was doing an eye test while under the influence. They were very skilled at it. It was very Scarlett flirting with Rhett from under her bonnet.

  7. Though a brilliant actress it’s one of Meryl Streep’s more irritating mannerisms.

  8. Finally, someone other than me who finds Streep irritating from time to time — and not always just brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!

  9. @ mab re: “doesn’t actually involve any obscenities” – isn’t it a traditional way the women speak in many cultures, avoiding any mention of “the thing”? Which is greatly facilitated by Russian language’s ready omission of subjects from sentences … as illustrated by the series of obscene – but w/o any bad words – couplets about “девки спорили”
    Оказалось, что с ведро
    У начальницы метро
    As to eye-tricks (строить глазки, literally almost “building cute eyes”), I just realized that I may be familiar with just ironic uses because, doh, I am a guy. The girls OTOH may have heard it as a true advice even in my days. The customary eye-play (called cabeceo) is a huge part of the informal rules of my subculture of tango, and Russian tangueras often remark that they are all well-versed in eye-play but are still hampered by shortsightedness and psychological shortcomings on the dance floor.

  10. Well, Mockba, in my set we generally weren’t and aren’t to shy about calling a spade a spade if you take my meaning, wink wink. The request was for off color expressions, and I offered one with the caveat that it was obscene in intent, not content.

  11. Yes, Moskva. The eyes thing is certainly an archaism. My mother (born 1917) was told it by her mother, who had been groomed from early childhood to marry an aristocrat. For her part, she didn’t teach it to my mother but told it to her laughingly.

  12. Happy birthday, Jimsal! It’s St Valentine’s day that reminds me, I’m sorry I forgot.

  13. I’m confused about the first one: searches give only a few results, languagehat first, and a memoir by Yevgenii Krichmar, “Регтайм в одесском ритме”. Worse, Krichmar gives it in a very different grammatical form and only says this about its meaning: “В самые тяжелые минуты он разражался одной фразой, смысла которой я никогда не понимал: “Как пошла пизда на пропасть и старца ебут!””
    Any help?

  14. The way I always understood it, Karpasking, is roughly, “When it’s curtains for a cunt even old farts fuck her.”

  15. The “sideways” idea is a common American stereotype about East Asians. You’d think that the Korean and Vietnamese Wars would have dispelled it, but apparently not.
    “We was tighter than fish pussy, and that’s waterproof.” —a lament for lost male bonding

  16. Thanks, AJP!
    Curtains for a cunt, mom? Old farts fucking for free! My! I’ll call this thread a birthday present!

  17. Ahem. This is purely linguistics and cultural anthropology, JimmySally dear. Happy Birthday.

  18. @dameragnel: thanks. Sounds like Krichmar misheard it and reanalyzed it as “when the cunt’s out they start fucking the old man”, or he’s at least playing with the phrase.

  19. I didn’t want to out Jim’s mom, but now that someone else has, I can say it’s interesting to read about their Russian ancestors – I love that sort of thing.

  20. @minus273: Caucasian in russian is strictly a person from Caucasian mountain region. The PC phrase “a person of Caucasian descent” is to avoid saying the actual nationalities (Armenian, Georgian, Azerbaidjanian) and also to mix them together in people’s minds, a terrible deed by soviet system. Funny, this PC phrase was so embedded in the culture it was easier to see in print “лицо еврейской национальности” then “еврей” (“person of Jewish descent” rather then “a Jew”)

  21. There’s a tendency in English to distinguish between ‘Jewish person’ (ok) and ‘Jew’ (not ok). As a non-racist tactic, I think it’s counterproductive because a) a lot of Jews use ‘Jew’, b) it makes ‘Jew’ a special case (you don’t say ‘Christian person’ or ‘Muslim person’) and c) it hands ‘Jew’ over to racists to use as an insult.

  22. It sounds worse in the singular. “Jews” should be fine with all but the most sensitive.
    Maybe it’s because Muslim and Christian are already adjectives. Saying someone is “a Jew” instead of saying they’re “Jewish” sounds like defining instead of describing them. Calling someone “a black” or even “a Dutchman” sound much more offensive than “black” or “Dutch.” Not that I really care too much or really understand why it would sound offensive to me.
    The worst, though, is using “Jew” as an adjective, e.g. “a Jew Holiday.”

  23. It’s a little different in Russian: you don’t answer “I’m Jewish” to the question “What is your national origin?”, you answer “I’m a Jew” (“Кто вы по национальности? – Я еврей.”), and yet the usage of the word in media was very limited, if not blocked. It all has changed now of course.
    Note that there’s difference in Russian between, say, “Russian” and “Jewish”: “Russian” can be either noun or adjective whereas “Jewish” is only an adjective, and “Jew” is the corresponding noun. Hence, the infamous “fifth section” (пятая графа) in soviet passports listed your national origin as “Russian” or “Jew”.

  24. I recently heard “ложь, пиздёжь, и провокация!” Thought that was pretty funny.

  25. Victor Sonkin says

    “Пиздеж” is masculine, hence no ь.

  26. You know I wondered about that, because a masculine adjective would be used with it, so I googled it, and пиздёжь gets a few hundred thousand hits while пиздёж gets zero and пиздeж only like a thousand.

  27. @Valera: Thanks! So does a Chechen or someone of the myriad ethnic groups of Daghestan or Northern Georgia/Azerbaijan count as Caucasian?

  28. I googled it, and пиздёжь gets a few hundred thousand hits while пиздёж gets zero and пиздeж only like a thousand.
    I have no idea what your Google is getting up to, but mine finds comparable numbers for all three, and the first hit for the shorter (and presumptively correct) version is Wiktionary.-

  29. My favourites in the same category of the Russian off-colour expressions (those related to female genitalia) are “не пришей к пизде рукав” (literally, “don’t stich a sleeve to a cunt”, broadly meaning something uncalled for and useless in the circumstance, sometimes used as a sort of compound adverb or adjective (?), е.g. “it was, like, don’t stich…” – “это было (или: он там был) совсем не пришей…”, the negation not being dropped in those cases, curiously enough.
    The other one is “ни в пизду, ни в Красную Армию” (literally “neither into a cunt nor to the Red Army”, meaning “neither here nor there”).

  30. That last one made me laugh out loud; thanks!

  31. @maxim: “ни в пизду, ни в Красную Армию” translates to “not suitable for a cunt nor for the Red Army” because the full saying I believe is “не годится ни в пизду, ни в Красную Армию”.
    @minus273: yes, I think other ethnic groups like that would be called “persons of Caucasian origin” as long as their features are similar to Georgians/Armenians/Azerbaidjanians. The middle eastern ex-Soviet people (Uzbeks, Kazakhs etc.) will definitely not be considered part of that group.

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