Today, my friends, is the day to learn some Russian curse words. The signs are all here – the Chelyabinsk meteor, the asteroid flyby, the unbelievable видео с авторегистраторов (dashcam videos). These videos alone make you want to curse a blue streak. However, keeping in mind that just like the great and mighty Russian language, Russian мат (swear words) is rich and complex, it’s best to take some baby steps instead of jumping right in.
So today we’re going to learn a few words every Russian детсадовец (preschooler/kindergartner) knows. Before we set off, a couple of предупреждения (warnings).
This post is about Russian curse words. The curses are pretty mild, but if you are easily offended, skip this post altogether.
What you are going to learn today is pretty mild, the curse words used by children, mostly very young children. Unless otherwise specified, adults do not use these very mild curses.
Yes, these are mild curses, but they are still not appropriate в приличном обществе (in a polite society). So learn them to understand things you hear, but avoid saying these words. Or you might end up looking like круглый дурак (a total fool).
Speaking of the words дурак (a fool, masculine) and дура (a fool, feminine), these are some of the first bad words children learn. As kids grow, they expand their vocabulary with дебил/дебилка (moron), идиот/идиотка (idiot), and придурок (a fool). Придурок is grammatically peculiar since it doesn’t have a feminine form.
Preschoolers might use this дразнилка (a jeer) which, although making no sense in English, has a sing-song quality in Russian: Петька – дурак, курит табак, дома не ночует, девочек целует (Petya is a fool, smokes tobacco, does not spend nights at home, kisses girls). Of course, feel free to substitute Петька with your nemesis’ name, although Лекс Лютер – дурак (Lex Luthor is a fool) sounds a bit awkward.
Grown-ups might say Моя новая начальница – полная дура. (My new female boss is a fool and a total fool) and Этот придурок проехал на красный свет (This moron drove through the red light).
Next up is the word какашка (poop). Come to think of it, this is the first bad word Russian kids learn and learn well. I’d say, by the time a Russian child reaches a ripe old age of three, she might hear this word oh, well, a few thousand times.
Since it’s such an important curse word to know, let’s track it through its stages of development:
Toddlers are first introduced to the word кака (poo) in a sense of “dirty disgusting thing that should not be shoved into one’s mouth or even touched” as in Фу, брось каку! (Yuck, drop this bad thing!)
Preschoolers quickly outgrow the кака stage and move on to a much funnier sounding какашка. Many Russian names can be made to rhyme with this word as in Машка-какашка, Сашка-какашка, Пашка-какашка.
However, pretty soon kids abandon the word какашка and move on to the next level, namely the word говно (sh*t, crap). Говно is an adult-level bad word and is very rude. But in the interests of language learning, here are some examples:
Children might say тебе смешно, а мне обидно, тебе – говно, а мне – повидло (you are laughing, I am wronged, you get sh*t and I get jam). Again, this doesn’t make any sense in English, but at least in Russian it rhymes.
Adults might say Этот фильм – полное говно (This movie is total crap) or Ты что, потратил деньги на это говно?! (Did you really spend money on this crap?!) or they might sing this song. You might also hear an adjective говнистый (crappy) and a verb говниться (to act sh**ty).
So we just got from дурак to говно and that’s a pretty steep slope (whether down or up, you decide). Isn’t there a middle of the road Russian curse word we can learn? Of course there is. The next word is попа (butt).
Ok, попа is really not a curse word at all nor is it bad. It is a perfectly appropriate synonym for ягодица (buttock) as in как правильно сделать укол в попу (how to properly administer injection into the buttocks). As a side note, in Russia injections into the buttocks seem to be the preferred method of administering intramuscular injections.
A slightly less appropriate word with the same meaning as попа is задница, literally “the behind”. Some of the most common adult uses seem to be ты сейчас получишь по заднице (you’ll get your butt whooped soon), said to a misbehaving child, and a phrase задницу отсиживать, meaning to spend a lot of time sitting down. Children usually don’t use this word.
The next butt word on the rudeness scale is жопа (ass). It’s rude, it’s crude and kids use it a whole lot (and so do adults). The way kids use this word is pretty straightforward. It can be used as a jeer, such as the classic Ты, ты, ты жопой нюхаешь цветы (You, you, you are smelling flowers with your ass). Or it can be used to say that someone is a bad person. Он - жопа, велик не даст (He is a greedy bastard and won’t let you ride his bike).
As kids grow up, their use of this curse word matures, becomes more sophisticated. Saying that someone is a жопа starts sounding very childish. There are other, stronger Russian curse words for this situation. Instead, adults use this word to
- Tell someone to go to hell as in Пошёл в жопу!
- Succinctly describe the true gravity or difficulty of the situation as in Тут такая пробка, просто жопа. (The traffic jam is really bad with no hope of getting out of it any time soon)
- To describe something that is shoddily made or executed as in у нас всегда всё через жопу делается (everything is done ass backwards here)
- To describe someone who cannot get things done right as in у него руки из жопы растут (he is all thumbs; lit: his hands are growing out of his butt)
There is also a verb жопиться meaning жадничать (to act greedy, be unwilling to share).
Of course, there are other Russian words that may classify as mild curses. One of these is блин. You might know блин in its meaning of “a pancake” or “a crepe”. However, it is also widely used in place of really bad words or as a filler:
“Блин! Я опять опаздываю на крокет к Королеве!” (Darn! Again I am being late for a Queen’s croquet party!”
“Блин! Я, блин, опять опаздываю на, блин, крокет к Королеве, блин!”
In case you’re wondering what really bad word блин replaces and what other big bad curse words Russians use, let me know.