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10 Ways To Say You Don’t Care In Russian – Part I Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in language

Read Part II here.

 

Russian has many ways to say you don’t care about something. They range from neutral to decidedly low-register to downright vulgar. In this post, I would like to cover some colloquial ways of expressing indifference.

Let’s start with the basics. Normally, we say “[adjective/noun in the dative case] + всё равно́” to mean “I don’t care.”

Мне всё равно, куда́ идти́ (I don’t care where I’ll go).

Note that “всё равно” is followed by a subordinate clause. Literally, it means “It’s all the same (to someone).”

A more formal way of saying this is “[dative] + безразли́чно” — “makes no difference to someone.” Note that “безразлично” is used similarly to “всё равно” to introduce a subordinate clause. In addition, безразлично can refer to a noun (something you don’t care about), in which case it has to agree with that noun in gender and number.

Пото́м мы по-пре́жнему и́зредка ви́делись, она́ мне нра́вилась, и, как мне каза́лось, я то́же ей не был безразли́чен, хотя́ она́ не подава́ла ви́ду. (We would still occasionally see each other. I liked her, and it seemed to me, she cared for me, too, although she never let it show.) [Анатолий Рыбаков. Тяжелый песок (1975-1977)]

1. По бараба́ну

A colloquial way of saying you don’t care is [dative] + по бараба́ну. Бараба́н is a drum. The origin of the phrase is ambiguous.

Нам тут всем по барабану, что в Москве́ о нас напи́шут. (All of us here couldn’t care less what they write about us in Moscow.) [Ольга Андреева. Человек, которого нельзя называть. Краткий курс борьбы за справедливость // «Русский репортер», 2013] 

2. Фиоле́тово

“Фиоле́товый” is the Russian word for the color purple. Its derivative adverb,  фиоле́тово, is thought to refer to the purple color of the neutral litmus test.

― От того́, что бу́дет про меня́ говори́ть типи́чный москви́ч, мне абсолю́тно “фиоле́тово”. (I don’t really care what a typical Muscovite will say about me.) [Елена Семенова. Олигарх без галстука (2003) // «Аргументы и факты», 2003.01.29]

As a side note, I am not picking statements of anti-Moscow sentiment on purpose. Look here for the love-hate relationship between Moscow and the rest of Russia.

3. Попола́м

Пополам normally means “in half,” for example, “Они подели́ли вы́игрыш попола́м” (“They split the prize halfway.”) However, within the Russian argot, this word is synonymous with “всё равно.” This usage has made its way into colloquial Russian at large, although you still probably wouldn’t say it to your professor or to a public official.

Нам попола́м, како́го цве́та занаве́ски (We don’t care about the color of the curtains).

4. Паралле́льно

This is an adverb that, literally, means “parallel.” The idea is that if something is “parallel” to you, you don’t cross paths, so you have nothing to do with it. This word also originated within the argot.

Э́тому чува́ку вообще́ всё паралле́льно (This dude doesn’t care about anything).

5. Плева́ть

This verb means “to spit.” To say you don’t care, you can say “мне плева́ть на + accusative noun.” This colloquial turn of phrase is a bit more established in the general language and appears in general dictionaries. You could also say “Плевать, что…” to introduce a subordinate clause.

Плевать на жену́, лишь бы де́ти бы́ли дово́льны! (Who cares about the wife as long as the kids are happy.) [Женщина + мужчина: Брак (форум) (2004)]

Until next time, I will leave you with this song by Yuri Nikulin from the film “The Diamond Arm.” See if you recognize any of the ways to say “I don’t care.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3WuEc2Vokg

To be continued

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


Comments:

  1. Nick Ivanov:

    Hi, dear Maria,

    how ’bout “мне до лампочки”? (Not to mention the really juicy ones, found in slang dictionaries…)

    Have a great one!

    Nick

    • Maria:

      @Nick Ivanov Nick, thank you for your comment. That’s a good one. Stay tuned for part 2.