Thursday, May 06, 2010

Russian Slang Development and Examples

Here is one excellent example of Russian slang: “the roof has slid off” – this refers to someone as a house, and to their head as the roof. Thus, if someone’s “roof has slid off” – it means that they have gone crazy...

The Russian language is constantly changing, mainly due to borrowing words from other languages, as well as due to constant changes in Russian slang. In this article, we will talk about Russian slang, as well as provide a list of popular slang words. People, who learn Russian, often master several fun slang words. These words can be located when you learn Russian online, since online courses tend to be more relaxed than those offered in brick-and-mortar schools.

Within the last 30-40 years, the Russian language has changed so much that a person from the 70s or 80s could have trouble understanding the modern person. Following we will discuss the recent history of the Russian language and slang.

The 20th century brought 2 major social upheavals to Russia - revolution and perestroika, which have affected the people and language. The USSR authorities used the language as a tool for brainwashing. In Soviet times, the language featured diglossia – the coexistence of two linguistic forms for different uses. George Orwell named the language pushed by the Soviet government - newspeak. Also, the society used vernacular language and slang. Newspeak was used in speeches, newspapers and at Party meetings; regular speech was used in kitchens and courtyards.

During Gorbachev's perestroika, linguistic boundaries started to vanish. Gorbachev’s and Yeltsin’s public speeches combined literary and vernacular language, and newspeak. Most modern Russian politicians have a unique lexicon – their linguistic specifics form their image and serve as a topic for parodies.

The modern Russian speech uses slang, jargon, professionalisms, and curse words. Curse words (mat) are taboo; however, they can be used for swearing, in "unofficial" talks, and to show the freedom of expression and emancipation.

Russians made numerous “borrowings” from English; America's influence is very strong here. This influence is the result of the vanished borders and boundaries, including the internal ones. The popular English “borrowings” include: a model, printer, computer, broker, dealer, joker, and even sales manager. Many “borrowings” turned into Russian slang: girla (girl), drink (a drink, beverage), etc. Russia has been taking words from other languages for countless centuries: Tatar, Mongol, Greek, Latin, French, German, and many others.

So, what is slang? We can learn this by comparing it to other types of speech. Vocabulary language is divided into literary (book words, standard spoken words and neutral words) and colloquial (professionalisms, vulgarisms, jargon, and slang). Professionalisms are used by professionals. Vulgarisms are harsh words and curses. Jargon is meant to be incomprehensible for outsiders. Slang is an ironic breach of the standard language. Slang is expressive and metaphorical. It is used mainly in the spoken language.

Here is one excellent example of Russian slang: “the roof has slid off” – this refers to someone as a house, and to their head as the roof. Thus, if someone’s “roof has slid off” – it means that they have gone crazy. Once this phrase started to “fade” in its vivid “color,” people came up with new variants: “the roof is running,” “the roof drove off,” and “the roof flew away.” This resulted in associations: psychiatrists started to be called “roofers.”

The modern Russian slang has spread to all sectors of society: the nicknames of modern politicians turn to slang; comedians coin new slang expressions; Russian students come up with fresh youth slang ideas. Following we will list the slang words that you can hear in Russia today (the words in braces are the literal meaning of the normal word that was used to make a slang word):

ás'ka - ICQ
bábki (little cakes) - 'the dough'
Blin! (little pancake) - Darn!
vtjúrit'sja - to fall in love
Da nu! - You don't say!
durdóm (fool house) - the funny farm
zélen' (greens) - green bucks, the US Dollar
Inét - Internet (short)
Kakógo chërta! (what a devil!) - What the heck!
kapústa (cabbage) - cash, money
klássno (classy) - nice, cool
klëvo - cool
komp – computer (short)
krúto (steep) - awesome
mobílnik - cell phone
naveselé (in the cheer) - a bit drunk, tipsy
Obaldét' (to go crazy) - Gosh! Jeez! Wow!
oy! – sound of being surprised; ouch!, a sigh
Poékhali! - Let's go!
prédki (ancestors) - parents, folks
prikíd - a getup, an outfit
Prikín'! - 'Just imagine...'
prikól (a moor) - 'funny stuff'
s privétom ('with regards') - a weak mind
táchka (wheelbarrow) - a car
télik – TV
tuftá – trifle, nonsense
Chërt poberí ('Devil take') 'Darnit!'
chush' - rubbish, lies, stupid ideas
shmótki - clothes
shtúka (thing) - 1000 rubles

As you can see, there is quite a number of funny Russian slang words that you may want to master when you learn Russian. Today, it has become possible to learn Russian free – all you need to do is perform a search for “learn Russian free online”.

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