literally, “whore.” This word is usually encountered in its contracted form “blya,” a particle used mainly for emphasis, adding a touch of lurid color at the end of absolutely any phrase. “Ty chyo, blya?” (What the fuck are you doing/saying?) could be an act of friendly raillery or the verbal prelude to a headbutt. The B-word is also a common cri-de-coeur: you stub your toe — “Blya!” Some people are so addicted that they use the word to season even the most banal utterance. Eg. “A on, blya, mne skazal, blya, chto ya, blya...” This is the meat in the dumpling of Russian mat — it’s impossible to imagine a conversation with a taxi driver without it.Khui
literally, “cock.” The first thing after “hello” that people learn how to say in a foreign language is “fuck off,” and some manage to get by thereafter on these two phrases alone. “Idi na khui!” is the Russian equivalent, literally meaning “Go to the penis!” Yes, I know it sounds silly in translation. But what makes the system of Russian mat so interesting are the derivatives. “Okhuyet” is to be extremely surprised, like when you see your friend Vasya puking in the gutter. He would then report to be feeling “khuyovo.” Also worth remembering are “Ni khuya sebe!” — “No fucking way!” and the derivative “khuinya” — bollocks, bullshit.Pizda
literally, “cunt.” If you’re tired of sending people to the penis, you can send them “v pizdu” for the sake of variety. Derivatives abound from this particularly crude item: your new mobile you might describe as “pizdaty,” or if you doubt the truth of a statement, you could say “Chyo ty pizdish?” — “Why are you talking through your...?” Well, you know what. Perhaps the most useful incarnation of this word is “pizdets,” meaning a “total fuck up.” The phrase “Eto prosto pizdets!” expresses the sublime degree of misery, a predicament where things can get no worse. Anyone been to Kaluga?Mudak
literally, “testicle.” This word is never used in its original meaning, but has come into common currency to mean an “asshole” or “dickhead,” i.e. a man you find disagreeable. This word is at the softcore end of the mat spectrum, but a phrase like “on polny mudak,” is still a dire condemnation of anyone it is used to denote. When a shapka-wearing Volga driver cuts you off on the Garden Ring, “mudak!” is what you shout out of your window at him. A younger “mudak” could be tenderly referred to as a “mudachok,” while an adult male could also be termed a “mudilo” — a particularly unpleasant subspecies of the “mudak.”Yebat
literally, “to fuck.” This verb has all the primary meanings you’d expect it to have, with a couple of juicy extras unknown to English. “Zaebat” means to exhaust, to make sick of. “On menya zaebal!” means “I’m sick to fucking death of him.” For the virtuoso mat-user, “vyebyvatsya” means to show off in some crass or reprehensible way, and for me always conjures up the image of elitny hairdresser Sergey Zveryev. To fuck someone up is “otyebat,” and the reflexive form “otyebis!” means “get the fuck away from me!” Also, “zayebis!” is a nice mat variant of “khorosho” or “kruto.” For example, “Vsyo zayebis!” — “Everything’s fucking great!”Srat
literally, “to shit.” This word has spawned a mass of colorful derivatives. An enduring favorite is “zasranets” — a pest, often used affectionately. “Obosratsya” literally means to shit oneself, but is most often employed to mean “to fuck up” i.e. “to make an embarassing mistake.” To criticize something savagely is “obsirat” — to shit all over it. “Chto ty nashu stranu obsirayesh?” is a phrase heard by any foreigner who has ever tried to argue with a Russian nationalist. The verb “prosrat’” is an obscene version of “to lose.” “Opyat nashi prosrali” is what people say after seeing the Russian football team play.A combination of the above.
The ur-text of Russian mat is, needless to say, the lyrics of Leningrad. The song “Den Rozhdeniya” from the album “Dachniki” culminates in the impressive riff, “Vse zayebalo! Pizdets na khui blyad!” roughly translatable as “Fuck it all! Fucking load of bullshit!” In the song, this phrase is the mournful outburst of a man so weary of life that he doesn’t even want to celebrate his birthday. Other permutations like “Idi v pizdu, blya, mudak” are also possible. Warning: if English swearing is like beer, Russian mat is like vodka — it’s effect is stronger and foreigners should be wary when using it. Take your lead from your interlocutor: if they use mat, then you can too. • FM
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