Saturday, June 30, 2012

Achtung, or Why job-is-done sounds offensive (Russian office slang).

Read Russian version of this article here.

Earlier this year I was commissioned to write the blog “Как в Европе” (As in Europe) on the Russian business website, the news and analysis portal for a major radio network in the country. 

Business writing, naturally, has its own jargon. To keep up with current business Russian I’ve been reading up BFM and other publications with a focus on economy. A recent article by Dmitri Mungalov and Yekaterina Tropova  gives an excellent overview and a glossary of some of the words and phrases – not all of them ‘Runglish’ – used by office workers.

Slang, of course, is slang, it may disappear quickly but some words and phrases may go into mainstream language. 

Here are a few gems from the article.

Ахтунг – from German Achtung (attention, alert). Russians know this word from war movies and jokes. In office parlance it means something completely different. It’s used for a company conference or meeting where sloppy workers are given a show thrashing by the bosses. Declines as a Russian noun: на ахтунге.

Хурал - khural, from Mongolian for council, assembly. The word has long been used in Russian as a synonym for a large meeting, especially an unruly one. In office slang it is used, according to BFM writers, for general assembly. 

Фуй - fui, from FYI (for your information) read phonetically, with the English ‘y’ read as the similarly looking “у” [u, or u:]. This one is wonderful, because ‘fui’ is not only a slightly archaic interjection of disapproval or disgust, but also a mask-word for the very powerful, unprintable swear-word “хуй” (khui - cock). BFM says фуй is widely used in office correspondence.

Асап - [asʌp] from English abbreviation ASAP (as soon as possible). It has acquired verbal forms (проасапить - to do smth asap) and has become part of a paraphrase of the Russian proverb “поспешишь – людей насмешишь” (haste and make yourself a laughing stock, close to ‘no haste, no waste’) – “ноу асап – ноу факап” (no asap – no fuckup). The rhyming here comes from phonetic pronunciation of asap.

Факап - from ‘fuck-up’, was one of the most often cited words that are used in office slang, with verbal form профакапить (profakapit’ - to fail a project).

Жопиздан [zhɔpizdɑn] - from ‘job is done’, is another monster because it includes two strong invectives: zhópa - ass, stronger in Russian than in English, and pizdá, an ‘unprintable’ maternoye Russian word for ‘cunt’. It is said to be used, though, in the same meaning as in English – finishing a project.

The next two examples are interesting in that the first one shows how borrowings are adapted to Russian phonetic norms and the second how English borrowings commonly change pronunciation when one or more letters are deliberately read as the similar looking Russian letters.

Чипово - сhipovo - adverb, from ‘cheap’, meaning, in PR or advertising, an unacceptably cheap look. Though authors don’t indicate how it is pronounced, I assume it follows the pattern “хренóво” (bad, bad state, bad quality) and has the stress on the first ‘o’ – chipóvo. 

Лахари - lakhari, from English ‘luxury’. Russian letter ‘x’ represents the sound ‘kh’, a hard sound in Russian, close to Welsh or German ‘ch’. ‘Luxury target [audience]’ becomes “лахари таргет”.

Some common brand names are also phonetically transformed. 

Майкрософт интернет испортил - from Microsoft Internet Explorer. Explorer becomes ‘isportil’ - spoiled, destroyed – Microsoft spoiled the Internet. 

Aрбуз - arbuz - watermelon, for Airbus.

Бобик - bobik - common word or name for a small dog, for Boeing.

Mамба - mamba - a snake, for MMВБ, the major Moscow exchange.

Дохлики - dokhliki - dead ones, waifs, for DHL.

Read the full article and the glossary on, some additional examples are in comments.
Picture by Tetradki/A.Anichkin.

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