Wednesday, April 15, 2015


(New Russian)

Computer, in English usually contracted to PC or a Mac, if you are a mac fan, in Russian has become a comp — комп. It is a contraction from компьютер.

The o sound is distinct while the p struggles and appears distinctively pronounced when the word is declined and a vowel appears after the p, i.e. genitive - компа.

A search in the National Corpus of Russian Language shows a puzzling appearance of the word since 1820, probably in a different sense, but the current usage takes off in the naughties (see the diagramme here and examples here). My explanation is that in that decade the coinage, originally childspeak, had been increasingly adopted first by parents, who started using it themselves, and then, as the children of the 90s grew up, by the general public. Comp for computer became a widely used replacement for the full computer, both in spoken and written speech.

The word computer (компьютер) itself is of course from English. It has replaced the 50-60s word ЭВМ (электронно-вычислительная машина - electronic computing machine). What is fascinating about comp is that it appears to be an original home-grown Russian derivative. 'Comp' in English is used for a variety purposes, compilation, comparison etc., but not for a computer. (see this Wikipedia article)

See other Tetradki articles on new Russian by clicking here or on the Pushkin icon. Pushkin graphic by A.Anichkin.

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