7

In the following sentence and in general, does вся подноготная refer to the truth or to the totality of information?

Статья рассказывает обо всей подноготной.

I was informed that this expression means basically everything, including all the sordid details you didn't want to know (TMI). Is that accurate?

7

Answering directly to your question this expression means basically everything, including all the sordid details you didn't want to know (TMI). Is that accurate? I would say "no", it means the truth, but with one important exception, that it is the one you would like to hide, conceal from others. Not the one you don't want to know.

From my dictionary

подноготная
ж. (feminine)
Правда, истина, тщательно скрываемые обстоятельства, подробности чего-либо.

The truth, verity, thoroughly concealed circumstances, detail of something

So you can translate it like

All (this stands for вся) truth, verity, thoroughly concealed circumstances, detail of something.

This article explains its etymology

Происходит от ноготь. В старину выпытывали правду путём выдирания ногтей 
или засовывания под них маленьких опилок.

It derives from "a nail", because long time ago the truth was extorted via nails extirpation or shoving sawdust under the nails.

I would like to add one important note

I have never heard this word in any serious situation. What do I mean with 'serious'? Consider a situation: counterintelligence officers were interrogating some spy in order to gain some data, sort of truth from him. Even if they were torturing him, it would be very strange for me, as a native speaker, to hear something like

офицеры контрразведки допрашивали одного шпиона, чтоб узнать его
подноготную.

This word is usually present in colloquial language, in situations like: my representative is a substance abuser, driver under the influence, adulterer and whatever. And someone is telling me, that he is a very good man, so I can say:

да я же знаю всю его подноготную

The more proper definition of the meaning would be:

The truth, verity, thoroughly concealed circumstances, detail of 
someone's life, behavior, morals.
4

It's about getting to know of all the skeletons in someone's closet. The literal meaning of "подноготная (правда)" (smth. like 'undernail truth') is related to medieval torture by driving nails under nails.

2
  • I'd say it's rather about tearing off fingernails with tongs and looking at what is under them. :)
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 25 '15 at 13:03
  • @YellowSky No, they used some kind of needles to put under nails. Those guys thought it too easy to simply tear off all the nails.
    – Matt
    Sep 25 '15 at 13:12
3

Oh! That's a nice question. Подноготный means под (under) + ноготь (nail). So originally it meant a true torture. Thus basically everything is a good translation :-))) But talking seriously, of course, it's a hidden truth.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.