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I've been told more than once by Russian speakers that Russian swear words have some kind of different connotation than English ones do, yet without being a speaker I can never quite understand how. From what they say I gather that Russian is unique in that swear words can be woven into normal words so that a sentence can be made up entirely of swear-words and still retain its meaning. How does this work?

Also, to English speakers swearing is quite socially acceptable a thing to do, yet Russians I know claim that swearing is almost taboo to Russians. In what way is this true?

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    Yes, Russians will tell you tales about Russian's being the best, or the worst, or whatnot-est... Did you know that Russian elephants are the largest in the world? And also they are the greyest! – Victor Bazarov Oct 16 '15 at 16:13
  • As far as social acceptability of swear words, and how it differs in Russia versus, say, US, I say, find me an American PG-rated movie with an 'f'-word in it or even an 's'-word. – Victor Bazarov Oct 16 '15 at 16:15
  • (1) В польском языке, украинском, и многих прочих, нет аналога русского мата. Польский разговорный, например, заимствует мат полностью. (2) Английские 'f'-word имеют дословные переводы на русский: пенис, половой акт, и т.д. Это не мат. Учитывая (1) и (2), мат это шаг вниз в искусстве оскорбить или унизить другого человека, поэтому найти желающего дать подробное описание трудно, исключая извращенцев или очень узкого специалиста. Носители польского языка, весьма близкого к русскому, мат используют невпопад, неловко и не к месту (я знаю польский). Мой совет: не используйте мат. – Avtokod Oct 16 '15 at 21:31
  • I spent 3 days under arrest for "swearing" in metro. – Anixx Nov 19 '17 at 17:12
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Grades of swear words

The point is that the Russian "system" of swear words consists of several grades of rudeness. Say, light, medium and hard grades. First grade is more like childish level; some words that can be used by children, those are euphemisms for "adult" swear words. For example, "блин" and "фиг" and their derivatives. Second grade presents words that can be used by adult people, but forbidden for children, it is not allowed to say them in front of children, but they still can appear on TV or in movies; for example, "сука", "хрен", "хер", "жопа" (first two words also have normal meanings, literary words). And the third grade contains words based on the rudest roots, and are banned on TV and movies, and shouldn't be used in public. Those words are хуй (a penis), пизда (a vagina), ебать (to have sex) and блядь (a whore).

Examples of grades

Let's take English swear word combination "fuck you"/"go to hell". In Russian it can sound like:

  • Иди на фиг! - children's level
  • Иди на хрен! - ruder
  • Иди на хер! - little ruder
  • Иди на хуй! - the rudest, banned

Another collocation "it's fucking good!":

  • Офигенно! - soft
  • Охеренно! - medium
  • Охуенно! - hard, banned

Sentences consisting of swear words

It reminds me a true story about a supervisor on a construction site:

Нахуя дохуя нахуячили?! Расхуячивайте нахуй!

Translation:

  • "нахуя" - why
  • "дохуя" - so much, too much
  • "нахуячили" - replaces some verb in past tense, perfect aspect, "you did"
  • "расхуячивайте" - replacement of another verb, opposite for the previous one, "undo it"
  • "нахуй" - absolutely, totally

So it may be translated like:

"Why did you load so much? Unload it totally!"

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    I thought it was a very illuminating and well-constructed answer about something all learners are curious about. Thank you Cold Steel. Охуенный ответ! :) – CocoPop Oct 17 '15 at 21:24
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    охрененно is more common than охеренно – Anixx Oct 18 '15 at 2:54
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    @CocoPop cannot you in English say "For what penis have you penised it up to a penis? Unpenis this for penis!" or "For what dick have you dicked it up to a dick? Undick this for dick!" – Anixx Oct 18 '15 at 3:17
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    By the way, I have been pointed to something like this: Whaddafuck's this fuckload for? Un-fucking-load! – Anixx Oct 20 '15 at 3:08
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    On the other hand English has "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" – jfs Oct 26 '15 at 21:11
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Well, basically all obscene words, both in Russian and English, are just combinations of several "well-known roots" meaning genitalia, sexual practices and such. Yet as "the basic set" is quite limited, people used to vary their "tools" a little: say, just single f-word could produce either f-you, or f-off, or f-up and so on; this way we could get a dozen of "new" swearings with totally different meanings.

What makes Russian language special, or, at least, what makes some people to believe in it, is a great flexibility due to the number of different prefixes/suffixes. So "perfect swearing skill" in Russian usually supposes speaker's ability to compose absolutely new expressions, or at least knowing truly rare ones.

It's hard to compare swearings in two languages, as usually we don't have equal knowledge in both. But as an example, say, a single Russian "f-verb" produces at least the following: go mad, hit someone, give a dusting, bully, bother, break smth., lose smth., harass, run away, get lost.

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    Also cheat somebody, fire (in military sense), be bored, joke on somebody etc. – Anixx Oct 18 '15 at 2:51
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You can see here a list of some words derived from the same root meaning "to fuck".

As you can see, the meanings span from "face" to trick, joke, annoy, good, bad, hit, flee, leave, show off etc.

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Swearing is not almost taboo to Russians. If you step on the someone foot, you can hear "Блять". If something bad happens, you can hear "Пиздец". It's the most common. You can't hear any swearing in offices. You can't from teachers, but not from students. Young people likes use swearing. Also, I must to say it. Ussually блядь means a whore, but блять is interjection.

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