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Back in the seventies (before the revolution) I worked in Iran and one of my contacts was a radiographer who was partly Russian. He had the habit of shouting "Zapriski Fang" as an indication of surprise, anger or pleasure. He refused to tell us what it meant ("It's Russian" was all he would say). Of course my transliteration and/or 40-year memory may be incorrect. The local language was Farsi and we used English for mutual communication.

I have long wondered what it meant and today I googled/duckduckgoed it (go ahead, I saw nothing dangerous). I got zero meaningful text results but loads of images where I can see no pattern whatever.

So, what is (or was) Zapriski Fang? And what are all the images?

Edit: the pronunciation was roughly to rhyme with "a whisky bang" or "the frisky gang", with the stress on the second syllable. Other staff (doctors, nurses) would have heard him and did not react, so it is unlikely to have been a Farsi or local-dialect obscenity.

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    To be honest, it doesn't sound like anything, and I've tried hard. Are we talking English "fang", rhymes with "bang"? That's a particularly un-Russian bit which is however passably Farsi-like (except for the nasal "ng"). It might be something misremembered on his end (though I'm at a loss what exactly). It might be some local profanity whose meaning he preferred not to dwell on, excuse-my-French style, with Russian as the "French" in this instance. It could, really, be anything. – Nikolay Ershov Feb 16 '19 at 23:58
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    Is there any chance you could record yourself saying it, as close as possible to how you remember it? The voice pattern, vowel length, etc. would be very helpful in at least determining if it's indeed Russian. – Nikolay Ershov Feb 17 '19 at 0:08
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    "Запри скафандр"? Something about "Have Space Suit — Will Travel" 1958? – Mike Has Feb 17 '19 at 5:48
  • the Zapriski part in theory could represent the Russian заебись-ка (smth like fuck me) but this is of course a long stretch – Баян Купи-ка Feb 17 '19 at 8:02
  • @Nikolay I've added a pronunciation indication. – NL_Derek Feb 17 '19 at 18:52
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As @MikeHas noted, this is probably

Запри скафандр - Zapri scaphan[dre] - Lock (your) space-suit up

But I doubt if that could have some relation to Heinlein or such. For me, it sounds just like a very rare saying of surprise (so rare, I admit I never heard this one before).

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  • Actually the Heinlein reference is not impossible; the speaker was about my age (born 1948) and could have been a sci-fi fan, a radiographer would likely have technical interests. If nobody comes with a better suggestion within about a week I'm inclined to accept this. – NL_Derek Feb 17 '19 at 18:50
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As far as at that time it was not so typical to use obscene language in public,and, on the other hand, we can use any phrase deprived of its lexical meaning as an euphemism to show surprise, anger or pleasuse, it can be whatever you want. I like the version with "Запри скафандр" by @Mike Has, but we can't say for sure.

My grandmother used "Забодай тебя комар!", which means "Let a mosquito gore you".

We can say "японский городовой!", "твою дивизию!", and many other semi-decent phrases implying a more swearing phrase, as they are parallel in construction and have sound similarities with it.

But folk non-obscene expressive phrases like "забодай [тебя] комар" can be used even in a group where children are present.

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  • I've accepted Matt's answer because he was first, but I may well adopt your grandmother's phrase (Zaboday tebya komar!) for myself (she will no doubt turn in her grave at my pronunciation). You might want to correct the spelling of "mosquito" in your post for posterity. – NL_Derek Feb 23 '19 at 21:44

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