I am currently in the midst of translating a passage of Victor Astafiev's Где-то гремит война and I have come across a phrase several times that I cannot get my head around.


Но нет у меня матери, и бабушка далеко. За дверью кряхтенье, скрип нар, нудный голос: — А-ать твою копалку! Токо-токо ноженьки успокоилися, токо-токо анделы над башкой закружилися, и вот лешаки какого-то полуношника несут...


— И кто курить придумал? Без хлеба выдюжу, без табаку нет, ать его копалку!


Ать твою копалку! — ругался шорник. — Худо пальцы-то владеют? Ах ты грех!


Шорник заругался в копалку, подхватил меня, будто пьяного, под мышки, подволок к нарам, ткнул носом во что-то пыльное, пахнущее сеном и лошадью.


Рабо-отнички, ать вашу копалку!.. Где вы токо и родились? Чему училися? Да стой ты, одер совхознай...

I sense from the context that it is some kind of curse, however it does not seem to me that the "feeling" it produces is not the same in every utterance (I might be wrong!)

If someone could explain the etymology/meaning - maybe having a sense of the origin of the phrase could help get it easier? -, then that would be great!

Thank you!


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    The only purpose of this curse is to stress the emotional level of the speaker. It does not bring any specific positive or negative "feelings" on its own, and while in most cases (like in the quotes above) the context is less or more "negative", it would be absolutely fine (for this person) to use it for 100% positive feeling, e.g. something like "Ах как хорошо, ать вашу копалку!". Thus the meaning/etymology of the words of the curse is not important at all - it can be replaced with anything (incl. totally meaningless sequence of sounds e.g. "goo-goo-boogoo-zhou!) and nothing changes. Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


It's an euphemism of the verb ебать (to fuck) which is found as an element in quite a few emphatic expressions, e.g.

Ебать твою налево.
Ёб твою мать

also ебалки-копалки/моталки and more.

Another very common euphemism based on this curse is ёлки-палки.

In all the quotations it appears in the context of nuisance and annoyance.

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