There's a one word russian slang for a design philosophy that translates as " working with a piece of paper on your knee". I remember it loosely as ' nakayanki '. Can someone enlighten?

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    And this is not slang, strictly speaking. Just an informal expression.
    – tum_
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 7:06
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    It can be also translated as "ad hoc". Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 10:33
  • As far as I understand by 'design philosophy' you mean manufacture or production, or just making something. In that case it has nothing to do with PAPER, the idea is that something is made 'on a knee', without proper working environment and design. A stock Russian joke may use this expression when a cheap product (usually from South East Asia) of low quality is involved. Can anyone think of an equivalent in another language other than Russian?
    – alexsms
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 12:08
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    Btw, wouldn't it be more semantically correct to use lap instead of knee? Because it refers to performing work using upper part of the leg (knee and above) as "worktable", and that part of the leg is called lap.
    – user28434
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 16:15

3 Answers 3


Could that be 'сделано на коленке'='made on the knee'? This is said when some result was made paying less time to the process and having lower quality potential. Like if you could not (or felt lazy to) use table, but used your knee as the only fulcrum. The phrase can be used not only to underline low quality of some thing, but also in informal speech, when you mark that some good result was achieved in terrible development environment or that some job took surprisingly low time and effort. The phrase is quite expressive, so it is applicable nearly only to informal speech.

As you can guess, 'сделано/написано'='done/written' - both applicable, depends on context (doing or writing). But you definitely can't use 'придумано,изучено,прочитано...'='devised,explored,read...' - the action requires table that can be replaced by a knee in extreme conditions.

Let's make some examples:

- Ужасные инструменты, всё сделано на коленке!
- These tools are terrible, everything has been done on the knee!

- Наша компания вышла в лидеры не потому, что какой-нибудь олигарх предоставил нам лучшее оборудование - свои первые устройства мы создавали в гараже на коленке
- Our company became a leader not because some oligarch supplied us with the best equipment - our first devices we created in the garage on the knee

- Ты сделал домашнее задание? Дашь списать?
- Сделал, но лучше поищи другое - я был занят вчера и своё домашнее задание сделал только что на коленке

- Have you done your homework? Can I copy it?
- I have, but better find someone else’s - I was busy yesterday and I’ve just done my homework on the knee

- В момент основания института финансирование было очень мало, поэтому первые лабораторные установки были собраны на коленке самими студентами
- When the institute was founded, the financing was very low, so students made the first laboratory equipment themselves on the knee

- Они заклеивают крыло скотчем! Неужели весь самолёт был сделан на коленке?
- They are sticking the adhesive tape on a wing! The whole airplane was made on the knee, indeed!

- Я не знаю, почему мой робот победил в конкурсе, ведь я сделал его только вчера на коленке
- I don't know, why my robot has won in the competition, because I made it just yesterday on the knee

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    Upvoted for but also in informal speech, when you mark that some good result was achieved in terrible development environment as most answers and comments are focused on the negative sense of the expression and yours is the only one that mentions its positive connotation, which is actually used quite a lot. Cf. English a hack, French une bidouille
    – tum_
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 21:15

It's на коленке - 'to make something crudely, without using any fancy tools', a botch job. Сделано на коленке literally means 'made on the lap'.

It's not specific to aviation.


I would offer an amendment to the interpretation suggested here by @makaleks and @Sergey Slepov.

While it indeed is correct that "делать на коленке" implies a job done in a rush and with limited resources, this saying does not always mean poor quality.

More often than not, it does: "Учебник написан кое-как. Чувствуется, что автор составлял его на коленке, используя наброски своих лекций."

Still, on some occasions "делать на коленке" is deliberately employed to emphasise the scarcity of resources and lack of time, with high quality nonetheless achieved. I recall a sentence about the birth of the Israeli military industry, which I read somewhere and which I am quoting from memory: "У израильских конструкторов не было ни наработок, ни времени, ни передового оборудования, и первые образцы автомата "Узи" были ими созданы буквально на коленке."

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