6

I am very much puzzled by the idiom "что уж там" and its sister "чего уж там". Let me show you a few sentences:

(1) Давайте везде курить, что уж там, детям в лицо: депутат Госдумы (Source)

(2) Да что уж там, благодаря им выросли экономики целой полдюжины стран. (Source)

(3) И мне линк давайте, что уж там. (Source)

(4) Самокопание, уверенность в себе и – чего уж там – правильное место и правильное время важны наравне с талантом. (Source)

(5) Он вошел с ключом огромным,

Намекнул с порога сам:

– Разуваться? – так нескромно.

– Раздевайся, что уж там. (Source)

My question: What is the meaning of "что уж там" and "чего уж там" when they are used as idioms like in Examples (1)-(5) above?

I tried to do my own research, but got conflicting results. For example, Reverso Context offers a variety of English translations, e.g., "anyway," "even," "come on." I feel that such translations do not hit the bull's eye and do not catch the precise meaning of the idiom, but I am at a loss as to exactly what is that precise meaning. I humbly hope that native Russian speakers can kindly help a confused Japanese student understand this idiom.

7
  1. Давайте везде курить, что уж там, детям в лицо: депутат Госдумы.

Here "что уж там" is very close to "whatever".


  1. Да что уж там, благодаря им выросли экономики целой полдюжины стран.

Here's it's close to "let's be honest".


  1. И мне линк давайте, что уж там.

Here it can be translated as - "Aaaaah, whaveter, give me the link" or "Ah, screw it, give me the link".


  1. Самокопание, уверенность в себе и – чего уж там – правильное место и правильное время важны наравне с талантом.

Here's it close to "let's be honest here".


  1. Раздевайся, что уж там.

It's sort of "to hell with all this etiquette, get naked!".

One can ask - why on Earth this can mean quite different things, the answer is pretty simple though - "что уж там"/"чего уж там" is a short form of "что уж там" plus some verb, let's revisit all examples you've provided. We can rewrite than using following forms:

  1. чего уж там стесняться
  2. да что уж там скрывать
  3. что уж там выпендриваться
  4. чего уж там умалчивать
  5. раздевайся, чего уж там кокетничать

See, now it all makes sense :)

  • 1
    Thanks a lot, it makes sense now. So it seems I have to guess the missing verb each time :) – Mitsuko Oct 23 at 19:24
  • 4
    @Mitsuko you've basically covered all the main cases :) nice research by the way ) – shabunc Oct 23 at 19:43
1

The linguistic term for this phenomenon is called ellipsis - "omission of one or more words that are nevertheless understood in the context of the remaining elements".

As I think of this, different other expression come to my mind:

где уж мне (тебе и т.д.)
куда уж нам (вам и т.д.)
1

I'm not sure this to be an idiom either. It's just increasing the meaning of the phraze and to be translated in context. It's not used that often, in books yes, but not in everyday life. It can be easily said without там, just чего уже(раз всем дали), дайте и мне ссылку или раздевайся, чего уже (ждать) so as it can be seen it's like missing some continuation of a phraze is being replaced by чего уж там.

1
  1. "Пофигу" (переносный смысл, сатира)
  2. Да, "можно сказать" или "благодаря им..."
  3. "Ну ладно" или "хорошо, уговорили"
  4. "Ещё в чем-либо", выражает незнание чего-либо или не хотение разбираться (способ сокращения)
  5. "нечего стыдиться"
1

You can substitute "что уж там" with a shorter version "чeго там", when you want to impart it with the meaning "not a big deal" or "forget it".

This is illustrated, e.g., by the first dialogue of Khan Edigu and the Prince of Zvenigorod in the movie "Andrei Rublev", see frame 1:26:40 in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkCeEYuMyOY

-- Прости, опоздал.

-- А, чего там…

/Implies: "Come on, not a big deal."/

0

You may understand it as "что уж там думать...", meaning that further pondering about an issue in question is pointless. The exact translation cannot be said in advance, of course, and people with different emotional attitudes would tend to translate it differently in a generic context. This grammatical construction, "что + infinitive", meaning that further doing infinitive-ing is undesirable, is rather advanced, it does not arise on every occasion. Another example: "что головой трясти, работать пора" -- "enough nodding your head, it's time to get up and working". It can be understood as an ellipsis itself: "что толку головой трясти". The meaning of "уж" is close to "уже", as it refers to a situation that has changed in one's mind, that is now thought of differently. For example: "я уж не знаю" -- "now, I can't saying anything at all". "Там" means just "there", that is far enough in the mental space, not wishing to think of something: "Я послал туда несколько отрядов, там восемь или девять" — "I sent there a few groups, I don't know maybe eight or ten".

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.