I'm writing Russian subtitles for an American film. In one scene, a character says to another: "How ya' doin'?" The second character replies, kind of half-jokingly, "Beats the hell outta me," then goes on to ask "What brings you here?" The first character replies back, "Beats the hell outta me." I don't think they literally meant that they didn't know, so I'm not sure if "Не знаю" or "Понятия не имею" would function the same way. I think they just meant that life doesn't always make sense, or that small talk is sometimes pointless. I couldn't find an equivalent Russian phrase. Can someone suggest one?

  • 2
    Could you please add explanations of these jokes for those who are not familiar with the finer nuances of English? Thank you!
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 2:04
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    I tried to explain the jokes in my original post but it's bit difficult even for a native English speaker to do. "Beats the hell outta me" is just an emphatic way of saying "I have no idea". As AndrS1 said, I think it was just a way of jokingly avoiding answering the question.
    – Chris Carr
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 2:24

2 Answers 2


I think "Чёрт его знает" would be good one for both cases. If there is a sense of mockery or irony in the second person's words, it wouldn't be an affirmative answer to his question. Sort of like "avoiding answering in a joking manner".


You want something of colloquial but still of a respectable nature, I suppose, so some real-life variants are out. Also, the question doesn't provide any context, and colloquial answers are rather dependent on it.

So, you might try (in the order of growing 'abstractedness'):

  • сам не знаю
  • чтоб я знал
  • спроси завтра
  • All right, thanks. These all sound like good suggestions. Probably "спроси завтра" comes closest to capturing the feel.
    – Chris Carr
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 21:51

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