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How do Russians say "I was honking at him"? Here I have several options, but none of them sounds okay to me:

  1. Я бибикал ему. (sounds too childish and silly)
  2. Я сигналил ему. (can mean signaling only by means of lights)
  3. Я подавал ему сигнал. (same as above, plus too scientific)
  4. Я гудел ему. (don't really know)

What would be an appropriate translation in Russian?

1
  • 1
    If you aim for precision, as in a court room, then it's "Я подавал ему звуковой сигнал". In formal settings that do not require such precision, #2 is the best. #1 and #4 work fine in everyday informal settings. – Sergey Kalinichenko Aug 12 '13 at 14:59
4

I personally like 1), 2) , and 4). I'd say that 2) is the best option of all. It doesn't mean only switching on and off your lights, it can (and often does) refer to honking.

1) is not necessarily childish, it is used as widely as 2), but it is somewhat colloquial.

4) is rare, in my opinion.

3), though grammatically correct, is too formal. It is probably what is written in the driving regulations.

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  • Yes, 3) is exactly how it's written in driving regulation rules. Signaling with lights is more often called "моргать", esp. in colloquial speech. I've met that in printed auto magazines, though. – kirilloid Jul 9 '12 at 8:36
4

No. 2 is the most appropriate translation, both in use and more formally. The official expression for 'horn' is звуковой сигнал. The very formal expression is подать звуковой сигнал however without ему.

No. 4 is more related to a ship or a locomotive.

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  • Погудеть is the best option in my opinion because it strikes a good balance between formal and informal speech.
  • Бибикать is a common word in everyday speech, but you usually don't see it in writing. I wouldn't say it's childish, it's simply very informal.
  • Сигналить or подавать сигнал can refer to any signal, and this can be misinterpreted as flashing the lights on and off, for example. Therefore, it is unsuitable if you only want to say about honking unless it is clear from the context.
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Гудеть, гудок is used in professional drivers slang. You can see this word in the online Словарь автолюбителя dictionary for example. So, the professional driver would likely say:

Я погудел ему.

However, more correct way would be:

Я посигналил ему.

But this would tell the professionals that you are not a real driver, just автолюбитель (this is like sailors say компас, while non-sailors say компас).

Another interesting term is гукнуть - which means give a short signal to attract someone's attention. This signal is very short, so it can be done even when sound signals are prohibited by driving rules (in the cities, or by special sign).

It is worth mentioning that it is used in Nabokov's Lolita:

Тут колоссальный грузовик вырос за машиной Траппа и с громом проехал мимо меня, после чего я услышал, как он судорожно гукнул. [В. В. Набоков. Лолита (1967)]

1

First of all, in about 80% of situations, I would put the words in a different order: "Я ему бибикнул/просигналил/гуднул/whatever". Both grammatical forms are acceptable though.

The absolutely precise and formal construct for something like a court record is "Я подал (ему) звуковой сигнал". "Я (про)сигналил" is fine enough for the formal common speech but a bit ambiguous because it also can mean "I waved at him", "I flashed my headlights", etc. The word "бибикнул" may sound childish, but it is a common enough and a neutral enough word, and it is what I often say myself when on the road: "Ну что, побибикать ему что ли?" or "Кто это там сзади бибикает?". The word "гуднул" has a connotation of a short and authoritative signal like "I'm the boss here!". "Я ему гудел" means "I was (have been) honking" (usually without any effect). That's what a driver will say if, for instance, he hits a pedestrian who went to the road without paying any attention to the approaching car.

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