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The translation of the Windows Start button's name has always looked weird to me.

In Russian, Пуск is usually used as a launch command in the context of missile launching. It can be used to denote the launch of an arrow, missile or rocket it has the same root as the word пушка, which means a cannon or gun. In an industrial context, a ПУСК button usually refers to a button that turns on some, often uncontrollable, machine, mechanism or process. In all contexts, these buttons are usually large and can be red. They give the impression of being dangerous and starting something that you may be unable to reverse.

Thus when I saw Windows 95 for the first time, I was very afraid of pressing the Пуск/Start button because gave me the impression that I'd be starting some irreversible process, like disk formatting or at least some transformation.

The way I see it, they could have named the button Старт, which is quite a normal Russian word meaning beginning. It's also often used in the context of activities of learning, meaning the entry point from which one begins their work or study in a new field, which would be quite fitting since the button is either used at the beginning of said work, or as the first thing one learns about the new operating system.

So I wonder whether the choice of the word Пуск was just a weird translation or if there's more to it than that?

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    as opinion: maybe it's preferred because both are 4 letter words. Also sense of big launching rocket - I see no reasons for MS to reject that label )
    – MolbOrg
    Jun 30, 2014 at 18:59
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    @MolbOrg "Start" has 5 letters.
    – Anixx
    Jul 1, 2014 at 7:33
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    Насколько я помню в школьной мастерской Пуск был черного цвета, а Стоп красного. Это сделано для того чтобы в случае ЧП остановить станок нажав на Большую Красную Кнопку.
    – Artemix
    Jul 1, 2014 at 13:42
  • @Artemix Ну да. Красная всегда кнопка «Стоп», «Пуск» же — любого другого цвета (зеленого, белого, цвета корпуса). Это один из настолько устоявшихся стандартов, что иногда даже считают излишним подписывать или еще хоть как-то обозначать кнопки в дополнение у цвету. Jul 1, 2014 at 14:20
  • @Dmitry Alexandrov это если кнопки идут парами. А вот если кнопка запускает ракеты...
    – Anixx
    Jul 4, 2014 at 4:57

3 Answers 3

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Microsoft is known for their effort to keep Russian localization as Russian as possible. They don't even like to use the word информация, preferring данные или сведения.

The actual meaning of the word Start on this button is just "CLICK ON ME", according to this story from Raymond Chen.

The Russian localization team probably found the word "Пуск" neat, and funny enough to be put on the button because of its association with rocket launching.

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    I think the start button means "if you do not know where to begin, click here". The "Пуск" then is total opposite because in Russian it means "I am ready, in control and made all preparations, launch/power on the process immediately!" Definitely a person who sees the Windows first time, will not go on and click something like this.
    – Anixx
    Jun 30, 2014 at 17:10
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    «Данные» is «data», «информация» is «information». The difference is that information is data+metadata. I don't use Windows, but if Microsoft made mistakes these two terms, it's rediculous. It'd be akin to translating «sentence» as «слова».
    – v010dya
    Jul 1, 2014 at 11:38
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The localization process has always been quite tricky because, aside from the main purpose of translating the meaning of any given text, there's another problem - the length of the resulting text in the target language. And statistically speaking, Russian has about 20-50% more words than English.

So the word Пуск is as short as English Start and shorter than the word Старт.

The difference is quite noticeable here:

  • Start
  • Пуск
  • Старт

Although without italics, the difference isn't as significant:

  • Start
  • Пуск
  • Старт
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My two cents.

First of all, I'm not sure Microsoft chose it. As far as I know, they had a Russian partner who did localization for them. And let me tell you, some old-timers feel they did a terrible job.

To give you just one example, “[Bank] account” is «[банковский] счёт» in Russian. Nevertheless, “Windows account” was translated as «учётная запись Windows». «Учётная запись» (~“accounting record”) is a completely new expression that was never used before. When you hear it, it doesn't ring any bells.

Even worse, when a computer engineer gets an error message, he/she often translates it back into English in their mind just to understand what it means.

So the question “Why was it translated this way?” doesn't make sense in general. It can just be a random choice or a bad decision.

But translating “Start” as «Пуск» seems to be an exception to the rule. It's a good choice because there's an engineering tradition of using a «Пуск» button to start anything and «Стоп» to stop it. Here's an illustration:

Start button

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    "Cчёт Windows" would be absolutely meaningless and absurd.
    – Anixx
    Jul 7, 2022 at 20:10
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    Because English is not Russian. Счёт in Russian is exclusively associated with counting, not with any kind of "registration". Счёт Windows would be understood as a bill for using Windows (счёт also means bill for utilities or service in Russian).
    – Anixx
    Jul 7, 2022 at 20:15
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    On the other hand, any record in the registry (for instance, residential registry or inventory registry) is called "запись".
    – Anixx
    Jul 7, 2022 at 20:17
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    "Учётная запись" literally means "accounting record", and it is absolutely natural term for what it denotes.
    – Anixx
    Jul 7, 2022 at 20:19
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    @Shtole If it were not for the history behind the use of the word "account", calling a user's files and settings an "account" would be absurd in English too. It goes back to the days of time-sharing systems when computer users paid by the minute. Each user had an "account" because they received bills.
    – David42
    Jul 11, 2022 at 13:48

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