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While the method of translating foreign words need not follow a rigid format, I was a little surprised that Russian has смартфон but умные часы rather than смартчасы. Is there a reasonable explanation for the different way these terms are translated?

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  • Maybe it's because everybody uses smartphones, but few use smartclocks.
    – Yellow Sky
    Oct 12 '14 at 7:05
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    Probably it is a question of phonetics. In the word "смартчасы" there is a combination of the consonants "тч" that sounds quite unpleasant. Oct 12 '14 at 8:06
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    @RussianTeacher There is "матч" and "матчасть", so, "тч" on its own is okay, but in this case it is "ртч" which seems to be uncommon in Russian (I can recall only the Armenian family name Мкртчан which sounds quite exotic to Russian ear).
    – Artemix
    Oct 13 '14 at 8:39
  • My guess would be that while смартфон has 2 borrowed root words and therefore sounds okay-ish because we dont separate it into 2 words automatically in our minds, смартчасы will have an annoying effect of the word being too dissonant as left and right parts do not really fit together as a singular entity. Every russian speaker will interpret it as часы with weird смарт prefix
    – Zeks
    Oct 26 '14 at 0:48
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В русском языке много составных заимствованных слов с греческим корнем φωνή (голос, звук), оканчивающихся на -фон. Часто оба корня в составном слове — заимствованные: миелофон, патефон, грамофон, микрофон, мегафон, телефон, таксофон, шлемофон, спикерфон, ларингофон, видеофон, диктофон, магнитофон, ксилофон, металлофон, виброфон, ... Так что "смартфон" отлично подходит в этот список.

С другой стороны, я не припоминаю составных слов с корнем "часы", но есть: электронные часы, наручные часы, настенные часы, напольные часы, башенные часы, ... по аналогии — умные часы.

In the Russian language has many compound loan words with Greek roots φωνή (voice, sound), ending in -фон. Often both roots in a compound word are loan: thought-to-speech device(1), phonograph, gramophone, microphone, megaphone, telephone, pay phone, headset, speakerphone, throat microphone, videophone, voice recorder, recorder, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, ... So the "смартфон" fits perfectly into this list.

On the other hand, I do not recall compound words with the root "часы", but there are electronic watches, wrist watches, wall clocks, floor clocks, clock tower... by analogy - smart watches.

(1) From Кир Булычёв books

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  • Are you sure that "dom" in "domophone" a borrowing?
    – Anixx
    Oct 12 '14 at 13:26
  • absolutely not, I removed домофон from examples list.
    – Eugene
    Oct 13 '14 at 1:53
  • Lopatin mentions радиочасы and электрочасы
    – Quassnoi
    Oct 13 '14 at 13:38
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May be because смартвоч sounds quite strange for Russian ear. It's not clear how to pronounce it - 'смартвоч' or 'смартуоч' because Russian language has not sound w. By contrast, смартфон sounds good, similar to Russian word телефон.

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