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If I'm not mistaken some character in Ilf-Petrov's wonderful novel Двенадцать стульев wants to damn something. I don't quite remember the situation, but he says

– гангрена (проклятая)!

Is any of these words still in modern Russian in use?

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  • Never in my life have I heard this curse in oral speech. Using diseases as curse words is not that common in modern Russian at all.
    – Vilmar
    Mar 31 '15 at 6:33
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    It is. Words like "Холера" and "Кретин" are somewhat often used as curses although they are names for diseases or conditions.
    – Rilakkuma
    Mar 31 '15 at 6:36
  • Холера used often? Really?
    – UVV
    Mar 31 '15 at 6:55
  • Холера I knew from Polish: "cholera!" :·)
    – c.p.
    Mar 31 '15 at 6:57
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    @UVV it depends on the region I guess, but I've definitely heard it by Russian speakers, especially those of older generation.
    – Rilakkuma
    Mar 31 '15 at 7:20
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"Гангрена" is almost never used. It seems that Ilf (Feinsielberg) & Petrov (Kataev) have chosen quite rare idioms to make their texts really expressive.

Yet mentioned above "холера" is used surprisingly often. Probably due to Polish, though I must also remember quite popular Lavrenev's "Сорок первый" where the heroine extensively used the expression "рыбья холера" ("fish cholera"), which still in use (especially by older generation).

Other examples of non-standard usage: "чума" ("plague"; quite different meanings from cursing upto admiration); "язва" ("ulcer"; usually about waspish person) - though here the word "язва" is used perhaps due to the older meaning "wound" rather than modern "sore/ulcer".

"Проклятье" is clearly out of fashion (if only not to count Ukrainian cliche "клятi москалi" which Russians sometimes ironically use). In everyday speech people rather choose "чёрт" (although literary means "devil" even google-translate correctly shows "damn" as the first translation option), or "твою мать" (".. your mother" - with the verb omitted, so it sounds a little less rude), or really obscene "блядь" ("bitch").

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  • чудно-чудно! And проклатая or проклатье, which I understand as damn, is it still in use? I've heard it only in operas and literature, and I said it in front of a non-Russian who speaks good Russian though and didn't recognize the expression.
    – c.p.
    Mar 31 '15 at 8:21
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    It is Проклятье! (equals to Damn!) as exclamation - not so often used in modern speech, but perfectly understandable. Same goes with adjective - can be heard but not that often (Проклятая старуха! = This damn hag!).
    – Vilmar
    Mar 31 '15 at 8:33
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    @c.p. "Проклятье" is clearly out of fashion (if only not to count Ukrainian cliche "клятi москалi" which Russians sometimes ironically use). In everyday speech people rather choose "чёрт" (although literary means "devil" even google-translate correctly shows "damn" as the first translation option), or "твою мать" (".. your mother" - with the verb omitted, so it sounds a little less rude), or really obscene "блядь" ("bitch").
    – Matt
    Mar 31 '15 at 8:54
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sorry cannot comment yet.

1st you have to remember this is a comedy from 1920th;
2nd keep in mind the censorship and PC speech in Soviet Russia when it was written.

Russia is big. And keep in mind, people often use expressions from the movies.

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  • I understand and appreciate, and upvoted. But what does Russia is big stand for?
    – c.p.
    Mar 31 '15 at 13:03
  • Russia occupies area from Europe to Asia. It's a big country. Mar 31 '15 at 14:58
  • I do understand that, I've seen a map :) But in which sense is that related with the question/answer?
    – c.p.
    Mar 31 '15 at 15:02
  • "Is any of these words still in modern Russian". Even in the Moscow and St Petersburg, people use different expressions. I am sure the older generation are still use the expressions from Двенадцать стульев Mar 31 '15 at 16:13
  • Would I be surprise to hear the expression "гангрена (проклятая)"? I dont think so. Possibly I grew up during 80-90th, and familiar with Soviet Union culture. Mar 31 '15 at 16:27

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