Consider the following idiom:

Тут сам чёрт ногу сломит.

As I perceive it, it describes something very complex that one can hardly get through. It can be either something physical like a maze or jungles or something conceptual like a piece of music to be played, a math problem, crossword puzzle, circuit diagram of some electronic device, some complicated statistical database, etc.

I wonder if there is some other idiom in Russian describing pretty much the same thing, yet without the word "чёрт"?

  • 5
    There is, obviously, a "без пол-литра не разберешься", but something tells me that you are not going to like the "пол-литра" either. Sep 7, 2012 at 10:33
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    @dasblinkenlight Post that as an answer - I'll definitely upvote.
    – Aleks G
    Sep 7, 2012 at 11:35

6 Answers 6


Actually, this very idiom has an idiomatic shortening - "ногу сломишь".

For example,

Ногу сломишь с этими налогами


А выкатывать самостоятельно даже не пробуй - ногу сломишь. I guess this counts for non-mentioning the devil ;)

Also, by analogy, "сам чёрт не разберёт" is related to "поди разберись", which is said about something very complicated and confusing.

Да уж, поди разберись теперь в этих хитросплетениях.

Also note that it is spelled поди, not пойди (though the latter form is also used).


There is, obviously, a rather colloquial

без пол-литра не разберешься (loosely translated as "it's too hard for a sober mind")

but something tells me that you are not going to like the "пол-литра" either.


In addition to what shabunc said, you can try something like this

Эта задача не для средних умов

this expression marks task or text requiring good education and sharp wits

Над этой задачей придется хорошенько поломать голову

pretty self-explanatory, about very complicated tasks requiring much intellectual work to complete.

Эта задача не для слабых духом (вариант: сердцем)

this expression marks task or text, requiring great effort of some sort.

in colloquial speech some other idioms are used, as noted earlier без пол-литра не разберешься or это просто вынос мозга (youth slang).


1.Speaking about very complex, hardly understandable. В его формулах и выводах сам чёрт ногу сломит.

Synonym: Китайская грамота

2.Something in great disorder, chaotic. Impossible to go through.

Круглый год в городе царствовала та хлопотливая неурядица, около которой можно было греть руки, зная вперед, что тут черт ногу сломит, прежде чем до чего-нибудь доищется. Салтыков-Щедрин. Пошехонская старина

Synonym: Левая рука не знает, что делает правая. Дурдом, бардак и хаос. Большая заморока.

  • I find it ironic that the expression "Китайская грамота" is used by speakers of Russian, as if their own language is free from all the bizarre rules that make grammars complicated :) Dec 3, 2012 at 16:46
  • Chinese language at first glance looks like impossible to know.
    – las
    Dec 5, 2012 at 0:07
  • @dasblinkenlight: Китайская грамота is not used to express that something is in complete disorder (like сам черт ногу сломит). It is just used to say that something is difficult to understand for example because of lack of education. It usually goes like that: Это для меня китайская грамота. And what do you have against Russian language rules!? To me they are perfectly logical :-)).
    – farfareast
    Dec 7, 2012 at 21:41
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    @dasblinkenlight: Yes, obviously, I was joking.
    – farfareast
    Dec 7, 2012 at 22:05
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    @dasblinkenlight - "I find it ironic that the expression "Китайская грамота" is used by speakers of Russian, as if their own language is free from all the bizarre rules that make grammars..." - Why do you find it ironic? The expression is "Китайская грамота", not "Китайская грамматика"! It doesn't mean Chinese grammar at all (which is in fact very simple), but rather it refers to Chinese writing system, which is way more complicated than the Russian one. This expression describes an official Chinese document, which, of course, looks very complicated due to Chinese characters.
    – brilliant
    Dec 16, 2012 at 13:58

Here's a few I could think of:

Это тебе не хухры-мухры
Это тебе не халам-балам
Это тебе не цацки-пуцки
Это тебе не пипку дёргать :-)
Тут придётся голову поломать
Задачка не для средних умов

Please feel free to edit my post if you find any of the expressions inappropriate for this website. E.g. #4.


You actually asking for English idiom, similar for this one. I'd suggest "It's just rocket science for me" or it's "Chinese"\"Hebrew" to me. Use it, Russians love to use lot of idioms in their speech...

  • 1
    What makes you think I am asking for an English idiom?
    – brilliant
    Dec 13, 2012 at 22:03
  • I don't think you're answering the question asked.
    – Aleks G
    Dec 14, 2012 at 6:54

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