Dirty Russian Book Review: When is Dirty too Dirty?

Posted on June 11th, 2011

While picking up the book “Dirty Russian” by Erin Coyne and Igor Fisun on Amazon, I assumed that it  will introduce me to some good quality Russian everyday slang. However, the book turned out to be a poor combination of a Russian language phrasebook, and a dictionary of what NOT to say in Russian. Let’s take it one step at a time…

The Dirtiest Parts

While reading, I came to the conclusion that the co-authors liked the Russian version of the c-word so much that they used it numerous  times throughout the book. The thing is that this word is not even that widely used in Russian as it may seem after reading this book. A few other authors’ favourites were: the Russian 3-letter word proudly displayed on the cover of the book, and the Russian version of the f-word.

What put me off the most, was that the authors consider these words a necessary part of the everyday Russian language or Russian slang, which they are not. The authors mixed in useful phrases in Russian along with the curse words, and for beginners in Russian it may seem that the curse words are just a part of the Russian slang. “Dirty Russian” readers might end up learning some words that will get them in trouble when in Russia… Here are some examples from the Dirty Russian book that are not a part of the Russian everyday slang:

  • Russian version of “F*****g sweet”, translated by the authors as “п****то” (p. 33)
  • “f*****g mazhor” or “ё*****й мажор” in Russian. While “мажор” is a slang word, “ё*****й” put in front of it is not. It’s a curse word and it is far from everyday Russian slang (p. 42)
  • “with some ho’s I know” (they managed to misspell “ho’s” in the English version as well) – “у знакомых б****й” (p. 53) Word “б****” is not a part of Russian everyday talk. It’s a curse word.

Russians do not curse as much as it may seem  in this book. Using swear words in Russian is considered  bad tone, and this is not the way you would normally talk with your friends.

I have never heard my Russian friends, classmates, colleagues, neighbors or  anyone use the Russian version of the English expression “Let’s f*****g bail already”… (page 21). In fact, what you see written in Russian instead of “Let’s f*****g bail already” is actually a c-word . There are multiple examples of this kind of language throughout the book, which made my hair stand on end.

I should say that you might hear swear or curse words from people in the streets here and there, especially after they’ve had a few drinks. Russians do swear, but the question is should you really learn and repeat the very bottom of the language that is barely considered Russian?

Russian Ladies and the Pick up Lines

You need to understand something about Russian ladies,we are all about romance. We are looking forward to romance since we are little girls, dressing our little dolls in princess dresses and reading Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and the beautiful poems of Lermontov, Esenin, Tsvetaeva and many others. Using obscene or cursing language with women sitting next to you is a big no-no in Russian culture. And if an accidental curse word was dropped in a conversation, usually a guy would apologize.

So, if you would like to get a date with a Russian girl, then please, I beg you, refrain from:

  • calling her «тёлка» (p. 35),
  • or telling her that she has «о*******я фигура» (p. 83),
  • or using the Russian version of “she is f*****g hot” (p. 84),
  • or saying that «она такая п*******оч», also from p. 84 (I have never heard the last two before in my life).

These expressions are not very nice to say the least, and I would not advise the use of them with a woman.

Let’s Throw the Curse Words Out

If we do so, then we are left with pretty much a Russian phrasebook… (Although the pages 98-126  are nothing but an embarrassment to the beautiful Russian language. I don’t know what kind of “horny Russian” talks like that… )

So, besides the curse words and some common expressions, you might come across sentences that sound a little awkward in Russian, or contain some spelling and grammatical errors.

If you were to teach someone to “do a number one” in Russian, wouldn’t you care and spell the Russian version correctly? Words «по-детскому» and «по-маленькому» are spelled incorrectly on page 93, also the words «по-взрослому» and «по-большому» on page 94, they should be spelled with a hyphen.

Below are a few examples of sentences with errors.

Examples of Awkward Sentences:

•    “There is some doodie on the floor” or «На полу есть чуть какашек» (p. 94) sounds very awkward and grammatically incorrect, that’s not how you would say it in Russian. If you really wanted to say that something is there on the floor, you would say: «На полу лежат …» or «на полу … ».

•    The sentence «Не могу поверить, столько есть бомжей в Моске!» (p. 40) sounds a bit awkward. I would rather say: «Не могу поверить, в Москве столько бомжей!»

•    It seems that the author has just translated English “Her fingers are all yellow from bulimia” into this sentence in Russian «Её пальцы все желтеют от булимии» (p. 85), however, the Russian version sounds awkward. You don’t need the word “все” in this sentence. It’s either «Её пальцы желтеют от булимии» or «Все её пальцы желтеют от булимии».

Examples of Incorrect Translations:

•    The expression “now you are talking” is not the same as «вот это да!» in Russian (p. 34). Russian «вот это да!» means a surprise and it’s more of “wow” in English, while “now you are talking” can be translated as «вот это другое дело».

•    The expression “help me out” is translated as «будь любезен» (p. 16), while “help me out” means «помоги мне» in Russian. «Будь любезен», on another hand can be translated as “could you please”, “would you please” or “would you be so kind”.

•    “Grad school” is translated as «аспирантура» (p. 45), when in fact it includes both «магистратура» and «аспирантура». After graduating from «магистратура» you receive a Master’s degree, and it’s an equivalent of Russian «степень магистра». When you apply and are accepted into a Ph.D. program, you become «аспирант», and after graduation you receive «степень доктора наук».

Spelling/Grammatical Errors:

Spelling and grammatical errors started from the very beginning, from page 4. Weren’t they supposed to teach us some good quality Russian?

•    The word «материться» is misspelled (p. 4). The authors left the soft sign ( “ь” )out.

•    The word «потихоньку» is one word (p. 10), and not two separate words «по» and «тихоньку».

•    «Поживём - увидим» (p. 12) is written with a dash, not a coma, and this is something we are taught in school. And if you want to be even more accurate you can use «поживём – увидим» instead of  the English version “we’ll see”. While the Russian equivalent of “time will tell” will be «время покажет».

And then I just gave up counting…

The Verdict

The book Dirty Russian does not teach you fresh everyday slang. What it really does is it shows beautiful Russian in a distorted way. Russian language as well as Russian slang is so much richer and more poetic than it is portrayed in the “Dirty Russian” book. I’m not saying that Russians don’t swear, they do, but it’s not considered the type of language that you would use in your everyday speech. Some of the phrases in the book are not only rude, but distasteful and sound ridiculous, and not very Russian. The authors are boasting on the back cover of the book that the book contains the “expressions they never teach you in school”… Well, maybe there is a reason for that?

If you want you can purchase the book and see for yourself, but please, be careful using this kind of language in your speech. You might end up being alone, embarrassed and  misunderstood, or even worse, beat up by big Russian ambal (“амбал” or a big guy, strapper) for this kind of talk…

And, of course, don’t forget to subscribe to www.FunRussian.com for more fun Russian lessons or join FunRussian on Facebook or Twitter for the word of the day and other fun stuff.

Well, have great day, and I’ll speak with you soon! :-D

Viktoria.

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