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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Well, I Swear: In Praise Of Real Russian Poetry

Gee. Maybe it's the company one keeps, but Russians seem to swear an awful lot. Who can blame them? Times are hard, darn it. Of course, it's not always the ones hardest hit who do the most swearing. It's a demographic thing, something to do with certain men who fall somewhere between the age of 15 and 45. Women, as a rule, do not swear, although they'd probably really like to.


Admittedly, the fact that Russians swear is in itself not particularly earth-shattering. Heck, everybody swears! Obscenities add a rich and colorful dimension to any language, and can come in handy in a wide range of situations. But what separates Russians from their cursing colleagues in other parts of the world is sheer density. Russians have a standard collection of seven or so stock profanities, no more or less than anyone else, but gosh -- the frequency with which they manage to squeeze any of them into a single sentence is truly formidable. They can muscle regular words into the minority.


This is a family newspaper, so I can't really get into the details. Shoot. But this density point can still be illustrated. Let's take the words "sugar" and "fudge," the favored expletives of my grandmother, who, in addition to having a tremendous sweet tooth, was committed to the concept of a cuss-free household. Were my grandmother one of a certain type of Russian male between the age of 15 and 45, she might find herself saying something along the lines of:


"Fudge -- that fudgy car -- totally sugar. I fudge tried to buy those fudgy parts fudge, but there's no sugaring way I'm going to let that fudging sugarnik name his price fudge. He's fudge up to his sugar in money, fudge. Fudge knows how he got it, fudge. Sugary. Sugary. Fudge."


Maybe it's not giving Americans proper credit, but I postulate that it would be nearly impossible for them to infuse a single paragraph in English so thoroughly with swear words. Dissenters may fax written replies. No one can beat the smooth, liquid flow of Russian profanities -- shucks, they just roll off the tongue. What is it that sets them apart? It's hard to find out the answer from a Russian himself, because when you ask him about it, he will deny that he has ever sworn in his life.


When all else fails, pull out the reference materials. Webster's New World Dictionary defines an expletive as a "word, phrase, etc. not needed for the sense but used merely to fill out a sentence or metrical line, for grammar, rhythm, balance, etc." Exactly! This is surely the explanation for what Russians are trying to do when they swear. Russian is a beautiful and melodic language, the pride of all who speak it. You can't always be saying beautiful and melodic things, goodness knows, but you still want to keep that rhythm going, don't you?