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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clean, Vivid Language For Dishing Out Dirt

"Ty znayesh', chto takoye zanuda?" a friend asked me last week in Yekaterinburg in the middle of complaining about one of his professors. "Do you know what a zanuda is?"


"Zanuda -- eto chelovek kotoromu legche dat', chem ob'yasnit', pochemu ne khochesh'" (A zanuda is a person to whom it is easier to give in, than to explain why you don't want to). If you look in the dictionary, you'll find that a zanuda is a "bore, a pain in the neck," maybe even something of a "pedant." It also, incidentally, forms the beautiful and practically untranslatable adjective zanudnyi.


Although in an ideal world we shouldn't speak ill of one another, the fact is that we live in Russia (not an ideal world), and sometimes (albeit rarely) we need to say exactly what is on our minds. And when these occasions arise, it is supremely frustrating to be left sputtering and gasping, unable to spit out anything more damning than "Ty plokhoi chelovek!" (You are a bad person!). At times like this, we need to have phrases like "Nu ty zanuda!" (You are such a pain!) on the tips of our tongues.


Some adjectives that might well come in handy during such confrontations are bezotvetstvennyi (irresponsible), upryamyi (stubborn), bestolkovyi (stupid), izbalovannyi (spoiled) and zloi (evil). A particular favorite of mine is naglyi, meaning "impertinent" or "insolent." A naglaya lozh', for instance, is a "bald-faced lie" and a naglets is an "insolent person."


A couple more nouns you should know are negodyai and podlets, both of which mean basically a "good-for-nothing scoundrel." The word svoloch' (scum, bastard) is the harshest word you can use without guaranteeing fisticuffs.


In Russian, though, it is not the correct word but the timely phrase that will enable you to get the better of the scoundrels in your life. If you want, for instance, to point out someone's diminished mental capacity, you might say, "u nego ne vse doma" ("He is not quite there") or "u nego krysha poyekhala" ("He's gone mad"). A person who is bez tsarya v golove (literally, without a tsar in his head) is someone whose actions are not actually governed by logical thought.


If you would like to draw attention to how zhadnyi (greedy) a person is, you might casually point out "on za kopeiku prodast rodnuyu mat'" ("He'd sell his own mother for a kopeck").


A blabbermouth in Russian is a boltun. Of such a person it might be said, "u nego chto na ume to i na yazyke" ("He says everything that's on his mind").


In a nutshell, the mighty Russian language provides an expression to put every zanuda in his place, no matter how zanudnyi he might be.