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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Glitches in All Their Richness

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Glyuki: slang, from gallyutsinatsiya (hallucinations). Can mean seeing things, or can be a real malfunction in a computer, car or other machine. Can be translated as glitch, problem or screw-up.

My car occasionally suffers from glyuki. When the engine skips, this is a sign that there are glyukiin the spark plugs or distributor. If not properly fixed, these can lead to nyuansiki. These are literally "little nuances" -- small problems that have to be fine-tuned. I hate nyuansiki.

They are much worse than nyuansy-- smaller and sneakier.

I ask my mechanic if he fixed the problem and he says, "Da, no yest nyuansiki. Pri bystroi akseleratsii mozhet byt vremenny sryv v podache toka." (Yes, but there are some tiny problems. There might be a momentary break in the power supply with sudden acceleration.)

What does this really mean? My translation is something like this: You're tooling along in the left lane at 80 kilometers per hour. There's a car on your right, and a Mercedes 600 SL coming up behind you fast. You decide to slip in front of the car on your right to let the Benz pass you. You hit the gas. The power outs. The superior power of the Mercedes propels you into the next world, where you breathe a sigh of relief that you went to confession the week before and paid up your life insurance premiums.

Glyuki in the office are usually less life-threatening, but no less annoying. In a panicked call to your computer repairman (kompyutershchik) you can scream: "Priyezhai skoreye! Kompyuter glyuchit!" (Come as soon as you can! My computer is screwing up!)

You know the story: It's 5 p.m. on the day you have to finish a $4 million grant application. Glyuki hit your computer and the fonts change every other line, the printer network has disappeared, and Outlook is experiencing the software equivalent of PMS.

Sasha, my kompyutershchik, who is a genius with anything that contains a microchip or integrated circuit, arrives to save the day.

He grins, rubs his hands together and says to me, , "Nu-ka posmotrim! Kakiye tut glyuki?!" (Let's see now ... what's the problem here?!)

He hits keys, opens up the processor, pokes and prods and taps more keys, all the while keeping up a cheerful and totally incomprehensible monologue. Listening to Sasha brings me back to the days when I was learning Russian and could pick out every fifth word in a sentence.

Because I hadn't mastered the grammar, I knew, for example, that I was being told there was a grandmother, a cat, and a stove, but I wasn't sure if she was cooking the cat on the stove (that can't be right) or (more mysteriously) sleeping with him ... on the stove? (The village pechka baffled suburban American students of Russian, for whom a stove was what you cooked eggs on.)

When Sasha explains something to me, I hear a lot of familiar words, but I don't quite get the context -- the grammar of computers, as it were.

He tells me his diagnosis: "V sluchae vozniknoveniya sboya na poverkhnosti zhestkogo diska, mikroprogramma vyvodit golovku v zonu parkovki i nachinayetsya protsess zapuska ispravleniya oshibki. Protsess povtoryaetsya, chto privodit k kharakternomy stuku -- 'stuchit golovoi."

Which I translate as: It's broken.

Michele A. Berdy, a Moscow-based translator and interpreter, is co-author of a Russian-English dictionary.