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Babes and babushkas: It’s Russian English month!

It’s Russian English month, yay! I have almost no experience with Russian or any other Slavic language so I have spent some time collecting some interesting links and reading articles, blog posts etc that in one way or another address the topic of ‘Russian English’ or ‘Slavic languages and English’.

The reason we thought May would be a good month to focus on Russia is that the 24th of May is Slavonic Literature and Culture Day which, as it says, is a celebration of Slavonic literature and culture, as well as the Cyrillic alphabet. And, being the language lovers that we are, we like to get behind any sort of celebration of language.

Anyway, here are the links – some of the articles are quite dated, but still interesting!

First of all: Renglish! This is a “an alternative method of writing English using the Cyrillic or Latin alphabets invented by Slacknet Communications, who spent a few months testing and perfecting the Cyrillic version with help from several Russians and a Serbian”. Get a handle on Renglish yourself.

A Slovenian teacher (and I wish I could make contact but has proven thus far to be impossible), username: mitjakus, has posted his thesis on Scribd for all to see. It’s entitled ‘Words of Slavic Origin in the English Language’. Interesting comments follow it too.

Another publication by Maria Polinsky looks specifically at American Russian: Incomplete Acquisition American Russian. (Beware: heavy reading):

“This paper examines American Russian, a language variety that is endangered in that it is unlikely to stay around for generations, but does not come to mind as obviously endangered because it is associated with the healthy varieties of Russian spoken in Russia and in the growing Russian diaspora …”

BBC news has touched on the subject of Russian borrowings of English words and The Telegraph has an article here on ‘Runglish’. (Does anything else besides Twitter lend itself more easily to forming blends than the word English?):

“First came Franglais. Then there was Spanglish. Now start getting used to Runglish, the English-laced argot of “kool” young Russians …”

In an article grandly titled ‘Mass Media Influence on the National Language in the Epoch of Globalization‘, the author notes:

“Following the tendencies of the past years English words are very widely used in Russian mass media even though there are appropriate Russian equivalents. This can be illustrated by the following examples: konversiya from English “conversion” instead of Russian “preobrazovanie”, stagnatsia from “stagnation” instead of “zastoi”, consensus instead of “soglasie”, image instead of “obraz”, pluralism instead of “mnozhestvennost’ mneniy”, prezentatsia from “presentation” instead of “predstavlenie…”

So, lots to get through babes and babushkas. Happy reading!

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Laine Redpath Cole


  • I can speak perfect Runglish then. 😉 And yes, I tend to overuse the word “babes” which stands for “пупс” in Russian. So happy to see my native tounge is featured on the pages of this blilliant blog.

  • It seems that the first blend like that to appear was “Ruslish” – I remember about 5 years ago sophisticated guys who had just returned from a scholarship in the US warned us, potential grantees, never to bother prospective american friends with check (quote) “your poor papers written in Ruslish”.
    Though I must admit the scale of convergence of Russian and English nowadays is not limited to different versions of merging the adjectives of nationality – you will be surprised at the number of teenagers (and adults) saying (as if in Russian) “Vsem respect” – meaning “best regards to everyone” or just saying “sorry” instead of the familiar Russian word.
    Being a teacher of Business English myself I find it increasingly difficult to translate some words or combinations – we do not have anything against IPO/spread/goodwill, etc. But, personally, I don’t consider it a huge threat – some time ago we had nothing to say against computers, TV and many other notions that make our life so much more varied.

  • St. Cyril & Methodius day was a national holiday of Slavic culture & literacy in the sadly now long-gone Kingdom of Yugoslavia; to their credit, the Bulgarians still commemorate this on a national level. Needless to say, they’re pretty important saints in the religious cultures of all Slavs, too. Very interesting posting. I speak Russian, but am Serbian by heritage, and see some clear parallels. I am saddened by Serblish – as a native speaker of Serbian, but born in Canada, I realize its inevitability to some degree, but feel that my parents’ admonition of “speak one language at a time” (i.e. not to mix them) is tough to pass on to my own students when Serbian media in Serbia itself introduce many borrowings, not out of necessity as a non-native speaker might, but for the sheer ‘cool factor’ they bring to news reports, advertisements, etc. Languages evolve, and borrowed words sometimes become naturalized inhabitants of the minds & dictionaries of their speakers. The Slavic languages & their native speakers have all faced worse threats than this & will no doubt survive.

  • My favourite words in the English dictionary to do with Russian are nogoodnik (used occasionally in US) and boychick (Jewish slang for son or young man, also US). Chick derives from Old English, but it is used in boychick to represent the Russian suffix -chik. Nogoodnik looks as if it is the English ‘no good’ plus Russian suffix -nik, but it’s more likely to be from the Russian word negodnik, meaning a good-for-nothing.

  • One should remember the newcoined word REFUS(e)NIK in the 70-ies. Words are born to denote new concepts and things: the USA of the 90-ies enjoyed GLASNOST’, PERESTROIKA.
    The professional slang also includes many words that are all Greek even to native speakers. If you listen to computer programmers or doctors you will decide they speak a foreign language – it’s true/

  • I stopped reading the paper about slavic loanwords when the guy claimed folkloristics came from the “Russian” folkloristika! I don’t think you can get much more of an Anglo root than folklore.

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