Mat (Russian profanity)
Mat (Russian: мат; матерщи́на / ма́терный язы́к / мáтный язы́к , matershchina / materny yazyk / matny yazyk; Ukrainian: матюки, matyuky) is the term for strong obscene profanity in Russian and some other Slavic language communities.
History and use
Obscenities are among the earliest recorded attestations of the Russian language (the first written mat words date to the Middle Ages). It was first introduced into literature in the 18th century by the poet Ivan Barkov, whose poetry, combining lofty lyrics with brutally obscene words, may be regarded as a forerunner of Russian literary parody.
The use of mat is widespread, especially in the army, the criminal world, and many other all-male milieus.
In modern Russia, the use of mat is censored in the media and the use of mat in public constitutes a form of disorderly conduct, or mild hooliganism, punishable under article 20.1.1 of the Offences Code of Russia, although it is enforced only episodically, in particular due to the vagueness of the legal definition. Despite the public ban, mat is used by Russians of all ages and nearly all social groups, with particular fervor in the male-dominated military and the structurally similar social strata. However, it is considered highly uncultured and very offensive in certain social circles in Russia, especially if women are present.
Key words and expressions
The first volume of the Great Dictionary of Mat by the Russian linguist and folklorist Alexei Plutser-Sarno treats only expressions with the stem хуй (khuy), numbering over 500 entries; 12 volumes are planned.
The key elements of mat are:
- хуй (khuy) (Russian хуй (help·info)) — penis, or for equivalent colloquial effect, dick. The etymology of the term is unclear. Mainstream theories include: from Proto-Indo European (PIE) *ks-u-, related to хвоя (khvoya, "pine needles"), attributed to Pederson, 1908.; from PIE *hau-, related to хвост (khvost, "tail"), attributed to Merlingen, 1955; from Mongolian хуй (khui, meaning "sheath" or "scabbard"). This was the etymology endorsed by the Soviet government and attributed to Maxim Gorky, who claimed it was a loan word, imposed during Mongol yoke. A Gorokhovski suggests the derivation from Latin huic (lit. "for that", used on prescriptions for genital diseases) as a euphemism, because the old Russian "ud/uda" (from PIE root *ud- meaning "up, out") became taboo in mid-18th century.
- "Иди на хуй" (Idí ná khuy), literally "go to the dick", equivalent to the English "fuck off."
- хуёво (khuyóvo) — meaning "bad" like in "feeling oneself bad" or about something of bad quality
- охуенно (okhuyénno) — "very good" or "awesome"
- хуярить (khuyárit) — a verb of universal meaning in general and "beat someone up" in particular.
- пизда́ (pizdá) — cunt
- from PIE *pizda ("vulva"), cf. Polish pizda, Lithuanian pizda and Albanian 'pidh.
- "иди в пизду" ('Idí v pizdú), meaning "go into the cunt", using similar to "Иди на хуй" (see above).
- пизде́ц (pizdéts) — "deep shit" is often used as an exclamation. Also means death or end of something.
- пиздеть (pizdét') — to talk a lot or to lie, more seldom used as "to talk".
- пизде́ть (pizdét') — same as the above.
- пи́здить (pízdit') — "to steal" or "to beat somebody".
- cпи́здить (spízdit') — "to steal" or "to snatch".
- пиздaтый (pizdáty) — literally "pussy-like", means "awesome", "stunning"; a superlative and/or admiring term that can be applied to any object or event.
- "получить пизды" (poluchít' pizdý) — get beaten (physically and mentally) from someone
- "дать пизды" (dat' pizdý) - to beat someone
- еба́ть (yebát') — to fuck. From Proto-Slavic jebati and Proto-Indo-European *h₃yebʰ-e-ti, cf. Ancient Greek οἴφω (oíphō) "to live in a marriage" and Sanskrit यभति (yabhati).
- "ёб твою мать!" (Yób tvoyú mat'), meaning "Really?!", "Gosh!", literally " (I) fucked your mother", also serves as an exclamation of discontent
- "ёбаный в рот!" (Yóbany v rot) also serves as an exclamation of surprise, meaning "Holy shit!", literally "fucked in the mouth".
- "ёбнутый" (Yóbnutyi)- masculinum, ёбнутая (yóbnutaya)-femininum, "mad", "delirious", "goosey", literally "once fucked"
- блядь (blyád) — whore, from PIE root cognate with English "blind"; the word was not banned from literary use at the time of Avvakum, who used it to describe various heresies and various expressions based on these terms (as the form of word блудить, bludít, "to stray or fornicate"). Also, the 15th century merchant-traveler Afanasy Nikitin used it simply as "concubine," without any obscene connotations. However, in contemporary Russian usage блядь (or бля; blyad' or blya) are hardly considered neutral words. The word is often used as an emphatic interjection, often without intended offense, and sometimes just the opposite: "Во, бля, даёт!" - (approx.) "No shit, look at him!" - may be said, e.g., about a proficient dancer or a garmon player.
Additionally, the following words are considered almost as offensive, and can also be regarded as mat:
- елда́ (yelda) — "big dick". Rarely used and considered old-fashioned.
- хер (kher) "cock"; somewhat less offensive than "khuy"; the actual meanings of хер is the old Russian name of the letter Х Kha, which became strongly associated with the actual хуй (cf. the term "F-word" in English). The old word "похе́рить" (pokhérit) which used to mean "to cross out," "to delete", now tends to be contaminated with the relatively new meaning of "хер" (i.e., obscene "penis"), thus achieving an obscene meaning, also.
- манда́ (manda) — cunt
- пидора́с (pidorás), a bastardization of pederast "fag", meaning a homosexual male in Russian. The condensed forms pídor (пи́дор), "pedrila" (педри́ла), "pédik" (пе́дик) "faggot" are also used. More often than not (though not necessarily), refers to a passive pederast. Often used as a general term like "asshole" or "motherfucker";
- залу́па (zalúpa) means "penis head" (from old Russian "lupit'" - here, "to peel off" (like "lupit' yaytso" - "to peel off egg shell"); therefore, this is "what you can see when the foreskin is pulled back or removed"). "Zalupáts'a" means "Playing the great man, giving oneself airs"; in A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsin, one of the inmates protests against something ("This is not sovietic!") and is punished for that; his comrades comment: "There was no need to zalupats'a".
- дрочи́ть (drochít') – "wank" (oneself or someone). drochít's'a (дрочиться) - "to masturbate" (oneself). From Old Russian дрочити (to pet, to pamper)
- фарья´ (far'yá) – a dialectal variant of манда ("cunt"). Extremely rarely used.
Offensive words or meanings that are almost never considered mat, but are used together with it:
- муда́к (mudák) — "stupid ass", "git". Also historically means "castrated piglet".
Another often-used derivative is mudílo (муди́ло) which only bears an abstract offensive meaning and is somewhat equal to "motherfucker." Sometimes, mudak and mudilo are used as equivalents of "moron," e.g. Вася - полный мудило, ему жена изменяет, а он радуется (Vásya - pólny mudílo, yemú zhená izmenyáyet, a on ráduyetsya,). Translation: Vasya is a complete moron: his wife cheats on him, but he's still glad.
- муди, мудя, муде, муды; (mudí, mudyá, mudyé, mudý) — "testicles". e.g. Тянуть муде к бороде. Tyanút' mudyé. k borodyé-"To pull the balls to the chin".="To hesitate". Rarely used and considered old-fashioned or regional.
- су́ка (súka) — "traitor", "rascal", "scumbag"; despite original meaning "bitch" (female dog), the term is unisex and is often used to refer to men and has a dangerously pejorative connotation in the criminal world (see Suka Wars). English "bitch" about an unpleasant girl is maybe more equivalent to Russian стерва (stérva), which is a rude word but not a major profanity (accepted in written texts). However, сука старая (súka stáraya), literally "old bitch", refers to a mean old woman
- су́чка (súchka)— literally "little bitch", meaning "whore", "prostitute", "wanton", "jilt"
Historical poetry with mat
Mikhail Lermontov, "A Holiday in Peterhof" - "Петергофский праздник", 1834:
And so, I will not pay you
Итак, тебе не заплачу я:
Itak, tebe ne zaplachu ya:
Oh you, men' wives, or widows fair,
О вы, замужние, о вдовы,
Mat and humor
A type of humor/puns is to juxtapose innocent words so that the result will sound as if an obscene word will be heard. An example is a Cossack song cited in And Quiet Flows the Don (1928-1940) by Mikhail Sholokhov:
- Щуку я, щуку я, щуку я поймала.
- Девица красная, уху я варила.
- Уху я, уху я, уху я варила.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Russian mat.|
- Obscene lexics in birch bark documents
- (Russian) Article 20.1 of the Offences code 08.12.2003 edition "нарушение общественного порядка, выражающее явное неуважение к обществу, сопровождающееся нецензурной бранью в общественных местах ... влечет наложение административного штрафа в размере от пятисот до одной тысячи рублей или административный арест на срок до пятнадцати суток" (disorderly conduct displaying explicit disrespect to society, accompanied by obscene language in public ... is punishable by a fine from 500 to 1000 rubles or arrest up to 15 days)
- (Russian) Задержанных на юго-востоке Москвы хулиганов оштрафуют за мат (Detained in south-east Moscow, the hooligans will pay fines for mat) at Lenta.Ru, 01-23-2008
- (Russian) Министерство связи определит понятие нецензурной речи (Department of communications will define "obscene language") at Lenta.Ru, 06-24-2009
- (English) Mikhailin, Vadim (2004-09-29). "Russian Army Mat as a Code System Controlling Behaviour in the Russian army". The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies 2004 (1). Retrieved 07-01-2009. Check date values in:
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- http://barkoviana.narod.ru/luka_preface.html «Лука Мудищев» — история и мифология расхожие заблуждения («Luka Mudishchev» - istoriya i mifologiya raskhozhiye zabluzhdeniya, "Luka Mudischev" - The History and Mythology: Widespread Misconceptions) (Russian) accessed Aug 8, 2008
- "ЗАПРЕЩЕННЫЙ КЛАССИК"
- Русский мат с Алексеем Плуцером-Сарно - The online version of the Dictionary of Russian mat by Alexei Plutser-Sarno (Russian)
- Russian slang explained in English, French and German
- Cited portions of a The New Yorker article.
- The unique power of Russia’s underground language Full text of the New Yorker article.
- Mikhailin, Vadim, 2004, Essay: Russian Army Mat as a Code System Controlling Behaviour in the Russian army, The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies
- 'Dead Man's Bluff' by Mikhail Volokhov. Director Andrei Zhitinkin. First play in Russia to be written entirely in profanities. Productions of this play have always been surrounded by controversy: in Russia by Andrei Zhitinkin, with actors Oleg Fomin and Sergei Chonishvili; in France by Bernard Sobel with actors Denis Lavant and Hugues Quester; in Germany and Switzerland the parts were played in French and German by Armin Rohde and Roberto Guerra.