Sunday, October 25, 2009

Test your Russian

Here's one for you linguists.

There's a fun (and impossible to spell) aspect of language called "onomatopoeia." This exists in the English language as well as Russian. In fact, I think there are more examples in Russian. Either that, or I've just forgotten English. (I do have bouts of amnesia when we are discussing a Russian word and the professor asks me for the English translation).

With this latest topic we were learning something which I later found out translated to "interjection." We have plenty of them in English: Oh, Ooooh, Ahhh, Shhhh, Ahem, Uh-huh, Nuh-uh, Psst, Whew, etc. The Russian equivalent often sounds more guttural. read more/-

The examples below were listed in the textbook as interjections, but I prefer the term onomatopoeia. I think of them as the sounds of comic strips. When we were asked to recall the equivalent in our own language, I realized that in English we often just use the verb.

Read the Russian sound effects (transliterated) below and see if you can match up the noises (underneath) with the action they are describing.

1) prig-skok!
2) gahf-gahf
3) tuk-tuk
4) tyuk-tyuk
5) tyu-tyu
6) khlop!
7) djin!
8) fyoot
9) bul-bul

What it describes:

a) A doorbell ringing.
b) Something sinking.
c) Knocking on a door.
d) A balloon popping (pop!).
e) A jumping noise.
f) Something quickly passing by (woosh!).
g) A dog barking (woof!).
h) Tapping on glass.
i) Something disappearing (poof!).


  1. V...................October 26, 2009 at 7:16 AM

    Liz, if you were curious enough to find this out, you would find out that all those expressions are mostly used by either kids or anyone up until they are in their early teens. (Ask your Russian professor to confirm this, if you do not believe me). Adults hardly ever use those expressions in Russia. I do not recall ever using bul'-bul' or ghaf-ghaf unless I felt silly to do so.

    I would say all these expressions are not used in everyday conversations. They mostly belong to the literary kinds of expressions. You can find them in the fairy tales and stuff of that sort.

    I just thought I'd point this out so that there would be no confusion.

  2. Thanks. It's the same in English. Most adults don't go around saying "peek a boo!" I mentioned comic books, but children's books and games are the bigger context.

  3. This cracks me up!!! And all this time I thought my friend was saying something like boil boil--when referring to water boiling...she was just saying bul-bul!!!

  4. Ha ha, Karen! :) Maybe our word for "boil" is pretty accurate!


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