Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by Lotto74, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. Lotto74 Member

    Ekaterinburg city - Russia
    Russian - Russia
    Dear all,

    In the Russian language there is so-called "(блатная) феня" - specific words and expressions used by professional criminals. For example, "в натуре", "по жизни", "зуб даю", etc. This феня should help them to talt to each other in a way usual people don't understand.

    Is there anything similar in English? Not a low language used in streets by bad boys and girls (gangsta, wonna, etc.), but specific language?

    If not, is there a way to translate such Russian sentences to English preserving the atmosphere of a text? For example:

    Ты, козел, мне по жизни должен, в натуре!
    Я этого лоха на бабки развел.
    Ты, фраер, чего тут понты кидаешь?
  2. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    How do you distinguish gang language from language used by career criminals? I would imagine they overlap a great deal.

    I suggest you just go to English Google and search "prison slang" - I'm sure you can find helpful info there. Other sources could be urban dictionary and criminal TV dramas.
  3. Lotto74 Member

    Ekaterinburg city - Russia
    Russian - Russia
    They do overlap, but not so much. Speech of para-criminal groups like street gangs adopts many words from феня, but it is also influenced by other sources. However, феня itself is much more conservative. It's not even a slang, but in fact a specially developed dialect intended to confuse those who don't belong to criminal groups. While street slang includes common words, sometimes distorted, sometimes with slightly different meaning, феня words and expressions are often self-invented and absent in usual language. For example, the word "фраер" mentioned above (a guy who pretends to be a tough criminal being in fact just a petty cheater) is used only in феня.

    Urban dictionary is not relevant. Prison slang - well, I've found several interesting articles, but all the terms mentioned there lack an air of cruelty and brutality typical for феня. I wonder whether American criminals have something like that at all.

    Or maybe it's me who lacks the proper emotional background to comprehend that slang properly...
  4. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    I'm still not sure I follow the distinction... All 3 examples of "феня" you provided above are 100% clear to me (I swear I am not a career criminal;)). I can see any Russian spaker from any socio-economic group understanding and even using all 3, parhaps except for "фраер" which strikes me as rather old-fashioned, something from the 20s-30s... I would imagine real criminals who do not want general public understand them, would use some novel approach, no?...

    Same for Amercian? British? Australian? criminal lingo. The words general public would understand are already widely known, first adopted by street gangs and then by the general public. The "secret" language of criminals would be something different.
  5. Maroseika Moderator

  6. Lotto74 Member

    Ekaterinburg city - Russia
    Russian - Russia
    rusita preciosa

    That's great. It means we read the same books and watched the same movies. :D

    My task is not to make the general public understand. My task is to create specific literary character style easily recognizable by general public. Those two tasks are slightly different.

    However, I cannot agree that those words are adopted by the general public. They could be known more or less, but they are not used in common speech. And here is the main problem. People who lives in the specific language environment could just know those words learning them from different sources (books, movies, newspapers...) during entire their lives. However, for a foreigner a single way to learn them is to find them in a dictionary. I wonder whether such dictionaries could be found in Internet...


    Really. Зуб даю. :p This is a dictionary, not a live speech.
  7. Maroseika Moderator

    I'm afarid you are wrong and the dictionary is right. At least I heard this word from non-criminals many times.
    Dictionaries help us broaden our language experience, inevitably limited for any native.
  8. I recommend you to watch "Джентльмены удачи". There are many humor episodes with феня:) век воли не видать...
  9. zambala Senior Member

    I think the main point is....

    no, I don't think in English there would be much of criminal jargon...
    But many of so called "street English" words are actually not English words, but Pidgin words....Pidgin is a kind of language which is brought to English/American by immigrants from Africa and Caribbean countries, which is creatively mixing their native words with English words. And for many Africans this is going on for generations, because in so many African countries English has been considered the Lingua Franca for a long time, but except of that they have hundreds of local tribe's languages and dialects, and so they bring it along when they arrive to UK or America as migrants. more http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pidgin and also on youtube you can find....You wouldn't understand too much from it, even it will be "English Pidgin".
    p.s. One of the most widely spread pidgin is "nigerian pidgin" or "hausa" - if you are searching on youtube for example.../watch?v=ggWMWgRkK_4 and Hausa -
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  10. YMOPA

    YMOPA Senior Member

    Repub de Tejas
    Criminal/prison argot in English?? Of course there is and not just one but many. Google up "criminal argot English", "thieves' cant" and whatever else is suggested in this thread.

    Basic Феня is very simple, there is less than a thousand words. The rest is very volatile, diversified by the time being and by geography. Not sure about now, but in old times the Russian police and special services kept retraining on the changes to be able to effectively communicate with criminals in their language: it actually worked, I've seen this in action.

    Here in the US though: not only criminals but also police, coast guard, military also have their special slang that you would not understand with mainstream English command alone. There is plenty of material on the net, but it's all futile: "dog slams inta da big house, dog dig da sing, and whatcha ya is, yoursa ain't", so to speak :p
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  11. rdimd Member

    Latvian, Slow Russian
    I don't know much about English or English-based argots but I suspect that there could be more that one argot in the same way that there are different "Englishes".
  12. rusita preciosa

    rusita preciosa Modus forendi

    USA (Φιλαδέλφεια)
    Russian (Moscow)
    Can you provide the source of this interesting information?? Also, are you talikng AE, BE AusE, SAfrE?

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