What is an idiomatic Russian equivalent to "Are you f--ing kidding me?"
December 7, 2017 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Fictionfilter: I need to know a short sentence in Russian that would be roughly the same as "Are you f---ing kidding me?" in English. Specific info re context inside.

This is for fictional purposes. The sentence should be something that a fluent speaker would say, and the more idiomatic and/or profane, the better. The speaker is a man, speaking to a man that he does not know well but has just discovered has an important connection to him. The context should have sort of a "FML" tone to it - the speaker is both very surprised and exasperated at the situation- but it shouldn't be personally hostile in a way that would start a fight because the two characters will eventually be friends, they just meet under bad circumstances.

An example of the context would be if you were hurrying to a job interview and on the way collided with another person, spilling your coffee and stuff everywhere and making you arrive late and flustered, and then the door opened and your interviewer was the person you had just collided with.

I don't want to depend on Google because the character is meant to be fluent in Russian - Russian speakers of MeFi, can you help me by providing this sentence? Thank you!!
posted by oblique red to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Чёрт возьми! Devil take it!
Какого чёрта! What the devil!
Ради Бога! For God's sake!
Боже мой! My God!

These are casual/slang but not swears. The literal translations of the first three come across as old-fashioned or snobby to me in English, but they're very conversational Russian.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 1:26 PM on December 7, 2017

Russian has a profane/taboo vocabulary called mat so if the "fucking" part is important you definitely want to use it. In your case I'd be using a phrase like "иди нахуй" which is, roughly, "go fuck yourself" but is regularly used as an incredulity in the sense of "get the fuck out of here!"

You def. wouldn't be saying "иди нахуй" to someone interviewing you though except of somewhat specific circumstances (I have clients at work who speak mat as basically a dialect) but you'd probably think it.

However there's one super important thing here and that is that mat is never used in anything close to polite society and can denote the speaker as classless, shady, criminal, etc. esp if they're speaking with a stranger. So whether to use mat or the phrases that FCRLL posted above depends on the kind of man your character is and the kind of man he thinks the other guy is (i.e. whether he'd think it's just regular colloquial speech or if he'd be aghast.)
posted by griphus at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2017 [7 favorites]

Is the person saying it to themselves in their own mind or saying it out loud in the presence of others?
posted by k8t at 1:47 PM on December 7, 2017

This is actually a somewhat better explanation of the practical uses of mat than the wikipedia article I linked above.
posted by griphus at 1:48 PM on December 7, 2017

Ебать мой хуй - fuck my dick, but this is pretty profane
Ебанный Свет - fucked world, again, profane
Ой Бля - oh shit, slightly less profane
Чтоб я сдохла - I'd rather die than be in this situation (sort of has a feminine tone to it tho)
posted by k8t at 1:59 PM on December 7, 2017

I want to echo was griphus says. The English use of swearing/cursing is quite different than Russian. Unless you are writing about people in the criminal underworld or something, you probably don't want them swearing like this.
posted by k8t at 2:13 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Бля is shit and would be more like something someone would say if they stubbed their toe. The other day my husband said it when something fell behind the nightstand. While you wouldn't hear that on a sitcom (I think?), it wouldn't be wrong or profane for a guy to say.
posted by k8t at 2:16 PM on December 7, 2017

> Ой Бля

This is what I'd go with. The others are much too strong for normal (not criminal/military) use. (See this LH post on the ubiquity of бля(дь) in Russian swearing.) Technically, it's 'whore,' not 'shit,' but literal meaning isn't really the point.
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

> Чтоб я сдохла - I'd rather die than be in this situation (sort of has a feminine tone to it tho)

It doesn't just have "a feminine tone," it's a feminine verb form and can't be used by a man. (The male form is сдох.) I don't think a Russian would use it in the given situation, though.
posted by languagehat at 2:22 PM on December 7, 2017 [6 favorites]

The Russian idiom "чтоб тебе было хорошо" is something I would expect to hear in the situation you described. I think it's perfect for your needs - it shows exasperation but stops short of hostility.

Since an idiom is by definition a phrase whose meaning derives from common usage and not the actual meaning of individual words, a literal translation won't necessarily make sense - it says "I wish you well" but it means just the opposite (similar to the English idiom "I hope you are happy now").
posted by rada at 2:52 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I should probably add that if the power balance is in the other person's favor (e.g. they turn out to be your interviewer) I would probably say "чтоб мне было хорошо" instead, the difference being that you are now sending your mock well wishes to yourself ("fuck you" vs. "fuck me").

Also, the Russian Stack Exchange is perfect for these types of questions.
posted by rada at 3:05 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: oh, some amazing answers thus far! To perhaps add nuance in determining the optimal one to use, here is some more description of the context if anyone wants to weigh in: The two protagonists are undercover law enforcement/spies from two different agencies who are both investigating the same criminal. The higher-ups have made contact regarding the simultaneous ops but the agents on the ground don't know.

The story takes place at an all-inclusive resort where the criminal is vacationing. Person A (the speaker) is undercover as another vacationer. Person B (spoken to) is undercover as a shady bodyguard of the criminal. They are both informed that they will have help from another agency but they don't know anything except the passcode. Meanwhile, they keep encountering one another in ridiculous, comedy of errors-type situations.

Person A goes to finally meet their contact and is like oh great, here is Person B again - and then Person B gives the code phrase. So Person A is like "are you KIDDING ME, it's YOU?" - not with a "you are bad and I'm unhappy to work with you" connotation, but more of a "I cannot believe this is my f--ing life, this is completely absurd" connotation. For plot reasons that I won't go into, it's important that this statement be in fluent Russian.

Neither of them will be in authority over the other one - they will team up and solve the case as partners and become close friends.

Thanks much for the help!! MeFi is awesome. :)
posted by oblique red at 4:14 PM on December 7, 2017

For a relatively mild expletive that could be said between strangers without being overly rude, consider:

Какого черта...! What the hell...! (lit. What the devil...!)
Какого черта ты здесь делаешь?! What the hell are you doing here?! (lit. What the devil are you doing here?!)

For a stronger expletive that indicates a somewhat familiar relationship (would be very rude between complete strangers), consider:

Что за пиздец?! What the fuck?!
Шо за пиздец?! The fuck?! (same as above, but with a pronunciation variant that definitely indicates colloquial and fluent Russian)
Это шо за пиздец? The fuck is this shit?

Maybe other posters can weigh in on the appropriateness of пиздец in this particular context.

Btw, do both of the characters speak Russian? Muttering something under one's breath is a different register from what you'd say to another person directly.
posted by danceswithlight at 4:53 PM on December 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Correction: these characters are likely on formal terms with each other, using formal-you (вы) rather than informal-you (ты), so my second suggestion should read:

Какого черта вы здесь делаете?! What the hell are you (formal) doing here?!
posted by danceswithlight at 8:22 PM on December 7, 2017

Response by poster: To answer the question: yes, both men speak Russian. I was trying not to be too specific because this story is part of an anonymous holiday exchange and I don't want to spoil the surprise, but my vagueness is a confounding factor, it seems. Since the level of familiarity/formality really affects what Person A would say, and it is complicated in this story for plot reasons, I will risk a bit more detail.

This story is a comedic science fiction spy story that contains, as a central plot device, a science fiction twist on the "soulmate" idea. Some people have soulmates, and they know what the first words their soulmate will say to them are. They don't know anything else about their soulmate, how they will meet, who they are - just the first deliberate, individual communication.

Person A (let's call him Adam) and Person B (We'll call him Ben) are soulmates who haven't met yet. They have both known their Words for more than ten years.

Adam's Words (the ones he will hear) would seem to imply something unflattering about Adam, that it bothers Adam to think might be true. Think, "hey, man, it's not cool to cheat on your wife" or similar. This has bothered him for a long time. When he hears his words it becomes obvious that they weren't about HIM, they were about the person he is undercover pretending to be. So he is simultaneously relieved, and surprised, and happy - because he met his soulmate at last - but also disturbed because as far as he knows, his new soulmate is in the employ of the person he is investigating. Adam is also kind of frustrated/annoyed/embarrassed because he's spent so long being upset over his words and it was all a big misunderstanding. In the shock of all these intense and conflicting emotions, he says the sentence that I want to have a connotation similar to "You've got to be f*cking kidding me" or "Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Here?? F*ck my life."

It's important to the plot that he says this in Russian for somewhat complicated reasons related to the time-travel paradox element, but simply: Ben knows from a young age that his Words are in Russian, so he assumes that his soulmate is Russian and studies the language and culture intensely so that they will be able to communicate when they meet. Because of this language proficiency, he is the person tapped to go undercover in the investigation of a guy with ties to Russian organized crime. Because Ben's undercover persona is Russian, Adam, who is fluent in Russian for spy reasons, speaks to Ben in Russian when they first meet.

(I know this is kind of confusing but I'm trying to condense 20,000 plus words of story into a few sentences, so thanks for bearing with me.)

SO: do they know each other? Not currently, but they both know that they WILL know each other in the future and be important to each other.
Are they on formal or informal terms? well... that's actually hard to say - I could see a convincing argument either way. It depends on whether the actual current relationship or the known future one would take precedence.
Are they criminals? No, but Ben is undercover as a criminal. Adam is not, but what he says is also meant to be unexpected and surprising for his undercover persona to say.
posted by oblique red at 9:21 PM on December 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Aha! Try this:

Еще чего не хватало! That's just the last thing I need! (strongly negative and sarcastic, colloquial/slang but not vulgar, and avoids the formality question)
posted by danceswithlight at 10:19 PM on December 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

My russian fiance uses "souka blyet" (bitch shit) in this context. He lived in Russia until he was 22ish and came from a middle class family, but needed remedial schooling in language arts and his speech skews lower middle class with American informality thrown in the mix.
posted by WeekendJen at 7:22 AM on December 8, 2017

+1 for danceswithlight's "Еще чего не хватало" -- it seems super authentic in this situation
posted by aaanastasia at 12:07 PM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

My native Russian speaking husband suggests: Ни хрена себе! which he feels is close in meaning to "Are you f---ing kidding me?" but less profane than the suggestions involving the words хуй and Бля. He feels that this conveys the note of surprise that you're looking for.
posted by peacheater at 3:15 PM on December 10, 2017

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