The other day I saw a play based on Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange, which was linguistically interesting. When I read the book many years ago I was able to guess the meanings of most of the Nadsat words from the context – Nadsat is the form of speech used by some characters in the book which combines English with a lot of slang words, most of which come from Russian and are given English spellings and pronunciations. At that time I didn’t know any Russian, so none of the words sounded familiar.
Now I do know a bit of Russian and found that I knew the meanings of quite a few of the Nadsat words borrowed from Russian, though it took me quite a while to recognise some of them. The word horrorshow, for example, is used frequently but it wasn’t until near the end of the play that I realised that it was a version of хорошо (khorošo = good).
Other Russian loanwords I recognised include:
- droog = друг (drug) – friend
- bratty = брат (brat) – brother
- goloss = голос (golos) – voice
- govoreet = говорить (govorit’) – speak
- malchick = мальчик (mal’čik) – boy
- millicent = милиция (militsija) – police
- noga = нога (noga) – foot
- slovo = слово (slovo) – word
- slooshy = слушать (slušat’) – to listen, hear
- yahzick = язык (yazyk) – tongue
Here’s a Nadsat dictionary.