Perhaps the most fascinating thing about the book it's language. Alex thinks and talks in the "nadsat" (teenage) vocabulary of the future. A doctor in the book explains it. "Odd bits of old rhyming sland," he says. "A bit of gypsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav. Propaganda. Subliminal penetration." Nadsat is not quite so hard to decipher as Cretan Linear B, and Alex translates it. I found that I could not read the book without compiling a glossary; I reprint it here, although it is entirely unauthorized, and some of it is guesswork.
At first the vocabulary seems incomprehensible: "you could peet it with vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom or one or two other veshches." Then the reader, even if he knows no Russian, discovers that some of the meaning is clear from context: "to tolchock some old veck in an alley and viddy him swim in his blood." Other words are intelligible after a second context: when Alex kicks a fallen enemy on the "gulliver" it might be any part of the body, but when a glass of beer is served with a gulliver, "gulliver" is head. (Life is easier, of course, for those who know the Russian word golova.)
Anthony Burgess has not used Russian words mechanically, but with great ingenuity, as the transformation into "gulliver," with its Swiftian associates, suggests. Others are brilliantly anglicized: khorosho (good or well) as "horrowshow"; iudi (people) as "lewdies"; militsia (militia or police) as millicents. Burgess has not used Russian words in an American slang extension, such as nadsat itself, in the termination of the Russian numbers eleven to nineteen, which he breaks off independently on the analogy of our "teen". Thus kopat (to dig with a shovel) is used as "dig" in the sense of enjoy or under-
The "gypsy talk", I would guess, includes Alex's phrase "O my brothers", and "crark" (to yowl?), "cutter" (money), "filly" (to fool with), and such. The rhyming slang includes "luscious glory" or "hair" (rhyming with "upper story"?) and "pretty polly" for "money" (rhyming with "lolly" or current slang) Others are inevitable associations, such as "cancer" for "cigarette" and "charlie" for "chaplain". Others are produced simply by schoolboy transformations: "appy polly loggy" (apology), "baddiwad" (bad), "eggiweg" (egg), "skolliwoll" (school), and so forth. Others are amputations: "guff" (guffaw), "pee and em" (pop and mom), "sarky" (sarcastic), "sinny" (cinema). Some appear to be portmanteau words: "chumble" (chatter-mumble), "mounch" (mouth- munch), "shive" (shiv-shave), "skirking" (striking-scratching).
There are slight inconsistencies in the story when Alex forgets his word and invents another or uses our word, but on the whole he handles his Russianate vocabulary in a masterly fashion. It has a wonderful sound, particularly in abuse, when "grahzny bratchny" sounds infinitely better than "dirty bastard".
Stanley Edgar Hyman
Word Meaning Origins Appypolly loggy Apology School boy speak Baboochka Old woman Russian: babooshka/grandmother Baddiwad Bad School boy speak Banda Band Russian: banda/band, gang Bezoomy Mad Russian: byezoomiyi/mad, insane Biblio Library Russian: biblioteka/library Bitva Battle Russian: bitva/battle Bog God Russian: Bog/God Bolnoy Sick Russian: bolnoy/sick Bolshy Big Russian: bolshoy/big Bratchny Bastard Russian: vnyebrachnyi/illegitimate Bratty Brother Russian: brat/brother Britva Razor Russian: britva/razor Brooko Belly Russian: bryukho/abdomen Brosay Throw Russian: brosat/to throw Bugatty Rich Russian: bogaty/wealthy Cal Shit Russian: kal/excrement, faeces Cancer Cigarette Standard slang term: ie. cancer stick Cantora Office Russian: kontora/office Carman Pocket Russian: karman/pocket Chai Tea Russian: chai/tea c.f. English Slang: cha/tea Charlie Chaplain/Priest Rhyming slang: Charlie Chaplin -> Chaplain Chasha Cup Russian: chashka/cup Chasso Guard Russian: chasovoy/sentry Cheena Woman Russian: zhenshcheena/woman Cheest Wash Russian: cheestit/to clean Chelloveck Fellow Russian: chelovyek/person, man Chepooka Nonsense Russian: chyepookha/nonsense Choodessny Wonderful Russian: choodesniyi/miraculous Chumble Mumble Invented slang: chatter + mumble (?) Clop Knock German: klop/hit Dutch/Malay: kloppen/to hit Cluve Beak Russian: klyuv/beak Collocol Bell Russian: kolokol/bell Crark Yowl Unknown Crast Steal Russian: krast/steal Creech Scream Russian: kreechat/scream Cutter Money Unknown Dama Lady Russian: dama/lady Ded Old Man Russian: ded/grandfather Deng Money Russian: dengi/money Devotchka Girl Russian: devochka/girl Dobby Good Russian: dobro/good Domy House Russian: dom/house Dook Ghost Gypsy: dook/magic Russian: dukh: spirit/shost Dorogoy Valuable Russian: dorogoi/expensive, dear Drat Fight Russian: drat/to tear to pieces, to kill drat'sya/to fight Drencrom A drug Invented slang: adrenochrome? Droog Friend Russian: droog/friend Dva Two Russian: dva/two Eegra Game Russian: igra/game Eemya Name Russian: imya/name Eggiweg Egg School boy speak Em Mum Invented slang: 'M' from "Mama" Fagged Tired English slang: tired Filly Play Unknown Firegold A particular drink Invented slang: Unknown Forella Trout Russian: forel/trout Gazetta Newspaper Russian: gazeta/newspaper Glazz Eye Russian: glaz/eye Gloopy Stupid Russian: glupiyi/foolish, stupid Godman Priest Invented slang: 'man of God' Golly Unit of Money Invented slang: related to 'lolly' (money) Goloss Voice Russian: golos/voice Goober Lip Russian: guba/lip Gooly To Walk Russian: gulyat/to walk, stroll Gorlo Throat Russian: gorlo/throat Govoreet To speak or talk Russian: govorit/to speak, talk Grazhny Dirty Russian: gryuzniyi/dirty Grazzy Soiled Russian: gryuzniyi/dirty Gromky Loud Russian: gromkii/loud Groody Breast Russian: grud/breast Gruppa Group Russian: gruppa/group Guff Laugh Invented slang: short "guffaw" Gulliver Head Russian: golova/head Guttiwuts Guts School boy speak Hen-korm Chickenfeed Invented slang: hen-corn Possibly Russian: korm/animal feed Horn To Cry Out Invented slang: sound a horn Horrorshow Good, well Russian: khorosho/good Hound-and-Horny corny Rhyming Slang: corny In-out-in-out Sex Invented slang: obvious Interessovat To interest Russian: interesovat/ to interest Itty To go Russian: idti/to go Jammiwam Jam School boy speak Jeezny Life Russian: zhizn/life Kartoffel Potatoes Russian: kartofel/potatoes Keeshkas Guts Russian: kishka/intestines Kleb Bread Russian: kleb/bread Klootch Key Russian: klyuch/key Knopka Button Russian: knopka/push-button Kopat To Dig (Eng. idiom) Russian: kopat/to dig (a hole, ditch, etc) Koshka Cat Russian: koshka/cat Kot Tomcat Russian: kot/cat Krovvy Blood Russian: krov/blood Kupet To Buy Russian: kupit/to buy Lapa Paw Russian: lapa/paw Lewdies People Russian: lyudi/people Lighter Crone (?) Invented slang: related to"blighter"? Litso Face Russian: litso/face Lomtick Slice Russian: lomtik/slice (of bread) Loveted Caught Russian: lovit/to catch Lubbilubbing Making love Russian: lyublyu/love Luscious Glory Hair Rhyming Slang: upper story/hair Malchick Boy Russian: malchik/boy Malenky Little Russian: malyenkiyi/small Maslo Butter Russian: maslo/butter Merzky Filthy Russian: merzkiyi/loathsome, vile Messel Thought Russian: misl/thought Mesto Place Russian: mesto/place Millicent Policeman Russian: militsiya/policeman Minoota Minute Russian: minuta/minute Molodoy Young Russian: molodoy/young Moloko Milk Russian: moloko/milk Moodge Man Russian: muzhchina/male human being Morder Snout Russian: morda/snout Mounch Snack Invented slang: munch?
Mozg Brain Russian: mozg/brain Nachinat To Begin Russian: nachinat/to begin Nadmenny Arrogant Russian: nadmenniyi/arrogant
Nadsat Teenage Russian: ending for numbers 11-19 Nagoy Naked Russian: nagoi/naked Nazz Fool Russian: nazad/literally backwards (adv.) Neezhnies Underpants Russian: nizhniyi/lower (adj.) Nochy Night Russian: noch/night Noga Foot Russian: noga/foot Nozh Knife Russian: nozh/knife Nuking (scent) Smelling (of perfume) Russian: nyukhat/to smell, take a whiff Oddy-knocky Lonesome Russian: odinok/lonesome Odin One Russian: odin/one Okno Window Russian: okno/window Oobivat To Kill Russian: ubivat/to kill Ookadeet To leave Russian: ukhodit/to leave Ooko Ear Russian: ukho/ear Oomny Clever Russian: umniyi/clever Oozhassny Terrible Russian: ukhasniyi/terrible Oozy Chain Russian: uzh/snake (?) Orange Man Malay: Orang/Man (c.f. the Orang Utan ape) Osoosh To Dry Russian: osushat/to dry Otchkies Eyeglasses Russian: otchki/glasses Pan-handle Erection Invented slang: Pee Father Invented slang: 'P' from "Papa" Peet To Drink Russian: pit/to drink Pishcha Food Russian: pisha/food Platch To Cry Russian: plakat/to cry Platties Clothes Russian: platye/clothes Plenny Prisoner Russian: plenniyi/prisoner Plesk Splash Russian: pleskat/to splash Pletcho Shoulder Russian: plecho/shoulder Plott Flesh Russian: plot/flesh Podooshka Pillow Russian: podushka/pillow Pol Sex Russian: pol/sex (gender) Polezny Useful Russian: polezniyi/useful Polyclef Skeleton key English: poly/many + clef/key Pony To understand Russian: ponimat/to understand Poogly Scared Russian: pugat/ to frighten Pooshka Gun Russian: pushka/cannon Pop-disk Pop-music disc Invented slang Prestoopnik Criminal Russian: prestupnik/criminal Pretty Polly Money Rhyming slang: Derived from 'lolly' (money) Privodeet To lead somewhere Russian: privodit/to lead (somewhere) Prod To produce English slang: shortening of 'produce' Ptitsa Girl Russian: ptitsa/bird Pyahnitsa Drunk Russian: pyanitsa/a drunkard Rabbit Work Russian: rabota/work Radosty Joy Russian: radost/joy Raskazz Story Russian: rasskaz/story Rasoodock Mind Russian: rassudok/sanity, common sense Raz Time Russian: raz/occasion Razdrez Upset Russian: razdrazhat/to irritate Razrez To Rip Russian: razrvat/to rip Rooker Hand Russian: ruka/hand Rot Mouth Russian: rot/mouth Rozz Policeman Russian: rozha/ugly face or grimace Sabog Shoe French: sabot/a type of shoe (?) Possibly Russian: sapog/a tall shoe Sakar Sugar Russian: sakhar/sugar Sammy Generous Russian: samoye/ the most Sarky Sarcastic English slang: shortening of 'sarcastic' Scoteena "Cow" Russian: skotina/colloquial: brute or beast Shaika Gang Russian: shaika/band (as of thieves) Sharp Female Invented slang: Unknown Sharries Balls Russian: shariki/marbles Shest Pole Russian: pole Shilarny Concern Unknown Shive Slice, cut English slang: shiv-a knife Shiyah Neck Russian: shyeya/neck Shlaga Club German: Schlager/club or bat (more exactly, something you use to hit with) Possibly Dutch/Malay origin: slaag/hit Shlapa Hat Russian: shlyupa/hat Shlem Helmet Russian: shlem/helmet Shoom Noise Russian: shum/noise Shoot Fool (v.) Russian: shutit/to fool Sinny Movies, film Invented slang: from cinema Skazat To say Russian: skazat/to say Skolliwoll School School boy speak Skorry Quick, quickly Russian: skori/quick Skriking Scratching Invented slang: strike + scratch Skvat To Grab Russian: khvatat/to grab, snatch Sladky Sweet Russian: sladkiyi/sweet Sloochat To happen Russian: sluchatsya/to happen Slooshy To listen, hear Russian: slushat/to hear Slovo Word Russian: slovo/word Smeck Laugh (n.) Russian: smekh/a laugh Smot To look Russian: smotret/to look Sneety Dream Russian: snitsya/to dream Snoutie Tobacco, snuff Invented slang: related to snout? Snuff It To Die English slang: to snuff is to kill Sobirat To Pick Up Russian: sobirat/to gather (people) Sod Bastard (idiom) English slang: from sodomite Sodding Fucking (idiom) English slang: from sodomy Soomka Woman Russian: sumka/bag Soviet Advice, order Russian: sovyet/advice, council Spat, spatchka Sleep Russian: spat/to sleep Spoogy Terrified Russian: spugivat/to frighten Staja State Jail Invented Slang: State + Jail Starry Old, ancient Russian: stariyi/old Strack Horror Russian: strakh/fear Synthmesc A particular drug Invented slang: synthetic mescaline Tally Waist Russian: taliya/waist Tashtook Handkerchief German: Taschentuch/Hankerchief Tass Cup French: tasse/cup Tolchock To hit Russian: tolchok/a push, shove Toofles Slippers Russian: tuflya/slipper Tree Three Russian: tri/three Vareet To "cook up" Russian: varit/to cook up Vaysay Washroom, toilet French: W.C. (pron. vey-sey)/watercloset Veck Guy Russian: chelovyek/person, man Vellocet A particular drug Invented slang: Amphetamine (Speed)/Cocaine? Veshch Thing Russian: vesh/thing Viddy To see Russian: vidyet/to see Voloss Hair Russian: volos/hair Von Smell (n.) Russian: von/stench Vred To Harm Russian: vred/to harm Warble Song English: sing, a bird's song Yahma Hole Russian: yama/hole, pit Yahoody Jew Arabic Yahzick Tongue Russian: yazik/tongue Yarbles Balls, testicles Russian: yarblicka/apples Yeckate To Drive Russian: echatz (pron: "yekatz")/to go Zammechat Remarkable Russian: zamechatelniyi/remarkable Zasnoot To Sleep Russian: zasnut/to fall asleep Zheena Wife Russian: zhena/wife Zoobies Teeth Russian: zubi/teeth Zvonock Doorbell/Bellpull Russian: zvonok/doorbell Zvook Sound Russian: zvuk/sound