Dll ndil Mdyakh Lziifi?
Richie: It's in Russian.
Eddie: You just put the R's the wrong way round?!
THAT'S WHAT RUSSIAN IS!
In a lot of Western posters, you see something that could be called "Faux Cyrillic"
— replacing Latin characters by visually similar Cyrillic ones, to make something look more Russian
. Don't expect them to be consistent with it, though.
The perpetrators ignore the fact that these letters are, in actual Russian, pronounced completely differently from the Latin characters they are supposed to represent, which results in unintended hilarity
for members of the audience who can read Cyrillic script
. This is because Cyrillic is based on a combination of Greek, Glagolitic and some Hebrew letters (ц and ш), but due to reforms by Peter the Great it has the same basic design principles as the Latin alphabet (stroke thickness and placement, etc.).
Below is a list of popular letters used with this trope, and their proper Latin spellings:
- R: 'Я' (ya). The Trope Namer.
- N: 'И' (i), 'П' (p)
- A: 'Д' (d)note
- O: 'Ф' (f)
- W: 'Ш' (sh), 'Щ' (shch)
- X: 'Ж' (zh) (pronounced like the 's' in 'pleasure'), 'X' (kh, like ch in 'loch')
- B: 'В' (v), 'Б' (b), 'Ь' (soft sign), 'Ъ' (hard sign)
- E: 'Э' (æ), 'З' (z), 'е' (ye/e)
- U: 'Ц' (ts)
- Y: 'Ч' (ch) or 'У' (oo)
- H: 'Н' (n)
- 6: 'б' (b)
Many more could be listed here, but for different reasons, since many Cyrillic letters look exactly like other Latin letters, but represent entirely different phonemes.
This can also happen with alphabets other than Cyrillic. Probably most common in that case is the use of the Greek letter sigma (Σ) as an E or delta (Δ) or lambda (Λ) as an A, even though "E" and "A" are actually perfectly good Greek letters themselves. (Sigma, delta, and lambda are actually the analogues of S, D and L, respectively, although delta is a "th" as in "th
en" in modern Greek.) Compare Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut
and Gratuitous Foreign Language
- There's a UK insurance ad featuring a Backwards R and Socialist Realism style art.
- Aversion: Toys "Я" Us, probably the most famous backwards R in the U.S., is not an example of this trope. The intent was to imitate the way young children first learn to write the alphabet, with the common mistake of writing some of the letters backwards. Whenever they print their name in normal writing in a catalogue, on their website or otherwise, they just use a normal R.
- A 2013 ad for Clorox features Bud, DiЯectoЯ of KitcheИ SaИitatioИ who has a stereotypical faux-Russian accent.
- The Firesign Theatre's LP How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All, with its "All Hail Marx and Lennon" poster, as seen above.
- Letterer Ken Bruzenak frequently used this trope on American Flagg — particularly in the second series (formally, Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!). In that series, set mostly in a wildly capitalistic future Russia, the series logo itself is in a Faux Cyrillic font.
- Superman: Red Son, the Millar Elseworlds take on Superman landing in Ukraine instead of Kansas, has this all over the place on the titles and the chapter headings (and the initial letter of Narrator!Superman's text boxes). Averted fairly hard in the background of scenes set in the Soviet Union; one popular image in the second and third books is Superman's face with ДOBEPИE (an actual Russian word meaning "trust" and pronounced approximately "doverie") written underneath.
- Spirou and Fantasio had this in "Spirou à Moscou". One character even explained that he spoke french pretty well, except for sometimes still reversing the R and the N.
- Chernobyl Diaries: Or, as a person who can read Cyrilic would see, Sneyapovul Diayaies.
- Borat provides a particularly well-known use of the Cyrillic Д ('D') in place of A. ("Vordt"?)
- With the Я, it becomes more "Voyadt."
- The opening credits of Red Heat, where Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a Soviet cop.
- The Hunt for Red October displays this, including a mislabeling of the sub itself.
- Some of the signs in Repo! The Genetic Opera use the 'Я' and the 'Д'.
- The History Channel's documentary Russia: Land of the Tsars◊.
- The film about the Dyatlov Pass Incident has a fairly incomprehensible name.
- 'Siberian Education' uses it.
- Parodied in Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka. The Ukrainian character Andriy is searching for a girl called Vagvaga Riskegipd, who wrote down her name for him when he met her on a trip to England as a young boy. In the end he realises that although he's been reading it as Cyrillic, she actually wrote it in Roman script, and her name is Barbara Pickering.
- Inverted in a Hercule Poirot novel, where the initials on a handkerchief read "A.P", so he questions all people with the initials "A.P." However, the Cyrillic "R" looks like a "P". Guess where someone Poirot never suspects comes from...
- Not quite this trope, but related: in Murder on the Orient Express, one of the clues is a monogrammed handkerchief with the letter H on it. This seems to implicate a woman named Helena, but Poirot correctly realizes it belongs to a Russian woman whose first name starts with an N instead (apparently he's learned his lesson regarding assuming things about Cyrillic orthography).
- In an episode of MacGyver we see a bottle labeled in Cyrillic: it's supposed to say "Etil Alkogol" ( = "Ethyl Alcohol"); what it actually says is "Ztil Alkogop". If it was supposed to be Russian, then it should've said "Etilovyj spirt".
- From an episode of Bottom, where Eddie mocks the unconvincing nature of the fake birthday cards Richie sends himself every year:
Eddie: ...And this one's from "The Peoples of the Soviet Union in grateful thanks to Comrade Richie"!
Richie: It's in Russian!
Eddie: You just put the R's the wrong way round!
Richie: That's what Russian is!
- The Discovery Channel program Wild Russia uses backwards R's when displaying the title.
- The 2013 Doctor Who episode "Cold War", set on a Russian submarine in 1983, is called "COLD WAЯ" on the promotional poster.
- The image◊ that currently illustrates the Red Scare trope. Literally, it reads: "d— uftsya -yazz-fm dyaz ^e-fi- tf ts-" ("-" means "gobbledygook", i.e. not a Cyrillic letter, and "^" is an accent).
- Type O Negative's final album Dead Again has all of the lyrics and liner notes written in Faux Cyrillic for absolutely no good reason at all (there is a picture of Rasputin on the cover, but other than that...). Just as an example, the band's name and album title are written as "TЧРЕ O ИЭGАТIѴЭ : DЭДD ДGДIИ," which— because Cyrillic doesn't have a letter shaped like "D" or "G"; "I" replaces "И" in Ukrainian and "Ѵ" is an archaic letter translatable as either "i" or "v" depending on the context— would read "-CHRYE O IE-ATIVE : -ED- D-DII."
- The band ¡Forward, Russia! are in love with this trope.
- So are the Leningrad Cowboys a.k.a. Lɘиiиɢяad Cowʙoys who aren't even from Russia. The covers of their album Happy Together and their Total Balalaika Show live video take this Up to Eleven by mimicking a Pravda frontpage complete with a font which borrows a lot from the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets plus some mirrored or upside-down letters and the German ß (sharp s) in lieu of the capital B. Only "Pravda" itself is written in real Cyrillic.
- The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers had all of the R's backwards for their album The Holy Bible◊, perfectly fitting with the flavour of the release - this went back to normal for a few albums, then made a return for Send Away The Tigers◊ and follow up Journal For Plague Lovers◊.
- Franz Ferdinand did this very consciously in the video for "This Fire" off their self-titled first album. That whole album they were going for a Soviet Constructivist look, which goes remarkably well with their sound.
- BT's sixth album is titled THЭSЭ HOPЭFUL MACHINЭS. The song titles also have their E's reversed.
- Angelic Upstarts (or ДИ☭eLIC UФSTДRTS) did this on their Anthems Against Scum◊ album.
- Norther, a Finnish band (Finnish uses the Roman alphabet, FYI, despite being part of Russia up until WWI), uses the Д as an A on their album N.
- Feind Hört Mit◊ ("Enemy Eavesdropping") by Austrian band Stahlhammer uses this too: The title (keeping in mind each "M" is a flipped "Ш," "І" replaces "И" in Ukrainian and "Ѕ" is an archaic letter translatable as "dz," now only used in Macedonian) turns into "DZTDN-NASHSHYEYA : -YEIP- NFYAT SHIT" when transcribed.
- Linkin Park
- Nine Inch Nails is often written as ИIИE IИCH ИAILS in different media.
- DJ Vadim's name is usually written with a Д for the A and an inverted Щ for the M.
- In the Romanian band TNT's video "Vodka, Vodka" has the words "Vodka Дямач" in the around a red star in the back throughout the video. This is a good example, because the sound for the actual Russian word for armies, армии, is basically like the English word army (though it refers to the plural in Russian), and even the singular word for army, армия (armiya) would be easily recognizable for English-speakers as referring to an army, whereas Дямч would sound like Dyamch (that is, if the word "army" is being used at all instead of "land forces". Of course, given the Soviet-styled emblem, "army" makes a lot of sense in this context). Obviously, with reading a different alphabet the cognates often won't work for non-Cyrillic readers, so unless you want it to be meaningless for most people, you need to do use this trope if you want to use Cyrillic in this case.
- Also, the TИT in the middle of the emblem, for the band's name, TNT. TИT said out loud would sound like "teat" or "tit".
- The Bemani J-pop band TЁЯRA ("Tyoyara").
- The Finnish Doom Metal band Курск, although their name is correct Cyrillic for Kursk, uses faux Cyrillic text on their website.
- The cover for KMFDM's Opium has the band's name written KMFДM. F doesn't exist in Cyrillic, the equivalent would be Ф. Also, XTOЯT.
- Reina Tanaka's rock band has the somewhat bizarre name of LoVendoЯ.
- One recording of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition is by an orchestra conducted by "SIMOИ RATTLE". What kind of a name is "Simoi"?
- The game supplement GURPS Russia features the TS and D characters for U and A respectively, plus several others◊. For a Splat Book that's supposed to educate about the place.
- The logo for the computer game DEFCON, which would actually be "DEFCOI" if the backwards N was read properly.
- Tetris was titled "TETЯIS" in several Western releases, particularly those by Mirrorsoft and Atari Games/Tengen, just to advertise that the game was developed by a Russian. If the Я were pronounced as in Russian, that would be "Tetyais". "TETRIS" in Cyrillic would properly be "TETPИC", which was used on computer versions distributed by Spectrum Holobyte (though with the C replaced with the Soviet hammer and sickle). Averted since the late 1990s, when artist Roger Dean (mostly known for his Yes album covers) designed a new logo for the newly formed Tetris Company.
- A faux propaganda poster featuring Tetris also invoked this with backwards R's and N's and the Cyrillic letter "er" for the p in "place".
- Republic: The Revolution in addition to speaking pseudo-Russian has all in-game signs and posters written in pseudo-Cyrillic. It also uses other symbols, such as the German "ß".
- The Iron Grip: The Oppression Game Mod had a typical backwards R in its promotional logo.
- The Backwards R has gained notoriety on the Discovery (Freelancer Game Mod) forums features this through Memetic Mutation, as in 'ШHAT SIЯ?'
- Singularity heavily used this trope, including in its logo. Almost excused, when they started using real Russian at the end credits.
- Infamous examples include: the game's title, which is written as SIИGULДЯITУ (Siiguldyaitu) and Katorga-12 being written as KДTФЯGД-12 (Kdtfyagd-12).
- The fourth game in the Deception series, Trapt, spells the title on the cover art as TЯAPT purely for cosmetic reasons, to achieve a mirrored look that the P partially fudges.
- The 1997 version of Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego? includes a scene where you meet Yuri Gagarin. The rocket carrying him has the letters CCCP on it, and your helpful friend indicates that it's an acronym... in English. The instruction book for the game includes a section detailing all the historical inaccuracies introduced to the game in order to make it easier to understand and tells what it really stands for. (Isn't this game supposed to be educational, though?)
- The Krivorozhstal Mill in Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain has its name written on the smokestacks in faux Cyrillic, with Д for R and a reversed Г for T.
- Averted in Metro 2033. What is written in Russian is read in Russian, even swear words in the English subtitles. The best example is the name of the D6 bunker, which is often marked as Д6 in the game world, with no allusions at all to the letter "A". Justified in that the developers of the game aren't Westerners or East Asians and Metro 2033, the novel the game is an adaptation of, is Russian.
- Blatantly featured in Paradox Interactive's Hearts of Iron series, including the upcoming East Vs West. Nations part of the Comintern (Soviet bloc) would feature faux Cyrillic names, which remains a source of much agony for Cyrillic-reading fans. However, there are mods that allow users to change the typeset.
- The logo of Red Alert 3: Paradox, a mod for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, switches the English letters of "paradox" with visually similar Cyrillic letters (including the backwards 'R'). The result is, obviously, gibberish, but hey, it looks cool.
- In the computer ports of Strider, the title screens display the name as STЯIDER. The game's first stages take place in Russia.
- Inverted with the title of KOHCTPYKTOP: Engineer of the People: the first word is a Latin-alphabet approximation to "КОНСТРУКТОР", a sequence of Cyrillic-alphabet characters that would be pronounced "constructor".
- The USSR speaks like this in World War Two: Simple Version. It's dropped in Cold War: Simple Version because the author was sick of it.
- That comic strip also has USSR say the line "ZД ЯОDIИU". This is clearly meant to be "за родину" (a bit of Gratuitous Russian), but first transliterated ("za rodinu") and then converted to faux Cyrillic. (The result is pronounced "Zd yaodieeu".)
- Parodied in SF Debris when Chuck comments on the U.S.S. Tsiolkovsky`s Cyrillic dedication plaque and, noting a letter that looks like 3 (the Russian Z), accuses Russia of being so poor they have to use numbers when they run out of letters. In a Genius Bonus he later subtly reveals he knows what it really means by spelling the word 'spaz' out loud as 'S, P, A, three!'
- There is actually a web page that will give you fake Cyrillic. http://www.theworldofstuff.com/other/cyrillic.html
- In the Yogscast Civilization V challenge, Lewis is LЗЩІ? note of РОLДЙD, or Lzeshchi? of Roldyd. This is in spite of Polish using the Latin alphabet.
- In Anastasia, the train's speedometer reads SPEEФОШЕТЕЯ ("sreyefosheteya").
- The pre-reform orthography for Cuengh (pronounced "Shweng", but more commonly known by the Chinese name Zhuang), a language spoken in Guangxi, China, used a combination of the Latin alphabet, IPA symbols, and Cyrillic and pseudo-Cyrillic letters, including five "tone letters" whose shapes are based on Arabic numerals. The result looks a lot like mock Cyrillic. For example, Cuengh was written as "Cueŋƅ" and the full official name of Guangxi was written as "Gvaŋзsiƅ Bouчcueŋƅ Sɯcigiƅ."
- Other Real Life example: The Cherokee syllabary, which looks like the illegitimate child of the Latin, Cyrillic, Greek and Georgian alphabet and l33tsp33k. Sequoyah didn't know the Latin alphabet, so when he assigned sounds to symbols, he had no idea what these symbols meant, which probably explains the occurrence of a 4 (the syllable “se”).
- Inverted with Volapuk encoding: to write their language using ASCII computers, some Russians used a "faux Latin" transliteration. And yes, this included R as The Backwards Я.*
- Avoided by post-1993 Russian license plates, which use only the letters common to the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.
- Since so many early Soviet consumer electronics were direct ripoffs of Western designs, Russian-language pocket calculators (most notably the programmable Elektronika B3-34) would frequently put "Error" in English if the calculator couldn't make a calculation. Because the letters looked so similar to Cyrillic equivalents with different values* , Russians would read the word as "yeggog", and the art of calculator hacking became known as "yeggogologiya"* in Russian.
- Ironically, this precise series of calculators had exactly nothing to do with any western designs. The designers probably did this out of habit and because the Russian word for error, "ошибка", is nigh impossible to represent on a calculator's 7-segment display.
- "Khyber Pass Specials", hand-made guns (of sometimes dubious quality, due to a lack of quality materials) generally modeled after mass-produced weapons such as Lee-Enfields or AK-47s (both notably used by countries that previously fought in Afghanistan, the British Empire and the Soviet Union), will often feature engravings with Latin-Cyrilic character switches. This isn't so much that they can't tell the difference, but that they often work with incomplete engraving sets and use the closest match they can find.
- The VID mask; according to Wikipedia, the actual Russian spelling of "VID" is not "BИD". As we know and as even Wikipedia noted, that's not exactly what that logo is famous for.
- While no, this isn't the proper uppercase "D" (it's "Д"), this might be the most acceptable deviation on this page. This two (deceptively different) ways of writing represent the same letter (and it's quite apparent from the way proper handwritten "Д" looks, uppercase letter in the upper-right corner here)
Anime and Manga
- The language used by the countries of Anatoray and Disith in Last Exile consists of transliterations of English words with Greek and some Cyrillic letters, i.e. the text on the book on the opening screen reads "λαστ εξιλε ιν τηε βοττλε" - "last exile in the bottle". Justified in that it's supposed to be a distant descendant of the languages of Earth rather than an a modern language.
- In The Books of Magic, Ancient Greeks talk like this "IN THΣ LДNDS ΘF ΘLIVΣ ДND LДURΣL, WHΣRΣ THΣ GΘDS WДLK"* . David Langford was scathing about this, and especially Roger Zelazny's admiration for it in the introduction:
Maybe it slips by an awful lot of the audience, but how can a savvy chap like Zelazny read this nonsense as other than, roughly, 'In ths ldnds thf thlivs dnd ldursl, whsrs ths gthds wdlk'?
- Another Vertigo Comics book has a logo that reads GRΣΣK STRΣΣT.
- In Asterix and the Great Crossing, Viking speech uses Å and Ø instead of A and O. Asterix tries to speak it, but since the Vikings don't understand, he wonders if he put his strikes and little circles over the wrong letters (he put them over E and U instead).
- Completely averted in Finnish translation of Asterix. The Viking speech uses Å, Æ, and Ø exactly according to the letters' phonetic values instead merely replacing A and O. Note that the corresponding Finnish letters would be O, Ä and Ö. Most Finns know perfectly well which phonems the Danish and Norwegian letters Å, Æ and Ø do represent and how to pronounce them.
- The poster for My Big Fat Greek Wedding says "GRΣΣK" instead of "GREEK".
- The Elektra film has a severe case of fake Greek. You try pronouncing "SLSKTRL".
- Airplane II: The Sequel's "ГrаηѕсεηδεηГаζ аіr".
- The Enemy of the State title swaps a few assorted symbols for English letters.
- Alexander had some advertising posters where the title was written as "ΛLΣXΛNDΣR", i.e. "LLSXLNDSR".
- Moreover, "Alexander" is Latin. His real name was "Alexandros" (AΛEΞANΔΡOΣ).
- In Cloud Castles by Michael Scott Rohan has fake Greek: "Βυγγερ οφφ. Γετ τηισ φαρτινγ χλοχxωορx ηαρπψ οφφ μψ φυχxινγ δεχx. Γυεσσ τηε ωορδ Ι ωανθ ωιτη ψωυ.note . It didn't get translated (it was left as is, English written with Greek letters) in Polish translation...
- The Doctor Who episode "The Eleventh Hour" has scattered instances of a logo that looks like "MΨTH". Again, presumably we're supposed to read this as MYTH, not MPSTÊ.
- The official name of the college show on ABC Family is GRΣΣK. Of course, in the Greek alphabet, the sigma represents S, not an E. How do you pronounce "Grssk" anyway?
- Dream Theater's logo, which looks almost like this: DREΛM·THEλTER
- The cover for Noxious Emotion's Symbols depicts the band name and album title in faux Greek letters.
- The poster for Madonna's "Can't Stop Esther" tour was filled with faux-Hebrew, with many letters turned around or mangled in order to stand for latin characters.
- The Half-Life logo uses the Greek letter lambda instead of an A. The lambda represents "L", so it would be read as "HLLF LIFE". Justified, as this isn't done merely for visual resemblance, but for lambda's use in science to represent the radioactivity decay constant. (Or it could also be a reference to the Lambda Complex.) It also doesn't hurt that (as many fans have noted) it also looks like an arm holding a crowbar, though this may not have been intentional.
- The Wii allows Greek letters when naming a Mii. Many players use the Greek letters for this trope. For example, a Mii going online for Mario Kart Wii might be named "ρlαγεr" rather than "player".
- Red vs. Blue uses Ξ (Xi) in place of "e" for the title card of Reconstruction. The series has AIs named after Greek letters throughout, but none of the ones mentioned are named Xi
- Used with tongue firmly planted in cheek at Kiotr.net, a fansite devoted to the X-Men's canon pairing of Kitty Pryde and Peter Rasputin.
- The Amazing World of Gumball, in the episode "The Refund", attempts to do an Asian version with a Fictional Video Game titled something similar to "Cyberground 丹太丁丁乚モ* II", somewhat beyond a mere Foreign-Looking Font. Unsurprisingly, nonsense when taken at face value.
- In case anyone's still interested in what the said font actually said, Google Translate sez: Dan too Tintin Yin holds an
- 丹 (Mandarin: dān, Japanese: tan/ni) = (medicine) tablet, pellet or pill; (color) red; (mineral) cinnabar
- 太 (tài, tai/ta/futo) = big, great, grand; extremely; too, too much
- 丁 (dīng, chou/tei/chin/tou/chi/hinoto) = man; population, members of a family; cube; the fourth of the ten Heavenly stems; a surname; fourth
- 乚 (yǐn, in/on/kaku) = hidden, mysterious, secret; to conceal; small, minute; variant form of the Kang Xi radical 乙
- モ (mo) = Japanese katakana for the syllable "mo"
- Similarly, you can◊ find a number of frat-themed t-shirts out there which use Greek letters this way.
- There is a beauty parlour on Wandsworth Road, London, which has rendered part of its sign in pseudo-Greek as "Ναιλσ" (Nails). However, whoever did this clearly doesn't know about Greek; even if this is a Greek word, it should in any case be "Ναιλς".