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Richie: It's in Russian.

Eddie: You just put the R's the wrong way round?!

Richie: THAT'S WHAT RUSSIAN IS!

Iи a lot of Шesteяи posteяs, yoц see somethiиg that coцld Ьe called wikipedia:Faux Cyrillic -- яeplacing Latiи chaяacteяs Ьy visцally similaя Cyяillic oиes, to make somethiиg look more Russian. The peяpetяatoяs igиoяe the fact that these letteяs aяe, iи actцal Яцssiaи, pяoиoциced completely diffeяeиtly fяom the Latiи chaяacteяs they aяe sцpposed to яepяeseиt, шhich яesцlts iи unintended hilarity foя memЬeяs of the aцdieиce шho can read Cyrillic script. This is Ьecaцse Cyяillic is Ьased oи a comЬiиatioи of Gяeek, Glagolitic aиd soмe Heвяew letteяs (ц and ш), Ьцt dцe to яefoяms Ьy Peteя the Gяeat it has the same Ьasic desigи pяinciples as the Latiи alphaЬet (stяoke thickиess and placemeиt, etc.).

Beloш is a list of popцlaя letteяs цsed шith this tяope, aиd theiя pяopeя Latiи spelliиgs:

  • R: 'Я' (ya, the Trope Namer), 'Г' (g).
  • N: 'И' (i), 'П' (p)
  • A: 'Д' (d)
  • O: 'Ф' (f), 'Ю' (yu)
  • W: 'Ш' (sh), 'Щ' (shch)
  • X: 'Ж' (zh) (pяonoцnced like the 's' in 'pleasцяe'), 'X' (kh, like ch in 'loch')
  • B: 'В' (v), 'Б' (b), 'Ь' (sФft sigи), 'Ъ' (haяd sigи)
  • E: 'Э' (æ), 'З' (z), 'е' (ye/e)
  • U: 'Ц' (ts)
  • Y: 'Ч' (ch) or 'У' (u)
  • H: 'Н' (n)
  • 6: 'б' (b)

Still moяe coцld Ьe listed heяe, Ьцt foя diffeяent яeasoиs, siиce many Cyяillic letteяs look exactly like otheя Latiи letteяs, Ьцt яepяeseиt entiяely diffeяeиt phoиemes.

This caи also happeи шith alphabets otheя thaи Cyяillic. Pяobably most commoи iи that case is the цse of the Gяeek letteя sigma (Σ) as aи E oя delta (Δ) oя lamЬda (Λ) as aи A, even thoцgh "E" and "A" aяe actцally peяfectly good Gяeek letteяs themselves. (Sigma, delta aиd lamЬda are actually the analogцes of S, D, aиd L, Яespectively, though delta is a "th" (that's the "th" in "then", not "thin") in modern Greek.)

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Proper English Version

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. 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)
  • O: 'Ф' (f)
  • W: 'Ш' (sh), 'Щ' (shch in russian and ukrainian, sht in bulgarian)
  • 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 in russian, pronounced like the 'a' in about in bulgarian)
  • E: 'Э' (æ), 'З' (z), 'Є' (ukrainian ye)
  • U: 'Ц' (ts)
  • Y: 'Ч' (ch) or 'У' (u)
  • H: 'Н' (n)
  • 6: 'б' (b)
  • Th: Ћ (Serbian letter pronounced like 'ch')

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 though delta is a "th" (that's the "th" in "then", not "thin") in modern Greek.) Compare Heavy Metal Umlaut and Gratuitous Foreign Language


ЩДº)Щ

CyЯillic Єxamples


Advertising

  • 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.
  • Ron Paul's political campaign was called the RON PAUL REVOLUTION, with the letters EVOL printed backwards, such that, if the entire group of letters was reversed as one, it would become LOVE.[1]
    • And when Paul's campaign started to tank, someone did the same thing to the letters REVO, so that if this group was reversed, they spelled OVER.

Comic Books

Film

Literature

  • "Yevgeny" is not an usual transliteration of this name, and maybe isn't proper, but when the writer who translated Barbara Hambly so well uses it for himself (e.g. on his own site), Artistic License automatically wins.
    • It's may be unusual, but it's official. Welcome to the world of bureaucracy, my friend.
    • It is official, because that is how the name is actually pronounced. The reason why it seems counterintuitive to most Russian-speakers is, as explained on the "Russian language" Useful Notes page, that the "ye" syllable is a single letter in Russian, and that letter is identical in appearance to the Latin "E". That is why some prefer to spell it as "Evgeny".

Live-Action TV

  • 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?) In the game they say it stands for "Central Committee of the Communist Party," but of course it really stands for "Союз Советских Социалистических Республик."
  • 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.

Meta

  • The image that currently illustrates the Red Scare trope. Literally, it reads: "d-- uftsya -yazz-fm dyaz ^e-fi- tf ts-" - "-" means "gobbledygook" and "^" is an accent.

Music

  • Type O Negative's latest (and final, due to Author Existence Failure) 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.
  • 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.
  • BT's latest 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, армий, 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 basically sound like the word for what a dog mother uses to feed her puppies.
  • 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.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • 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.

Web Original

  • 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" which is clearly meant to be "за родину" (a bit of Gratuitous Russian)
      • 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

Western Animation

  • In Anastasia, the train's speedometer reads SPEEФОШЕТЕЯ ("speefosheteya").
    • Or, if you want to be really nitpicky, sreyefosheteya.

Real Life

  • 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.
  • 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, the art of calculator hacking became known as "yeggogologiya" in Russian.

Vanity Plate

  • 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.

Non-Cy Яillic examples:

Comics

 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'?

Film

Live-Action TV

  • 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.

Music

Video Games

  • The Half Life logo uses the Greek letter lambda instead of an A. Funnily-enough, the lambda represents "L", so it would be read as "HLLF LIFE".
    • This isn't actually a reference directly to the Greek letter, but rather its use in science to represent the radioactivity decay constant.
    • It could also be a reference to the Lambda Complex.

Web Original

  • 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.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • Similarly, you can find a number of frat-themed t-shirts out there which use Greek letters this way.
  • The Saturn Aura's emblem also uses lambdas in place of A.
    • The film-within-a-show "Aquaman" (in Entourage) did the same thing. But is that trying to look foreign, or just stylish?

Notes

  1. Maybe the person responsible for that was reading Zetman? It predates it by a few years, and uses the same typographic trick to name a certain political faction.
  2. BATTLE
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