Vulgarity in a cell-phone product-name

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Thu Jan 27 01:47:47 UTC 2005

   This is to the American Dialect Society and American Name Society. ---- I was startled today to see a serious article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contain the vulgar Russian term for excrement, evidently without the knowledge of the journalist. --- Article title: "A Pair of New Viruses Can Disable Cell Phones."
Subtitle: "Gavno 'Trojan horses" enter "smart" models disguised as repair files."
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 25, 2005, Section C (Business), p. 1, cols. 1-4, p. 6, cols. 1-2.

    Here's the beginning of the article: "Cell phone viruses just became more lethal.  Now, two can disable your phone entirely.
        "The antivirus firm SimWorks said Gavno.a is the first 'Trojan horse' targeting 'smart' phones that actually interferes with the phone's ability to make calls.  Trojan horses are malicious programs disguised to entice people to download them. [...]

     Okay, now for a language lesson. The Russian vulgar term for excrement is spelled "govno" and is stressed on the final vowel.  Also, in standard Russian the vowel "o" right before a stress is pronounced "a" (the official term for this feature is "akanie").  So "govno" (please forgive me for repeating this word) is pronounced "gavno" (with final stress).

     And along comes a malicious product whose very name contains the word for "excrement," a clear indication to anyone who knows Russian (which, of course, excludes most people in the U.S.) that the product cannot possibly be beneficial.

     If anyone in the American Name Society is collecting examples of unusual product names, Gavno.a may be added to the list. Btw, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article contains the following highlighted quote from the chief executive
of SimWorks: "Once a user installs Gavno, they may find it difficult, if not impossible, to repair the phone." Considering the literal meaning of "Gavno,"
the creators of this product name must be having as good a chuckle as their twisted little minds will allow.

Gerald Cohen
Professor of German and Russian
Department of Arts, Languages, and Philosophy,
University of Missouri-Rolla
Rolla, MO 65409
email: gcohen at

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