Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Jan 28 05:53:45 UTC 2005

When I was a voice-intercept operator at Tempelhof AFB in the former
West Berlin, we routinely used the word "dick" to mean "nothing," as in
"I don't hear dick." By a coincidence that I still find amazing, the
Russians whose voice communication we intercepted likewise used the
phrase,heard to say, "Ya ne huya ne slyshu." Or, as we say in English,
"I don't hear dick." Word for word, it's "I negation dick negation
hear." (Multiple negation is obligatory in Russian and "huya" is the
genitive singular of "huy," pronounced approx. "hooey.") The Russian
military used "huy" relatively rarely and only in the one phrase
respecting the clarity of a radio connection, which was also true of us
American soldiers. The Russian soldiers much more commonly used "Yob
tvoyu mat'," which ambiguously means "(I) fucked thy mother!" and "Fuck
thy mother!" as an exclamation in situations in which Americans used
"Motherfucker!" or "Son of a bitch!" In other words, as is so often the
case, the military language differs from the civilian language. "Curse
like a trooper/a sailor" has a factual basis.

The transliteration of the Slavic sound [x] is pretty much a matter of
taste. "Khooy" tends to give the untutored masses the impression that
the Slavic word is pronounced [kui], when it sounds a lot more like
"hooey," though not quite exactly like it. However, the transliteration
of [x] as "h" does a better job of clarifying Jonathan's
correspondent's point.

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that what the Russians were
using for communication was then called "using radio-relayed telephony"
and is now known as "using a cell phone." So, it's not always assault
rifles and such that trickle down from the military for civilian use.

-Wilson Gray

On Jan 27, 2005, at 10:35 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      hooey
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> A few years ago a Polish colleague suggested to me that AmE "hooey"
> comes directly from similar Polish, Russian; and Ukrainian words that
> sound much like it (don't know how they're spelled). The suggested
> Slavic etymon (if I may simplify just slightly) is the common vulgar
> synonym for the penis, which is used widely in these languages as an
> expletive, much like our beloved F-word. Probing more deeply, I yawned
> and said "So what?"  The answer was that in Russian and Ukrainian
> especially this "khooy" is very often used as a one word reply
> meaning, essentially, "That's a whole lotta shit and what's more screw
> you!" Pithy.
> Given the circa 1917 appearance of AmE "hooey" and that Slavic
> immigrants had been arriving for some time previously, the suggestion
> suddenly became plausible. To me.
> The moral is, "Always demand 'So what?' and be sure to check out this
> interesting suggestion."
> JL
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