Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Aug 18 04:31:13 UTC 2009

_Hard-ass_ doesn't have quite the same meaning... or the same ring to
it, but it is probably closest to the original intent. From what I've
been told, the translation seems to be a bit odd--that is, it may be
even more vulgarized than the original Russian. It's hard to tell
without specifics of the claimed original Russian. Perhaps "iron-butt"
is closer than "iron-arse". But "stone-butt" and "rock-butt" still don't
work and "rock-bottom" means something entirely different.

In any case, it is rather dangerous to look for equivalents of idiomatic
nicknames and sobriquets. There is a Russian expression than means
"thick-headed" (or, closer to "thick-foreheaded") but it does not mean
the same thing it does in English. (AFAIK, the English gloss is for
someone stubbornly stupid, or just stupid, thick; the Russian version is
for someone who is stubbornly going forward--perhaps stupidly, but not
necessarily--like a tank or a ram.) As for "arse", in this case, a
closer translation may be "butt" or even the relatively mild "rear" or
"behind" (actually the nearly exact words for the Russian "zad").
Synonyms or not, there are subtle differences in Russian in the use of
"zad" and "zhopa" (the latter closer in distribution to "arse"), as well
as other similar attributes. One would never use "zad" to refer to a
person, but "zhopa" is perfectly appropriate in this context. On the
other hand, when describing someone as being hard-assed, "zad" is
appropriate and "zhopa" is not. There are other variations, except when
referring to the actual body part, in which case "zad" (rear) is
considerably less vulgar but virtually interchangeable. Unless I am
mistaken, there is a similar progression in English (except in the minds
of some neo-puritans and neo-Victorians), although the distribution is
considerably different.


Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> In HDAS, naturally.  But here is a suggestion that there is an
> (earlier?) Russian equivalent:
> 2003 Simon Sebag Montefiore _Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar_ (N.Y.:
> Random House, 2005) 39: Nicknamed "Stone-Arse" for his indefatigable
> work-rate, Molotov liked to correct people ponderously and tell them that
> Lenin himself had actuially given him the soubriquet "Iron-Arse."
> I have encountered no American exx. of _*stone-ass_.
> Wilson, knowest thou anything of a Russian equivalent of "iron-ass"?  Or is
> this just a rough translation?
> JL

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