While reading A Clockwork Orange for my FSEM I noticed something very strange. It seemed that 90% of the words that were used in the book were Russian. Being the only SPREE’s student in my class I felt really bad for all the other students in my class. How on Earth were they to be expected to understand this book if half of the words they didn’t know. Come to find out, after a long process most of them started to get what was going on based on context. I soon realized that there was a point to most of the words being so different. We were supposed to disconnect from the narrator and main character.
I know wonder if, where I thought I had an advantage I now am missing a huge part of the main story. Because I had a higher understanding did I not get the full effect of the book? I don’t think I will ever be able to unlearn Russian so I may never be able to find out what exactly it is that I missed.
Upon doing some further research the author was as linguist. He created a fictional language for the teens of the book to speak called Nadsat. Below is a little more info as to how it translates into the contrary Russian language.
Russian influences play the biggest role in Nadsat. Most of those Russian-influenced words are slightly anglicized loan-words, often maintaining the original Russian pronunciation. One example is the Russian word , which is anglicized to , meaning "people". Another Russian word is which is anglicized to , meaning "grandmother", "old woman". Some of the anglicised words are truncated, for example "pony" from , "to understand", or otherwise shortened, for example "veck" from , "person", "man" (though the anglicized word "chelloveck" is also used in the book).
A further means of constructing Nadsat words is the employment of homophones (known as ). For example, one Nadsat term which may seem like an English composition, , actually stems from the Russian word for "good"; , which sounds similar to . In this same manner many of the Russian loanwords became an English–Russian hybrid, with Russian origins, but English spellings and pronunciations. A further example is the Russian word for "head", , which sounds similar to known from "Gulliver’s travels". Consequently becomes the Nadsat expression for the concept "head".
However, many of Burgess' loan-words, such as ("girl") and ("friend") maintained both their relative spelling and meaning over the course of translation.