Ломать/сломать & ломаться/сломаться

by Tatiana  

A little while ago I wrote about words that can have multiple meanings because of their use in Russian slang. The verb «ломать» as well as its reflexive form «ломаться» are also such words.

The main meaning of this verb is “to break”. However, someone could say меня ломает to express a feeling of withdrawal after using drugs or when being sick and running high fever. Consequently, the word for withdrawals is «ломка».

Когда моя кошка опрокинула вазу, тюльпаны упали на пол и их стебли сломались. When my cat knocked a vase over, the tulips fell on the floor and the stems got broken.
— Катя, зачем ты сломала Ленину куклу?
— Потому, что она не давала мне с ней играть!
“Katya, why did you break Lena’s doll?"
“Because she wouldn’t let me play with it!”
На улице было очень скользко. Я упала и сломала руку! It was very slippery outside. I fell and broke my arm.
— Почему Костя так себя ведёт?
— Его ломает: он пытается бросить принимать наркотики.
“Why is Kostya acting this way?”
“He’s having withdrawals from trying to quit taking drugs.”

There is also a rather well used idiom using this verb: «ломать себе голову». It means to puzzle or rack one's brains over something.

Я ломаю себе голову, пытаясь понять, как это случилось. I am puzzled trying to understand how it happened.

The reflexive form, ломаться, means to quit working or functioning.

У меня поломалась машина, можешь подвезти? My car broke; could you give me a ride?

However, ломаться can also mean, “crack” when referencing changes in a young’s man’s voice.

У Васи голос уже ломается, он становится мужчиной. Vasya’s voice is cracking; he’s becoming a man.

Also, ломаться has two other meanings in Russian slang. The first one is to "put on airs, while the second one is to "stubbornly refuse to concede".

Ну что ты ломаешься? Не можешь нормально говорить? Why are you putting on airs? Can’t you speak normally?
Дима, тебя все упрашивают, а ты ломаешься! Ну, кто так делает? Dima, everyone is begging you and you are stubbornly refusing! Who does that?

Here's a video from Kira Muratova's movie. Her movies are always very unique. More often than not the main character is played by Renata Litvinova, who is the queen of putting on airs.

If you would like to see a transcript and translation of this clip, click here.


Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Ну, кто так делает?”
Здесь “ну” является частицей и не обособляется. Тем более, интонационного разделения тоже нет.

02/07/14 @ 05:26
Comment from: Nastia [Visitor]  

Thank you for the explanation of ломаться in its slang usage. I was trying for the last month to come up with an expression that would properly translate this word into English, “stubbornly refuse to concede” is the best one I saw :) .
My biggest problem was that the two meanings mentioned here ( to put airs and to refuse to concede) seem to be rather the 2 ends of the spectrum of possible meanings that this word can take, therefore making it hard to translate. And somehow it never occured to me to simply split the meaning into two :)

07/25/10 @ 11:01
Comment from: Tim [Visitor]

A small comment about the transcription: the boy *hanged* himself. The past participle of “hang” is usually “hung", except when it refers to the method of execution.

“The prisoner who hung pictures on his cell wall was hanged last night.”

Saying that a man was hung means something entirely different!

Don responds: Your point is well taken as far as literary English is concerned. I remember my high school English teacher admonishing us on that very topic. Thus if I were composing an academic paper on the topic of suicide, I would certainly write “hanged.” Nonetheless, I’m under the impression that in conversational American English we say “hung” more often than “hanged.” To my ear, at least, “hanged” sounds quite unnatural.

But the tone of Litvinova’s speech is snide, ironic, affected, maybe even cruel as she uses language to deny the emotional impact of the situation she is describing. Using the higher style would work well in that context, so I have switched the translation from “had hung” to “had hanged.”

04/21/10 @ 15:23
Comment from: Gremin [Visitor]

Thanks for the video transcription-thats a very welcome innovation. Listening is an altogether different skill from reading and without knowing what is being said it is difficult to get any useful practice. The effort is appreciated.

04/21/10 @ 02:31

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