Unorthodox uses of the cyrillic alphabet

UT Research Journal. Humanities Research. Humanities


2015, Vol. 1. №4(4)

Unorthodox uses of the cyrillic alphabet

About the author:

David J. Cocksey, PhD, Professor, J.-F. Shampolion University Centre (Albi, France);


When Cyrillic characters are substituted for Roman ones in European wordforms, they acquire a certain autonomy as they are appropriated and re-purposed as part of ad hoc, composite sign systems. The resulting linguistic and cultural intersection may be analyzed from an aesthetic, semiotic or socio-linguistic point of view. “Faux Cyrillic” typography, in use since at least the 1960s, uses Cyrillic characters not for their usual phonetic value, but for their perceived resemblance to Roman letters (for example, “Яussia”). This enables a discreet allusion to Russia or the Soviet Union within the wordform itself, which combines both familiarity and otherness. Both xenographic and intertextual, this imitative and connotative principle may be used either to positive effect, as in foreign product branding, or as a mechanism of humour. While “Faux Cyrillic” is generally limited to individual wordforms, the availability of actual or apparently Cyrillic characters on modern computer systems has seen their use spread to more sustained forms of communication, in which the allusion to the source language and culture is no longer present. The perceived otherness in this case is that of Anglophone, Francophone or Germanophone scriptors, who, through an idiosyncratic sign system comparable in some ways to SMS language, aspire either to individuality or identification with a subcultural group. Examples of such encoding may also be found among slavophone scriptors in particular uses of English.


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30.    “they tend to break stuff”

31.    This may be an allusion to Soviet pedal design, which sometimes included similar transliteration of English words, although for the Soviet market. The Электроника Компрессор Скстеинер ( is an example of this.

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