On Rusev’s Supposed Bulgarian “I Quit” at Payback

UPDATE! I was totally wrong here! Somebody who speaks Bulgarian corrected me on Twitter, check it out:

So thank you to Mario for setting me straight on the words that I struggled with (predavam sa), and I owe Lana an apology. But now the match seems even more hokey. This means Rusev forgot how to speak English, he was so put out by a ring rope up his nose. And yet he could squeeze out quite a few more complex syllables. And then he was mad at Lana for literally translating what he was trying to say. Sigh. That’s really sloppy. I think the story I concocted is better. But read on, for my original attempt to make sense of the “I Quit” match:

Every time Rusev is on the air my writings on the topic of his language get a spike in hits, but when Rusev was ranting in Bulgarian and Lana told the ref that he quit, the spike has been Wrestlemania-sized. Several people searched specifically for “machka”, which is the one word I could hear Rusev say clearly. I saw a lot of Twitter chatter about this as well, people looking for somebody who could translate the rant Lana interpreted as “I quit.”

Here’s why it’s tricky for me — I’m a Russian translator, and Rusev speaks Bulgarian. These languages are both branches on the Slavic language tree, which means the words often come from the same etymological root, so I can understand a word here, a word there, sometimes a general idea. But overall Bulgarian and Russian are different enough that I can only really figure out for sure what Rusev is saying if I have it as text. That way I can tinker around on Google Translate to figure it out.

Machka is the only word I initially recognized in his rant, which as I’ve previously mentioned means “crush”.  So right away I was skeptical that his rant equated to a submission, if he was still talking about crushing. I asked Lana about it on Twitter but of course she pretended not to hear me. Then I went back over Rusev’s supposed “I quit” to listen for anything else I could discern. He repeated a phrase several times, something like dobre predalsa, and then said a tam shto Cena garble garble machka! Not knowing exactly how Bulgarian works I’m not entirely confident in my translation here, but my best stab is something to the effect of, “Good demonstration Cena, but then I will crush you!”

So this hobbyist Rusev analyst must report that it did not sound like he was quitting.

In fact, look, I love Lana, but she basically sabotaged her man and handed one more win to John “Spoiler: I Win” Cena. Bless her, but she’s become a weak link. This is wrestling, Lana, did you not see Dolph Ziggler gushing blood all over the ring? What about Neville doing a Red Arrow on a clearly tweaked knee? Or maybe you didn’t hear, but Sami Zayn recently wrestled an entire stellar match against John Cena on a completely jacked shoulder. Rusev was fine, Lana. It was just a ring rope. These guys abuse each other with the ring ropes all the time.

Some further musings on the linguistics of Lana and Rusev… It’s been curious to me that Lana always speaks Russian, whereas Rusev, even though he represents Russia, always speaks Bulgarian. This is true even when they are talking to each other — she’s speaking Russian, he’s responding in Bulgarian. It’s plausible that Rusev studied Russian in school, but then why doesn’t he ever speak it? And from what I know, it would be pretty rare for Lana to have studied Bulgarian in school. Not impossible, but it’s an obscure language as far as Slavic languages go. But then again, why doesn’t she speak it? I’ll tell you, it’s certainly possible that they have some kind of an understanding when they converse, but in my experience Slavic languages are not interchangeable like this. So is the WWE doing something complex here, or is Rusev a sloppily-crafted character, and they hope we’re all too dense to notice? I can never tell for sure.

Oh, and one more thing to note about the Rusev character? Even though he’s Bulgarian, the Rus in his name is literally an old world way to say “Russia”.

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