Into every conversation, a little nonsense must fall. And it should come as no surprise that a rich language like Russian is rich with nonsense!
Sometimes there's just not a word to express what you want to say. Other times words are too long. And besides, when one little grunt can get your message across, why use anything more?
And so it is that one often finds himself (or herself) in a conversation consisting more of little nonsense words than actual vocabulary!
We'll start with my favorite Russian word: ой. It's absolutely the same as it's phonetic match "oy", or the Hispanic equivalent "ay". You can use the word to express pain, frustration, or dissatisfaction, or in a different context to express awe, shock, or disbelief.
-Я опять потерял свои ключи! Ой!
"Ay, ay ay! I've lost my keys again!"
Similary, the word эй is also a match for its sound-alike, "hey", and can be used in all the same situations. The two most common uses for эй are getting someone's attention, or expressing playful (fake) anger.
Эй! Ты куда пропал?
Hey! Where did you disappear off to?
Another of my favorites is ого, which sounds like "oh-hoh!" This word expresses surprise, shock, or disbelief. It is best used like the American phrase "no way!"
-Я заплатил тысячу евро за новый айфон.
"I paid a thousand euros for my new iPhone."
Don't be fooled by the spelling, it may look like "aha", but this one works more like "uh-huh", and is used as a form of affirmation.
-Ты смотрел кино вчера вечером?
-"Did you watch the movie last night?"
This exclamation sounds like "oof", and seems to imply some discomfort. It reminds me of the sound an old man makes as he sits down.
-уф. жарко на улице.
-"Oof. It's really hot outside."
In my opinion, this is one of the wonders of Russian. Pronounced "t-foo", this is the alliteration of a spitting noise. Used where you might have made a gagging noise in English, it implies something disgusting or worthless.
-Кофе? Тьфу! Ненавижу пить кофе.
-"Coffee? Yuck. I hate coffee."
This is the Russian "shooshing" noise. Where we would say "sshhhhh...", they say "тссссс..."
-тссссссс не говори так!
-"sshhhh don't talk like that!"
This is a great expression of surprise or amazement, akin to "holy cow!", or "awesome!"
-Ух ты! Какоe это красивое здание!
-"Wow! What a beautiful building!"