Руками не трогать!

Former Microsoft "big-time important guy" Charles Simonyi wants to be the first nerd in space. In this BBC article, he says that he is even learning Russian so he can better understand the systems aboard the Soyuz spacecraft that will take him up and back.

(Note to the humor-impaired: Joke begins here.)

When his Russian hosts learned this, they quickly took down all the labels from the knobs and dials aboard the spacecraft and replaced them with tags that read "Руками не трогать!"

Comments (31)
  1. Walter says:

    I was expecting a joke about Hungarian notation…

  2. Tom says:

    A scene from the movie Armageddon comes to mind…

  3. kiwiblue says:

    Let’s hope Charles Simonyi won’t be doing any "Intentional Space Navigation" tricks :)

  4. Good Point says:

    The joke is "Руками не трогать!" translates to "By hands not to touch!" while "трогать не Руками!" translates to "to touch not by hands!", so… it is Hungarian Russian.

  5. Michael says:

    The most accurate translation would be simply ‘Please do not touch’, so hands are not that important here. Babelfish is not going a good job in this case (but well it does convey the basic sense).

  6. Lance Fisher says:

    Руками is in instrumental case and indicates that you are using your hands.  So literally, "with hands no to touch," but as my Russian teacher always says, "Russian is not a translation of English."  Word order is not as important in Russian as it is in English.

  7. Mark Sowul says:

    Also, трогать is in the infinitive rather than imperative, which is a very rude way to make an imperative (like something you’d say to a dog).

  8. David Adams says:

    First nerd in space? Assuming standard-issue astronauts are not nerds, wouldn’t that be Mark Shuttleworth?


  9. Dmitry says:

    Well, as an Russian, I do confirm that "Руками не трогать" means "Please do not touch. Even more, "Do not touch!" :)

  10. dip says:

    Yeah, there’s no "please" in that, it’s an official semi-polite "hands off!" ;]

  11. Boris says:

    As a former Russian,  I believe the hands are important here, meaning that you can touch some other way (with special instruments or gloves perhaps). Also, as a sign on the wall, I don’t see it as rude at all. It is simply not directed to a specific person. "No Touching" as opposed to "Don’t touch." Regarding word order, "трогать не руками!" does not mean the same thing. It would explicitly mean that you can touch, but not with hands. However, this phrasing would probably not be used. On the other hand, "не трогать руками!" does mean the same thing as "Руками не трогать!" although the latter would be preferred.

  12. Mihai says:

    This reminds me of an old-old joke about the first (and only) Romanian in space (also aboard a Russian craft).

    This was at a time when being in space means you where a hero, not a millionaire :-)

    === Joke begin ====

    During the post-flight interview, the reporters noticed that his hands where very-very red. So they asked if this is a result of the lack of gravitation affecting the blood circulation.

    His answer: "no, this is because every time I have tried to touch anything, the Russians cosmonauts slapped me."

    === Joke end ====

    So if you see Charles Simonyi having red hands after this flight, you know why :-)

  13. Ben Hutchings says:

    "Space tourists" are actually working members of the crew, if junior ones, and are required to undergo about a year’s training and to be capable of communicating with the rest of the crew. At least, that’s what I heard from Mark Shuttleworth. So I can’t see why it’s remarkable that Charles Simonyi is learning Russian.

  14. zenja says:

    Without resorting to Wikipedia, most of the people who had the privilidge of going to space and the moon range from Geologist, Physicists, Molecular Biologists, Astronerms etc.  These people are more nerdy than the typical software geek.


  15. George Jansen says:

    Harrison Schmitt, sometime senator from Arizona, has a Ph.D. in geology from Harvard, and was I think the first guy on the moon who hadn’t come in through the military test pilot route.

  16. ArC says:

    When I read "first space tourist nerd" (I paraphrase), I thought of Daisuke Enomoto first, a Japanese businessman who wanted to go while dressed as famous anime character "Char Aznable".  The US cultural equivalent would be dressing up like, say, Darth Vader (well, except that Char’s costume is less bulky).  Then again, Enomoto eventually didn’t get to go.

  17. Evgeniy says:

    This comments look like. Russians discuse translated russian joke. And they are discussing it in english :)).

    As I understood Charles Simonyi is very important person who was annoying people by his "activity". They(I do not mean crew) could not trust him deeply, but also they don’t want to be really impolite. "took down all the labels from the knobs" it is made for his safety. And whet he become able to read "Руками не трогать!" he will understand everything by himself.

    "Руками не трогать!" – people usualy telling this to children do not listen to instructor and trying to do "everything and right now".

  18. Speaking of hands and Russian jokes, here is another old Russian anecdote:

    A foreigner on a trip to USSR is asked what he thinks of the country: "Well, everything you do with your hands sucks. But your children are beautiful."

  19. Ken says:

    I, too, was expecting a Hungarian notation joke…

    You know…something like the labels were replaced with more helpful ones, like "three state switch" and "fixed-extent rotary dial".

  20. After reading this post i remind some story :)

    Russia launch regular space shuttle…

    Crew of shuttle contain 2 dogs ,and Moldavian

    Name of first dog is Belka…

    Name of Seconf dog is Strelka..

    Name of Moldavian.. nevermind.. just Moldavian:)

    During execution of space program astronauts receives command from earth.

    • (to Belka) launch extraction of solar planes ….

    • (to Strelka) correct orientation of space ship…..

    • (to Moldavian) …hey… hey… !!!… FEED THE ANIMALS, and do not touch anything!!!!!!!!

  21. b0rg says:

    Jeez people! Руками не трогать – is an imperative. Translated as "Do not touch!". Polite form will be "пожалуйста руками не трогать" – same as english "please do not touch".

  22. KB says:

    Is anyone creative enough to write a Russian version of the ‘Blinkenlichten’ sign that has adorned server rooms everywhere for decades?


    Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy snappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fuer gwerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das rubbernecken sictseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.

  23. A. Skrobov says:

    b0rg: no, it’s not an imperative. The imperative would be "руками не трогай(те)".

  24. David Walker says:

    George Jansen: Harrison Schmitt was an astronaut for Apollo 17, walking on the Moon, and a senator from New Mexico.   He currently lives in New Mexico.  

    Not to yell at you, but New Mexico is often confused with Arizona… which annoys me, since I was born and currently live in New Mexico.

  25. Yuri says:

    И правильно. А то он бы там ввёл "венгерскую нотацию". Хватит уже на Земле мучений с sz, lpsz, i, c и lp.

    "Руками не трогать" – is the rough imperative. Its nearest synonym in English is "Hands off!"

  26. russo says:

    Ok take this from a russian… who can speak english as well as he can speak russian. The direct translation is "Hands not touch" ofcourse the real meaning is "Do not touch with your hands" but really in russian this implies "do not touch" which ofcourse means do not touch in general not even with a stick :)

  27. smith says:

    Taking a pleasure while reading the post: Unicode times, thanks God!

    Raymond! Don’t you think it’s too many Russians reading your blog?

    BTW, +1 for "Hands off!" и +1 к русским :)

  28. Alexander Suhovey says:

    Забавно. Я в первый момент подумал, что это ошибка моего RSS-аггрегатора. Чтобы у Реймонда был заголовок на русском?..

    Unicode times, thanks God!

    +1 :-)

  29. +1

    I thought oldnewthing got hacked by russians. %)

  30. Norman Diamond says:

    Monday, October 30, 2006 3:32 PM by ArC

    When I read "first space tourist nerd" (I

    paraphrase), I thought of Daisuke Enomoto

    first, a Japanese businessman who wanted to go

    _while dressed as famous anime character

    "Char Aznable"_.

    But there’s nothing nerdy about anime, that’s merely antisocial.  The ability to speak English is nerdy.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006 5:58 PM by David Walker

    Not to yell at you, but New Mexico is often

    confused with Arizona… which annoys me,

    since I was born and currently live in New


    I thought New Mexico was supposed to be confused with Mexico?  In the same way as Canada gets confused with the US, Japan gets confused with China, England gets confused with Ireland, etc.

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