If you ever need to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, all I can say to you is God have mercy on your soul.
The way the legend goes, about 1150 years ago the Byzantine Pope decided to send his homeboys Cyril and Methodius to the Slavic lands on his northwestern frontier and tame their wicked, pagan ways. So far, so good.
But apparently Cyril decided the Slavic hordes spoke such a strange and bizarre series of languages that he needed to invent a whole new alphabet to capture their unique sounds. After inventing a new alphabet, he could then teach ’em to read the Bible, and everything would be shiny.
The problem is that Cyril must’ve either been a joker or else he was incredibly drunk the day he “invented” his alphabet.
Cyril’s first language was Greek, so it’s normal that he would “borrow” a few letters from the Greek alphabet.
Г (Greek “gamma”) in Cyrilic is fairly normal, written as “G” in the Latin alphabet.
Likewise, Ф (Greek F) is written as “F” in the Latin alphabet.
After another glass of vodka, Cyril decided to then make things more fun by borrowing a few letters from the Latin alphabet.
А in Cyrillic is easy to identify as the letter “A” in the Latin script
The same for the vowels Е (E) and О (O) as well as some consonants like Т (T).
It’s weird to have a combination of Greek and Latin letters in a “new” alphabet, but so far so good.
But Cyril wasn’t done yet. He thought it would be hi-larious to use a few Latin letters only this time mix them up in crazy ways.
For example, the perfectly normal Latin letter “H” in Cyrillic is actually “N” in the Latin alphabet. Likewise, the letter “P” in Cyrillic means “R” and “C” in Cyrillic means “S”. What the heck?
Nonetheless, even for someone who doesn’t know the Cyrillic alphabet well, it’s fairly ease to parse out that the word “МЕТРО” is “METRO” in Latin script.
Made up bullshit
Deep in his cups, Cyril decided his alphabet didn’t have enough lulz, so he decided to make up some totally unnecessary letters.
For example “ш” is just the “sh” sound. Was it really necessary to invent a new letters for this? I realize “sh” is a different sound than “s”, but come on!
In Romanian, they just add a tail to the bottom of an ordinary “s”, such as the word șoc (shock). Likewise, in Czech they add a brevet to the top of the “s”, such as in Škoda, the big automobile manufacturer. Was that really so freaking hard, Cyril?
For the love of B
After polishing off an entire bottle, Cyril then decided that there weren’t enough letter “B”s in his new alphabet. So he decided to add three letter Bs to his new alphabet.
Look at the Russian word for choice: Выбор
See that? It’s pronounced vee-bore. You know why?
The first letter, “В” is actually the Latin letter “V”.
The second letter “ы”, kind of “b” and “i” squashed together, is actually the Latin letter “i”.
And then for fun, the third letter “б” is actually a good, old-fashioned Latin “b”.
The number Z
Cyril then smoked some of his favorite substances and decided to really get crazy. Them wacky pagan Slavs had a bunch of words with the “z” sound in ’em. Should he use the Latin letter? Hell no!
Instead, he chose to use the “letter” З. Do you think I’m joking? I’m not. Yes, the crazy bastard used the number 3 to be the “letter” Z.
So how do you write 3Z in Russian? Easy. It’s “33”. Lunacy.
Apparently Cyril had never heard of lowercase letters, even though such things exist in both the Greek and Latin alphabets.
A lowercase letter in Cyrillic is identical to a capital letter, only just half the size. So a capital Cyrillic М and a lowercase м are identical.
Compare that to Latin scripts, where a capital “D” is a vertical stem with a semicircle to the right. A lowercase “d” however is a vertical stem with a half semicircle to the left. This makes reading the Latin script a lot easier.
If that wasn’t enough, you have to remember that in Cyrillic, there is no such thing as a font. There is no Cyrillic equivalent of a Times New Roman or an Arial font. There is just THE FONT. It’s harsh, it’s authoritarian and it doesn’t give a crap if it hurts your eyes when you read it.
But w-w-w-ait, it gets worse!
Writing and reading normal, official Cyrillic script is a chore. So in his infinite wisdom, Cyril decided to also create a cursive or “easier” way to write it.
Sounds good, eh? But no, this time even the Cyrillic letters are flipped around all over the place.
Uppercase Cyrillic “Н” (Latin N) in cursive form is now “n”. Yep!
And just for shits and giggles, a Cyrillic cursive “T” is now “m”. WTF? But surely the letter “M” is different, right? Nope. Cursive “m” and “t” are only differentiated slightly by one “m” having an angular top to the curves while the other one has more rounded curves, so words like “tom” and “mom” look basically identical.
Millions of people around the world use both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. So in their infinite wisdom, they decided to create a form of cursive Cyrillic that (pretty much) only uses the Latin alphabet.
Yep, so now you can write faux Cyrillic this way:
I bought this package of spreadable cheese here in Moldova and it struck my eye because it’s written in Russian using the mash-up Cyrillic script.
The first word under the milk drop (wearing a cap emblazoned with a cross) says “Molochnie”, which in Russian means “milk”.
But can you parse out the second word, gokmop?
“g” in mash-up Cyrillic = d
“o” = o
“k” = k
“m” = t
“p” = r
That’s right, it says Molochnie doktor, or “the milk doctor”.
Seriously now, folks
In general, dozens of languages are written in THE FONT and there are dozens of alphabets, each with a few custom Cyrillic letters.
During the Soviet period, the “Moldovan” (Romanian) language had its own variant of the Cyrillic alphabet, which is different than the one that Romanian was written in for 90% of its history. Fun times.
Also, I’ve been a little unfair to Cyril, but it was just me taking creative license to inject a little humor into the situation. In reality, he never invented “his” alphabet at all.
His sainthood came from genuine works in converting the Slavs to the “one true faith”. The people who created the alphabet came later, and they just named it after him in “honor” of what he accomplished.
The Cyrillic alphabet has also been modified and updated over the years, so really none of this lunacy is his fault.
If you’re wondering why I’m writing an entire article about the Cyrillic alphabet on a website dedicated to all things Romanian, the answer is simple. About 1 in 5 Romanian speakers worldwide, including those living in Serbia, Ukraine and Moldova, have to deal with the nutso Cyrillic alphabet on a daily basis. God have mercy on all their souls.
AND NOW YOU KNOW!