When is a Walker not a Walker...

Fascinating discussion recently on the TFL Yahoo Group that I thought I'd share here: what would the word or words be in Russian for what we would call a Walker or a Mech i.e. the giant, often anthropomorphic fighting machines like the one in the picture below.

Paint It Pink's Ashley Pollard posed the question, saying that Google translate had given her Progulki Boyevaya Platforma as a starting point.

A friend of her's had suggested that Progulki Voyevaya Platforma might be a better representation of how the Russian root word бой, meaning 'to do with struggle or combat', would appear, and she had herself used another translation site to generate Gulyayushchaya Platforma Boya.

Now I have a friend who is Russian (graphic artist Sibirian Blue who does all the illustrations for my IABSM scenario packs and for Q13) and she told me that gulyayushchaya means walking in the sense of a stroll, and that the expression Gulyayushchaya Platforma Boya therefore meant something more like "taking the combat platform for walkies" which, whilst rather sweet, is probably not what Ashley had in mind!

Her suggestion was Мобильная Боевая Платформа, or Mobilnaya Boyevaya Platforma, which translates as Mobile Combat Platform. She also checked out some Russian toy shops and sci-fi sites, to see how they described things like Transformers, but discovered that most just cyrillicise (if that's a word) the English.

The problem with 'mobile combat platform', of course, is that it could apply to anything that fights and moves: a tank, a warship etc. There's no specific suggestion of the walker bit. Back to the drawing board!

Ashley then produced another Russian-speaking friend, one who is quite into military stuff, who suggested Shagayushaya Boevaya Platforma (Шагающая Боевая Платформа), which apparently literally means walking fighting platform.

According to my friend, however, shagayushchaya  literally means "takes step by step", so that although Ashley's friend was right in trying to get a sense of walking into the Russian, the actual wording wasn't quite right.

Now keen to solve this puzzle, Sibirian suggested that what was needed was to get the Russian sound 'hod' into the first word, as that is the root for all things walking or stepping.

one of ashley's own walkers

one of ashley's own walkers

She therefore suggested Pohodnaya Boevaya Platforma (Походная Боевая Платформа) which literally means something like "Hiking Fighting Platform". It also neatly works as PBP as an acronym, or 'Hod' as a sound-alike as it's pronounced po-hod-nya, with the emphasis on the 'hod'. 

I quite liked this, as I could see people saying things like "We have two Hods incoming on vector six"!

James Sterrett, on the Yahoo group, agreed, pointing out that Pokhodnaya was a good choice, as pokhod also means "march", in both the sense of military marching and 'things used while on the march'. So you get Russian words like pokhodnaya forma meaning "field uniform", and pokhodnaya kukhnya meaning a "field kitchen" etc. His view was that you could get away with translating it as Marching or Field Fighting Platform.

He did, however, suggest changing the platforma bit to ustanovka i.e. making the phrase Pohodnaya Boevaya Ustanovka: his rationale being that this was very much in line with the self-propelled artillery designation SU, or Samokhodnaya Ustanovka, as in the WW2 vehicle the SU-85. He used the more modern SAU or Samokhodnaya Artilleriskaya Ustanovka, but its the same difference. Here ustanovka translates oddly:  apparently the literal best fit is something like "installation" or "piece" but here it is used to indicate a platform or (gun) carriage.

Ashley has, I believe, decided to stick with Pohodnaya Boevaya Platforma for the moment.

A fascinating discussion indeed!