How can I understand this puzzling dialogue with "ну я имею в виду вообще"?

Russian Language Asked on October 4, 2021

My Russian teacher recently had us, his students, listen some audio recordings of what he called "authentic everyday communications of Russians." We had to understand the dialogues and briefly describe them in our own words, explaining possible contexts. That was a very hard task because of various slang words and idiomatic expressions as well as a very fast and somewhat indistinct manner of talking in the recorded dialogues.

Quite a few dialogues made me seriously puzzled, and I remember one of them particularly well. Here it is:

X (female voice): Ну что переходим?

Y (male voice): Какой переходим красный же.

X: Ну я имею в виду вообще.

Y: Вообще да.

The dialogue seems to be grossly ungrammatical and to make little sense, yet the pronunciation and the manner of talking left almost no doubt that the interlocutors were native speakers.

Does it look like a natural communication in Russian? If so, how does it make sense in terms of meaning and grammar? And what could be the context?

UPDATE: @YellowSky suggests that my transcript has to be punctuated as follows:

X: Ну что, переходим?

Y: Какой "переходим", красный же.

X: Ну, я имею в виду, вообще.

Y: Вообще — да.

As far as I remember, however, there were no pauses in those phrases whatsoever. That is, the intonation did not appear to imply any punctuation signs.

4 Answers

You have a very good teacher, Mitsuko, and I'm sure one day you will appreciate what he's doing for you. :)

The dialogue seems to be grossly ungrammatical and to make little sense

It makes perfect sense to a native speaker.

The woman asks whether they shall cross the road (or not).
The man points out that they can't cross now because the light is red.
She then clarifies that she doesn't mean "right at this moment" but "in general".
He replies - yes (we are going to cross this road).

That's the way people talk in their everyday life and they do understand each other with no great difficulty.

As to "ungrammatical" - the only questionable thing I can see here is:

Какой "переходим"

but, well, that's colloquial Russian, that's an "established expression" and you can hardly apply the formal grammatical rules to this register of the language.
(Note: Some people would say "Какое "переходим"" instead).

Correct answer by tum_ on October 4, 2021

You wrote it with a mistake. It should be какое "переходим". Otherwise it is grammatical:

-- So, we are crossing?

-- What "crossing" [do you mean], don't you see the red light?

-- I mean, in general

-- In general, yes.

Answered by Anixx on October 4, 2021

The dialogue is grammatical from the linguistic point of view: this is how many native speakers do speak. It is however not the prescriptive grammar that one finds in grammar books.

Indeed, this is far from the literary Russian or the Russian that Russians learn in school or speak in an educated society (this is why there is some difficulty in punctuating this dialogue). Such highly redundant and somewhat disordered phrasing is referred to as косноязычие.

To summarize: a non-native Russian speaker must be able to understand such language, but not necessarily use it as an example to follow.

Answered by Roger Vadim on October 4, 2021

It is as grammatical as might be a conversation between two hillbillies mumbling to each other about going for a beer or two. It is also as natural and does make sense. Consider:

X: So, are we crossing?

Y: TF crossing, don't you see it's red?

X: Nah I mean, like, eventually.

Y: Eventually yes.

Answered by mustaccio on October 4, 2021

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