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SYFY WIRE Russian Doll

Chosen One of the Day: Natasha Lyonne's pronunciation of 'cockroach' in Russian Doll

By Jessica Toomer
Russian Doll

There’s so much to love about Netflix’s latest mind-bending binge-watch, Russian Doll

It was created by the comedic maestro, Natasha Lyonne. It’s got some of the darkest humor we’ve ever seen in a show that claims to be a jolly comedy parade. It’s got fluffy bodega cats named Oatmeal, a background track of “Sweet Birthday Baby” that plays on a loop, and, did we mention Natasha Lyonne? 

Oh, we did? 

Good. Because as engrossing as the story of a woman reliving the final day of her life over and over again is... there’s a plot point even more gripping, more enthralling, more awe-inducing than a darkly feminist re-telling of Groundhog’s Day, and it involves the show’s lead. 

Specifically, it involves how Lyonne, who plays the perpetually-dying Nadia Vulvokov, says the word “cockroach.” 

Now, it’s no secret that New Yorkers possess an accent unique to their species.

Elongated vowels sung in a nasally-pitch reflect the unforgiving life of a true urbanite. It's hard, gritty, and unabashedly confident. New Yorkers aren’t afraid to cut out entire consonants or to mash word together to save time, they’ll slash a “th” and murder an “r” if it means shortening a conversation and getting their point across quickly and decisively.

Not even the English language is immune to the rush of life in the boroughs. 

You’d think, after years of seeing the “typical” New York accent mocked and mangled on screen, we’d be familiar with every strange phrase and every convoluted syllable progression the dialect has to offer. 

You’d be wrong. 

In fact, as Lyonne’s Nadia proves multiple times throughout the show, the entire country—nay, the world—has been pronouncing the word “cockroach” incorrectly. 

*You may have a moment to experience the adequate amount of shame that comes with this revelation. * 

As Nadia is in the middle of her reanimation cycle, having fallen through menacing sidewalk cellar doors across the city, been run over by speeding taxis, taken a tumble down a perfectly unassuming set of stairs, she aggressively questions her friend Maxine about her character. After all, if you’ve died multiple times, filled your body with pills and liquor, and still can’t figure out how you’re still animated and able to attend your birthday rager, you’d be wondering if you were a hard-to-kill pest in human form too. 

Is Nadia a “cockroach” or a “cock-a-roach”? Are those the same thing? Is there another species of insect we’ve been blinded to this whole time? Is the entirety of the English language just one huge scam and we, like Lyonne, are free to add syllables and split a’s with abandon? What kind of chaos would that incite? Will the world descend into anarchy? Will English teachers be burned at the stake? Will AP manuals become obsolete? Will the Earth still rotate on its axis? 

We just don’t know. 

What we’re sure of, however, is that if you thought the biggest head-scratcher of this series is how and why Lyonne’s character seems to be dying on her birthday and then miraculously coming back to life over and over again, you were wrong. The great unknown, the question any respectable philosopher has doesn’t concern the futility of life and the consequence of death, it concerns Lyonne’s way of saying “cock-a-roach”.