USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘russian’
Humor

Dirty Dentist Joke

Main Piece: [Dirty] Joke

Original:

Женщина идет к дантисту в местной клинике. Когда она идет по коридору, она ошибочно входит в кабинет гинеколога, понимает, что это не то место, и идет к следующей двери. Она садится на стул дантиста. Входит доктор, сильно пахнущий водкой. Он подходит к ней и говорит: «Ок, открывай!» Она открывает рот. Он говорит: «Ок, немного шире!» она открывает рот шире. Он восклицает: «Эй, у тебя там зубы!»

Phonetic:

Zhenshchina idet k dantistu v mestnoy klinike. Kogda ona idet po koridoru, ona oshibochno vkhodit v kabinet ginekologa, ponimayet, chto eto ne to mesto, i idet k sleduyushchey dveri. Ona saditsya na stul dantista. Vkhodit doktor, sil’no pakhnushchiy vodkoy. On podkhodit k ney i govorit: «Ok, otkryvay!» Ona otkryvayet rot. On govorit: «Ok, nemnogo shire!» ona otkryvayet rot shire. On vosklitsayet: «Ey, u tebya tam zuby!»

Translation:

A woman goes to the dentist at the local clinic. As she’s walking through the hall, she mistakenly walks into the gynecologist’s office, realizes it is the wrong place, and goes to the next door. She sits down in the dentist’s chair. A doctor walks in, smelling strongly of vodka. He comes up to her and says “Ok, open wide!” She opens her mouth. He says, “Ok, a little wider!” she opens her mouth wider. He exclaims, “Hey, you have teeth down there!”

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

He likes to tell jokes and learns them wherever he can.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

He learned this joke at a party.

  • What does it mean to them?

He thinks this is a hilarious joke.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At a party or other social gathering.

  • When?

Whenever it is appropriate to tell a joke.

  • Why?

In order to amuse people and make some people uncomfortable

 

Personal Thoughts:

I’ve heard this joke since I was a small child, but I only understood that a drunk gynecologist accidentally ended up in the dentist’s office and why that is amusing when I grew a lot older. These kinds of jokes are very common at Russian parties and gatherings. The most popular jokes are as always, the most inappropriate.

Musical

Russian Children’s Song about a Sheep

Main Piece: Russian Song/Rhyme

Протекала речка, / через речку мост, / на мосту овечка, / у овечки хвост.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.
Пересохла речка, / развалился мост, / умерла овечка, / отвалился хвост.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.
Мне не жалко речки, / мне не жаль моста, / мне не жаль овечки, / а мне жаль хвоста.
Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.

Не было-б речки, / не было-б моста. / Не было-б овечки, / не было-б хвоста.

Эх, раз, два, три, четыре, пять, шесть, семь, aх семь, шесть, пять, четыре, три, два, один.

Phonetic:

Protekala rechka, / cherez rechku most, / na mostu ovechka, / u ovechki khvost.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Peresokhla rechka, / razvalilsya most, / umerla ovechka, / otvalilsya khvost.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Mne ne zhalko rechki, / mne ne zhal’ mosta, / mne ne zhal’ ovechki, / a mne zhal’ khvosta.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.
Ne bylo-b rechki, / ne bylo-b mosta. / Ne bylo-b ovechki, / ne bylo-b khvosta.
Ekh, raz, dva, tri, chetyre, pyat’, shest’, sem’, akh sem’, shest’, pyat’, chetyre, tri, dva, odin.

Translation:

A river ran / a bridge across the river. / On the bridge a sheep, / the sheep had a tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

The river ran dry, / the bridge fell apart. / The sheep died, / the tail fell off.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

I do not feel sorry for the river, / I do not feel sorry for the bridge, / I do not feel sorry for the sheep, / but I’m sorry for the tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

If here was no river, / there would be no bridge. / If there was no sheep, / there would be no tail.

Eh, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, ah seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This is a song/rhyme that he learned in kindergarden.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union.

  • What does it mean to them?

Its just a funny song/rhyme that can be accompanied by a guitar. While it is associated with children, it is also often associated with being drunk and wanting to sing.

 

Context:

  • Where?

At enjoyable gatherings.

  • When?

For children, whenever. For adults, usually when under the influence of alcohol.

  • Why?

For enjoyment.

 

Personal Thoughts:

My father and uncles and grandfathers taught me this song. If was always very fun to sing until the couplet when the sheep dies, which used to make me sad. It is a very strange and ironic song.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Russian Proverb about Beauty

Main Piece: Russian Proverb

“Красота требует жертв.”

Phonetic: Krasota trebuet zhertv.

Literal translation: Beauty requires sacrifice.

Actual translation:

Without pain/sacrifice, you will not achieve beauty.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

She was often told this proverb by her grandmother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

She takes this proverb fairly seriously, and actual believes that in order to appear beautiful, one has to do things that one may not enjoy / are unpleasant.

 

Context:

  • Where?

N/A

  • When?

When a person, usually a woman, is encouraging another person, also usually a woman, to do some sort of procedure that is unpleasant/painful in order to appear more attractive.

  • Why?

To provide encouragement for the person to do something unpleasant.

 

Personal Thoughts:

This proverb is essentially the same as “no pain, no gain” except it is usually used only for women and concerning the many different painful procedures that women have to do in order to appear “attractive” based on societal beauty standards. I personally do not believe this proverb in its literal sense, but I can find application for this proverb in other ways, such as applying it to studying and schoolwork, or exercise and health.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Russian Proverb about Carefullness

Main Piece: Russian Proverb

“Семь раз отмерь, один раз отрежь.”

Phonetic: Sem’ raz otmer’, odin raz otrezh’.

Literal translation: Seven times measure, one time cut.

Actual meaning: Measure something seven times before cutting it once.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was often told to him by his mother to encourage him to be more careful.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

Before cutting something, or doing a project such as a piece of furniture, he makes sure to plan it out and measure everything carefully so that he does not mess up the project.

 

Context:

  • Where?

Anywhere

  • When?

When someone is doing an important project

  • Why?

To encourage carefulness.

 

Personal Thoughts:

I have often heard this proverb growing up, and only ever realized how important it is to be careful and plan when doing things as I got older. Its very helpful when doing projects.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Russian Folk Tale about a Chicken with Golden Eggs

Main Piece: Russian Folk Tale

Original:

Однажды жили-били дед и бабушка, и у них была курица по имени Ряба. Курочка Ряба однажды снесла золотое яйцо. Бабушка попыталась сломать его кастрюлькой, но потерпела неудачу. Дедушка пытался сломать его молотком, но не смог. Затем пробежала мышь, ударила яйцо хвостом, и яйцо упало на пол и разбилось. Бабушка и дедушка плакали и плакали, а затем сказала Курочка Pяба. «Не волнуйся, я снесу столько золотых яиц, сколько захотите». И жили они долго и счастливо.

 

Phonetic:

Odnazhdy zhili-bili ded i babushka, i u nikh byla kuritsa po imeni Ryaba. Kurochka Ryaba odnazhdy snesla zolotoye yaytso. Babushka popytalas’ slomat’ yego kastryul’koy, no poterpela neudachu. Dedushka pytalsya slomat’ yego molotkom, no ne smog. Zatem probezhala mysh’, udarila yaytso khvostom, i yaytso upalo na pol i razbilos’. Babushka i dedushka plakali i plakali, a zatem skazala Kurochka Pyaba. «Ne volnuysya, ya snesu stol’ko zolotykh yaits, skol’ko zakhotite». I zhili oni dolgo i schastlivo.

Translation:

Once there lived a grandfather and grandmother, and they had a chicken named Ryaba. Ryaba the Chicken once laid a golden egg. Grandmother tried to break it with a saucepan, but failed. Grandfather tried to break it with a hammer, but could not. Then the mouse ran, hit the egg with its tail, and the egg fell to the floor and broke. Grandmother and grandfather cried and cried, and then Ryaba the Chicken said: “Do not worry, I’ll lay as many golden eggs as you want.” And they lived happily ever after.

 

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

The Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s a simple children’s tale that doesn’t make much sense but is fun to tell because it is short.

 

Context:

This is usually performed for children in order to distract them or get them to go to sleep.

 

Personal Thoughts:

This is a very simple and common Russian folktale. It is also makes no logical sense that the grandparents would cry if the egg was broken since they were trying to break it in the first place. It seems that after a lot of retellings of this folk tale some of the information got lost.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Disheveled Girl Proverb

Main Piece: Proverb

Original:

Распустила дуня косы и за нею все матросы!

Phonetic:

Raspustila dunya kosy i za neyu vse matrosy!

Translation:

Dyuna (a slang word that is both a name and means “silly girl”) let down her braids, and all the sailors came running after her.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

This is a proverb that tells young girls to look presentable otherwise they will be chased by sailors.

Context:

This is told to disheveled girls to convince them to fix their appearance and put up their hair.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this is a very sexist proverb, as it is directly influencing the idea that a woman has to look a certain way in order to not receive unwanted attention from men.

Musical
Narrative

Katyusha Song

Main Piece:

Original:

Расцветали яблони и груши,/Проплыли туманы над рекой.

Выходила на берег катюша,/На высокий берег на крутой.

Выходила, песню заводила/Про степного сизого орла,

Про того, которого любила,/Про того, чьи письма берегла.

Ой ты, песня, песенка девичья,/Ты лети за дальней далью вслед

И бойцу на дальней пограничной/От катюши передай привет.

Пусть он вспомнит девушку родную,/Пусть услышит, как она поет,

Пусть он землю сбережет родную,/А любовь катюша сбережет.

Phonetic:

Rastsvetali yabloni i grushi,/Proplyli tumany nad rekoy.
Vykhodila na bereg katyusha,/Na vysokiy bereg na krutoy.
Vykhodila, pesnyu zavodila/Pro stepnogo sizogo orla,
Pro togo, kotorogo lyubila,/Pro togo, ch’i pis’ma beregla.
Oy ty, pesnya, pesenka devich’ya,/Ty leti za dal’ney dal’yu vsled
I boytsu na dal’ney pogranichnoy/Ot katyushi pereday privet.
Pust’ on vspomnit devushku rodnuyu,/Pust’ uslyshit, kak ona poyet,
Pust’ on zemlyu sberezhet rodnuyu,/A lyubov’ katyusha sberezhet.

Translation:

Blossomed apples and pears, / Fog flowed over the river.

On the riverbank walked out Katyusha, / On the tall, steep riverbank.

She walked out, and started to sing / About a wild eagle,

About the man that she loves / about the one whose letters she saves.

Oh, you song, song of a young girl / Fly far, far away,

And the the warrior, on the war front, / From Katyusha, bring a greeting.

Let him remember his beloved girl, / Let him hear, how she sings.

Let him guard his home land, / And Katyusha will guard their love.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

She would sing this song a lot as a child.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It is a song about loving your significant other and your country above all else.

Context:

  • This is a sweet, haunting song that can be sung when feeling sad.
Personal Thoughts:

This is a Soviet Era song that has had the lyrics changed many times by different people who sing it. It may have originally started as an authored song, but each person who sings it changes the lyrics slightly until it mutates over generations.

Folk speech
Riddle

Cabbage Riddle

Main Piece: Riddle

Original:

Сто одежек и все без застежек.

– Капуста.

Phonetic:

Sto odezhek i vse bez zastezhek.
– Kapusta.

Translation:

One hundred outfits and each without clasps.

– Cabbage

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to him by his childhood friends

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Ukraine

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an interesting riddle.

Context:

This is told by children to other children to play riddle games.

Personal Thoughts:

I have heard multiple variations of this riddle, including one where instead of the answer being “cabbage”, the answer is “onions.”

Folk speech
Riddle

Scissors Riddle

Main Piece: Riddle

Original:

Два кольца, два конца, и по середине гвоздик.

– Ножницы.

Phonetic:

Dva kol’tsa, dva kontsa, i po seredine gvozdik.
– Nozhnitsy.

Translation:

Two rings, two points, and nail in the center.

– Scissors.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

This was told to him by his childhood friends

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

It’s an interesting riddle.

Context:

This is told by children to other children to play riddle games.

Personal Thoughts:

Personally, I find this riddle confusing, since rings are not what I associate with scissors. However, in the Soviet Union in the 1970’s, when the informant heard this riddle, scissors looked different from how scissors look now, and therefore this riddle would make sense.

Magic
Tales /märchen

The Frog Princess

The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.

“So there’s this prince named Prince Ivan who has two older brothers. Their dad, the King tells them that they have to find wives and they must do so by shooting arrows in different directions to find their brides. The first two brothers shoot their arrows and they land in the houses of noble and wealthy merchants. Ivan shoots his arrow, and it lands in the mouth of a frog that lives in a swamp. Ivan gets upset and is like, “How am I supposed to marry a frog??” but the King says he must because that was the agreement and he must meet is fate.

So Ivan marries the frog and his brothers marry their beautiful brides, and after, the King tells his sons that he wants each of their wives to bake him some bread for the next day. Ivan is freaking out and goes home and his wife, the frog, asks him what’s wrong, so he tells her what his dad just asked of him and his brothers. The frog tells Ivan not to worry and that she’ll take care of it. She tells him “morning is wiser than the evening,” and so Ivan goes to bed. That night, the frog takes off her frog skin and turns into a beautiful maiden and bakes the bread. The next day, the King is impressed and likes the frog’s bread best.

He then asks the three wives to make him a full silk carpet, and that night, the frog does the same thing and makes the best carpet. The next day, there’s a ball at the palace and wants all the princes to come with their wives. Once again, Ivan is sad because how can he go to a ball with a frog? But the frog tells him to go to the ball alone, and when he hears thunder and the earth starts shaking, just tell the other guests not to worry and that it’s just your frog coming in a little box. Ivan does this.

At the ball, the frog performs other magical feats. One thing she does it pour some water into her left sleeve and bones into her right sleeve. So as she dances, she swings her left sleeve out and creates a lake. She swings her right sleeve out and swans appear on the lake. The other wives are understandably jealous and try to do the same thing, except since they have no magical powers,  they just spray water and bones at the King and the guests.

Meanwhile, Prince Ivan sneaks away back home and finds the frog skin lying on the ground. Since he wants his wife to stay in human form, he burns the skin. When his wife gets home, she’s like, “What did you do? If you had just been patient for one more night, I would’ve been free from this curse, but now you must find me 33 kingdoms away in the castle of Koshei the Deathless,” who’s like a major evil figure in Russian folklore.

So Ivan sets off on his quest, and he first sees an old man. He tells the old man of his misfortune, the old man says, “Why’d you burn the frog skin?” But he decideds to take pity on him and gives him a magic ball of yarn. and tells him to follow it to find the right path. Along the way he sees a bear, which he wants to kill, but the bear speaks to him and says “Don’t kill me! I’ll be useful to you in the future,” so Ivan takes pity on him.

Next, he sees a duck, and wants to kill it, but the duck also asks him to take pity, so Ivan takes pity again. Next, he sees a rabbit, and the same thing happens. Then, he comes across a fish trapped in a shallow pond, and the same thing happens.

So then, he reaches the home of a witch named Baba Yaga, who lives in a magical house on chicken legs. He tells the house to turn to face him, and it does, so he’s able to enter. Baba Yaga can be helpful or sometimes a cannibal, so she’s like, “What are you doing here, young man?” and he tells her she’s got bad manners because she’s asking a guest questions before offering a meal and a bath, which is really representative of Russian culture. So Baba Yaga then provides both, and then Ivan tells her of his dilemma.

Baba Yaga’s possibly the only creature that knows where to find Koshei’s death, which is on the tip of a needle. The needle is in an egg, and the egg is in a duck, and the duck is inside a rabbit, and the rabbit is in a big chest, chained to the top of a tall oak, which is hidden. So, Baba Yaga tells Ivan where to find the oak.

When Ivan gets there, he doesn’t know how to get to the chest. Suddenly, the bear he spared shows up and destroys the oak, and breaks the chest open. Out of the chest springs a rabbit, which runs away, but the rabbit that Ivan spared appears and kills it. Out of that rabbit, a duck flies into the sky, but the duck that Ivan spares kills it. Then, the egg with the needle falls into the sea, but the fish that Ivan saved retrieves it from the bottom of the sea. Ivan then breaks the needle, and now Koshei is mortal, so he defeats him, getting his wife back and living happily ever after.”

 

For another version of this fairytale, see Vasilisa the Beautiful. Dir. Vladimir Pekar. Soyuzmultfilm, 1977. Film.

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