USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘russian’
Humor

Russian Joke

Text: So my grandfather told me this joke that there were two old Russian guys driving through the forest. And, the guy in the passenger seat told the driver, “Hey, you need to pull over.” And the driver’s like, “Well, we can’t pull over, we’re not, we’re not where we’re supposed to be yet.” The passenger goes, “Look,” he goes, “I need you to pull over.” The driver goes, “But we’re in the middle of nowhere.” The passenger goes, “Look, I have to go to the bathroom. You have to pull over.” So, the driver pulls over, the guy gets out of the car, and he heads into the woods. A few minutes later, the passenger comes back to the car, and his pants are soaking wet. The driver looks at him and says, “What’s a matter? You didn’t make it in time?” He answers, “Nah, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.”

Context: AT is a child of Russian and Italian immigrants that grew up in Queens, New York. He would spend the summers in Maine surrounded by dense forest and vast natural landscapes, with is Russian grandparents who insisted that he learn Russian so that they could converse in their native language with their grandson. He has been a fluent speaker ever since then because of their teachings. His grandfather used to tell him this jokes as they were driving through the forests during the harsh main winters. I was told this joke over coffee one afternoon.

 Interpretation: Jokes area very popular form of folklore that can take on different forms in different societies.  The use of punch-lines in the telling of jokes can be largely recognized as an American behavior, for a lot of cultures don’t do punch-lines, rather they just tell funny stories. I expect that this is the case here, for when AT told me the joke for the first time, I didn’t really laugh because I thought the punchline was weak. I expected that perhaps the punch line was funnier in Russian, but now I expect that there is no punchline, only a funny story.

This joke still employs the cognitive switch technique that all jokes share. It sets up something in the beginning only to turn it on its head by the end. The entire story builds the idea that the passenger needs to use the bathroom, and that he will wet himself if the driver does not pull over and let him go into the woods to do his business. However, when the passenger finally gets his chance, he makes a mess anyways, cognitively switching the joke on its head.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
general
Gestures
Kinesthetic
Protection

Spitting on the Devil

Description

“Whenever you talk about something good happening, like if you mention you’re doing good, you have to spit over your shoulder three times. The Russians believe that’s where the Devil is, so you’re spitting on the Devil real quick, just to make sure that he doesn’t, uh, to make sure that nothing negative happens. Speaking of that, you usually don’t want to talk about anything good happening in the future or anything, you wanna be pessimistic. Or else it means that it won’t happen, if you talk about it a lot.”

Context

I asked the informant about his Russian culture, and he proceeded to tell me a lot about Russian superstitions and things that his family practices. He said that he first encountered this when he was very young, because when he was young he wanted to talk about what he wanted to do when he was older, but his mother would always remind him to spit on his shoulder, as outlined above.

Analysis

This is interesting to me because as someone who grew up without “culture” aka, my family is generations removed from its original culture from wherever in Europe, I never encountered the idea that talking about the future could be bad. I think this says a lot about Russian temperament that a lot of people talk about — I’ve heard that Russians are in a bad mood all the time, etc. I like the idea that something could be ruined by talking about it, as I’ve had good news that is almost true, but didn’t want to share it with people in case it didn’t actually end up happening.

 

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.

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.

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.”

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