USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘russian proverb’
Folk speech
Proverbs

Granny Said Two Things

Ба́бушка на́двое сказа́ла.

Babushka nadvoei skazala.

Grannie said two things.

No one can know anything for certain; all things have two sides.

This proverb’s meaning is difficult to ascertain just from the wording, as it has been shortened. A longer version of the same proverb is, “Granny was telling fortunes, said two things.” It alludes to the ambiguous nature of prophecies.

 

Folk speech
Proverbs

Trust, but Verify

Form of Folklore:  Folk Speech (Proverb)

 Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia until 1990, when he and his family moved to the United States, at the age of forty two.  In his youth, he had been exposed to folklore founded in Armenian, Russian, and Greek culture.  Even though he now lives in America, he is surrounded by a tight net community composed of people who speak Armenian or Russian and come from a background similar to his own.  As a result, most of the folklore he knows is mainly based on his cultural upbringing.

Context:  The interview was conducted in the living room of informant’s house in the presence of his wife and mother-in-law.

Item:    Russian Transliteration – Doveryai, no proveryai.

English Translation – Trust, but verify.

Informant Comments:  The informant learned this proverb from his grandmother.  He believes it is something people should live by.  Trusting people is an important part of life but if people trust everyone blindly, they could get hurt very quickly and frequently.  This is why people should verify the actions of the people they are trusting to see if that person is worthy of the trust given him.  Verifying is simply security.

Analysis:  This proverb was originated by Russian leader Vladimir Lenin.  The problem with this proverb is that it is based on the idea that trust can exist when one is verifying the actions of the person they claim to trust.  The fact that one is verifying the actions of another is proof of a lack of trust.  This proverb make more sense if it was “Tolerate, but verify”.  The tolerance would imply civility and verifying would be a pleasant way of checking up on those who are being tolerated.  Trust implies far more than tolerance; verification cannot coexist with trust.

Annotation:  This proverb was famously used by President Ronald Reagan when he met Russia’s General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and signed the INF Treaty.  A transcript with the proverb being used can be found in this archive:  http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1987/120887c.htm

Folk speech
Proverbs

“Opa”

Form of Folklore:  Folk Speech (Proverb)

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia until 1990, when he and his family moved to the United States, at the age of forty two.  In his youth, he had been exposed to folklore founded in Armenian, Russian, and Greek culture.  Even though he now lives in America, he is surrounded by a tight net community composed of people who speak Armenian or Russian and come from a background similar to his own.  As a result, most of the folklore he knows is mainly based on his cultural upbringing.

Context:  The interview was conducted in the living room of informant’s house in the presence of his wife and mother-in-law.

Item:    Russian Transliteration – Ne skazi “opa”, poka ne pereprygnesh.
English Translation – Don’t say “hop”, until you jumped over.

Informant Comments:  The informant learned this proverb from his grandmother.  He believes it means people should not say they are going to do something until they do it.  He, now, lives in accordance with this proverb.  The informant does not say he has done anything until he does it (even then, he will still remain quit).  The informant believes saying “hop” is not even needed; the important part is jumping over, then it’s up to the individual to say “hop” if he wants to.

Analysis:  This proverb basically means that one should not brag about something they have not done yet, until they do it.  It is a warning to those who tend to say they are going to do something so much that they never get around to doing it.  Until someone does something, he should not brag about doing it because since he is already bragging about the doing the act the necessity to actually do it tends to dissipate.  As a result people will say that they are doing many things when in reality they are doing none of them (from lack of necessity).  This proverb is used as a warning against such a result.


Folk speech
Proverbs

Go Slowly

Form of Folklore:  Folk Speech (Proverb)

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised in Yerevan, Armenia until 1990, when he and his family moved to the United States, at the age of forty two.  In his youth, he had been exposed to folklore founded in Armenian, Russian, and Greek culture.  Even though he now lives in America, he is surrounded by a tight net community composed of people who speak Armenian or Russian and come from a background similar to his own.  As a result, most of the folklore he knows is mainly based on his cultural upbringing.

Context:  The interview was conducted in the living room of informant’s house in the presence of his wife and mother-in-law.

Item:   Russian Transliteration – Tsikha yedzish, dalshu budzish.
English Translation – Go slowly, go far.

Informant Comments:  The informant heard this proverb from his father.  He believes that it is true most of the time.  In his experience, those who took their time to do something right would usually achieve more that those who would rush through a task.  He, however, believes that going too slow and not finishing in a timely manner is almost as bad as finishing with a poor product.  The proverb, therefore, holds partial truth for the informant.

Analysis:  This proverb is similar to one in English:  “Slow and steady wins the race.”  Patience is the fundamental virtue in this folklore.  The person who has the patience to go slowly will be successful (i.e. go far) in life.  The proverb does hold a lot of truth, but like the informer, I would say that go slowly is not always the primary virtue.  Sometimes, being prompt and being meticulous when doing something is more important than taking the time to do it.  Nevertheless, the proverb offers great encouragement to those who are going slowly by offering them the prospect of going far; it also helps those who are rushed, reconsider their ways and slow down their pace.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Russian Proverb about Driving Slowly

“Driving slower, you will advance further.”

Transliteration: “Tishe edesh – dalshe budesh.”

Q. What does this proverb mean?

A. The meaning is that if you do things slower, you will get further. It’s like saying, “Wait a minute, don’t hurry.” My brother would always say this, for instance, if I did a math problem and wanted to skip steps—if you do everything slower, part by part, you will do better in the end.

This proverb has an English analogue: “Slow and steady wins the race.” Yet, comparing these two versions, we can see that the American version has a much more competitive spirit than the Russian version, as it focuses upon winning. According to my informant, the Russian version refers to riding a horse; if one rides a horse too fast, the horse may become fatigued or sustain an injury. Thus, the Russian proverb focuses not upon winning, but rather upon not losing, not overtiring one’s horse.

Annotation: Writer Mikhail Zeldovich utilizes this proverb in an article concerning Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), commenting upon Russia’s slow, snail-paced progress of accession to the organization:

Zeldovich, Mikhail. “Slowly Going Nowhere: Russia’s Entry to the WTO Falters as Major Exporters Fight Shy of Membership.” The Russia Journal, 19 Nov. 2002. Web. 26 April 2012. <http://russiajournal.com/node/12071>.

[geolocation]