“Только физики – соль, остальные все- ноль”
Phonetic- “Tolko fiziki- sol’, ostalnie vse-nol'”
Transliteration- “Only physicists are the salt. Everyone else is a zero”
Translation: Only physicists are worth anything, and everyone else is nothing.
Background: “This is a saying my grandparents, both physicists, would say often in a joking manner. It was something they had picked up in their spheres of work. It was a catchy saying that rhymed, and jokingly put them a cut above all the other professions.”
Analysis: To compare something to salt goes back to cooking: salt is often the only spice that Russians will use in our dishes, and we always put it on the table in case guests want more. It is always seen as a vital addition to any meal, and separates those meals from others without it. Salt used to be rather expensive, too. Russian culture a lot of catchy folk metaphors and proverbs that rhyme in silly ways. This is also a form of distinguishing a career group from others, even if jokingly. Other professions have also used this rhyme, but the physicist version is the most popular and is considered to be the original. This is also a way to encourage children to follow in the path of their role models, in this case- physicists. That the grandparents told it to their children and grandchildren means that they took the identity of being physicists deeply and had hopes that others in their family would pursue it as the only ‘right’ path (if all others are zeros).