Tag Archives: slovenia

The Impossible Men and the Rabbit

“Nekoč so šle trije počaci.

Eden je bil slep,

Drugi je bil nag,

Treti je bil hrom.

Slepi je zajca videl,

Hromi ga je ujel,

Nagi ga je pod srajso del.”


“There once went three together slowly –

One was blind,

The second was naked,

The third was lame.

The Blind one saw a rabbit,

the Lame one caught it,

and the Naked one put it under his shirt.”

Born and raised in former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Slovenia, the informant was continuously exposed to folk traditions that originated and permeated this region. The informant knows very little about the origins of this joke, but he compares them to many of popular self-contradictory English limericks, such as “One bright day in the middle of the night . . . ” The translation into English really tarnishes its humor, as the cadence of the joke is broken. The rhyme scheme is also distroyed as the punchline of the original joke cleverly rhymes with the line before it. Slovenian also has this incredible quality of succinctness, whereby a speaker can use an adjective, such as “lame” or “blind,” and turn it into a noun, generating much of humor from this reductive address (i.e. a man who is naked becomes simply “the Naked”).

Go Salt Yourself!

“Pojdi se solit!”


“Go salt yourself!”

Used as an expression of frustration, this phrase can be taken to mean, “screw you!” The informant has been saying this particular phrase to me since I was young, whenever I was sufficiently irritating. For years, I was puzzled by why she would repeat this seemingly nonsensical saying to me. Why would an angry person suggest to someone else to salt themselves? Of course, whenever the informant was angry, I would never beg this question, as I imagined it would only aggrivate the situation further.

However, when confronted about the phrase’s meaning, she immediately offered this response:

“Historically, salt was very valuable, as it was not as commodified as it is today. Food lacking salt, however, lacks in flavor. That’s why the saying suggests that whenever you have said something that lacks flavor or character . . . you’ve said something bland . . . you’re suggested to season your coarse words with a bit of wisdom. Some salt to flavor your speech.”


How to Sugar Potica

Potica is a traditional Slovenian nut roll made from walnuts, coffee, rum, lemon, and caramel served around Christmas and Easter, as a celebration of Christ. After it is baked, it must be chilled, then flipped rising-side down, sliced, and dusted with sugar on the flat side of the loaf. My grandmother always said that if you dusted the loaf on the wrong side, you offened God’s tastebuds.

My grandmother is a very religious woman, as are most member of my extended family. In fact, much of that side of my mother’s family is populated with clergy members. She was also a chef when she was younger, so she developed a devout sensibility for food. She taught my mother this sugar technique, who in turn taught me the same practice. Now potica tastes worse if it is sugared on the wrong side.

Marco in the Meadows

“Marco skače, Marco skače

po zeleni trati,

Aj aj ajajaj

Po zeleni trati.


“Marco is jumping

over the green meadows

aj aj ajajaj

over the green meadows”

This is a traditional Slovenian nursery rhyme, one that I was raised listening to as my mother sang it to me as a child. She said that it was a song generally sung with many children who held hands and danced in circles. The informant has no information as to its origin or its meaning, though the reference to meadows suggests a more rural origin.

The Little Piccolo Player

“Prišel je tsiganček

sajast kako vranček;

Igral je na piščalko

Milo in pelo

Kakor malo kdo.”


“There came a little gypsy boy

Black with soot/dirtlike a crow; [Dark as a crow]

He played on the piccolo

gently and beautifully

like very few could.”

This  is a traditional Slovenian nursery rhyme, one that I was raised listening to as my mother sang it to me as a child. She said that it was a song generally sung with many children who held hands and danced in circles. The rhyme itself imbibes a deeply racist sentiment towards the Romani people, who are widely refered to across Europe as “tsiganci” or “gypsies. ” The second line, “sajast kako vranček,” works two fold: 1) “sajast” means sooty or dirty, implying that the boy is unclean or uninterested in being washed. 2) the line likens the boy’s skin color to that of a dark crow, calling special attention to his non-aryan complexion.

However, the informant and I both have affectionate relationships with this rhyme, as it is sung with a gleeful, youthful tone, thereby removing much of the willful malice of its inherent bigotry. In fact, it was only when the informant and I revisited the rhyme did she and I truly grasp how deeply the racial sentiment was pronounced. The informant is unclear as to where in particular it originated, though when she was growing up in the late 60s, it was a very popular children’s rhyme in the Slovenske Konjice, a region of northeastern Slovenia.