Some Russian proverbs/expressions might sound strange or even weird to foreigners. This is true. Let’s go check it:
- Till a crawfish whistles on the hill.
Sounds pretty weird, right? This is a very popular ironic proverb in Russian. It basically means that some event or action won’t happen any time soon or might not happen at all. Truly, have you ever seen a crawfish whistling up there? Or even a silent crawfish making it to the top of the hill?
- Just like snow falling down on one’s head. This is to indicate when something happens very unexpectedly or surprisingly. Well, snow doesn’t always fall down as some surprise, still…
- With no effort you won’t even catch a fish out of the pond. Well, I believe this is a Russian equivalent of ‘No pain, no gain’ or close to it.
- No need to have a hundred of roubles but a hundred of friends. Even if you hear it for the first time, I guess its meaning is pretty clear: friends are far more precious than money. You could even go further, like I did in my childhood, speculating that one could borrow a rouble from each of his/her friends and get that hundred roubles anyway. Just kidding but, seriously, to me it is all about communication – the most precious thing in our Universe, I think.
- Chasing two hares you won’t get any.
I guess this is not a rocket science: choose one target/set one goal at a time. It contradicts the contemporary fashion of multitasking but this is how it works.
What did you just say?
The English language is full of strange and wonderful phrases and words that mean little to those outside the country. Here are five I’ve chosen that even the cowboy won’t know……………
- Bog standard – this means whatever you are describing is nothing out of the ordinary, no frills, no add-ons, just the basics. “The hotel room was OK but nothing special – it was bog-standard.” Often, it is used in a dismissive or even derogatory way. “Roger’s blogs are bog-standard”.
The origin of the phrase is uncertain, but probably derived from the word bog, which has been used for some time in Britain as a coarse name for an outside toilet, (or shitter as it used to be known!). Unglamorous and not special…
- Cream crackered – this is cockney rhyme for “knackered”, or feeling tired/washed out/exhausted. “Roger has just finished a 5km run; he looks absolutely cream crackered.” A “knacker” was a person that slaughtered worn-out horses in the 19th and 20th centuries for their meat, hoofs, and hide. If you’re “ready for the knacker’s yard,” you’re exhausted beyond relief. Oh, and a cream cracker is a savoury flat biscuit…….
- A few sandwiches short of a picnic – not particularly bright or intelligent, with questionable mental capacity. “Roger thinks he writes a decent blog – I reckon he’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic.” Can be used in similar vein as in: “A few cards short of a deck.”
The “’X’ short of a ‘Y’’ phrase was thought to originate in 19th century Australia and New Zealand, and first heard on British television in the 1987 Lenny Henry Christmas Special. Incidentally, my favourite is: “One condom short of an orgy.”
- Spending a penny – a typically polite British saying, meaning going to the toilet, or taking a pee. “Roger will be with us shortly; he’s just spending a penny.”
The saying comes from Victorian times, when British ladies had to pay one penny to use a public lavatory; I think they used to get quite miffed that the men could use public urinals for free……….
And so to my all-time favourite…………
- Dench – it’s meaning is jolly fine, or absolutely great, impressive and agreeable, even perfection, and in modern parlance, could include “cool” and “solid”. “Hey, Roger is cooking us his special curry tonight.”
“That’s so Dench!”
This must come from the name of Britain’s most loved contemporary actress, Dame Judi Dench. Now in her late 80s, this iconic symbol of British class and loveability has rarely hit a wrong chord in her incredibly extensive career.
I’m totally cream crackered after writing all this, so I’m off to spend a penny and look forward to writing again next week. Hope you found my offering suitably Dench…………
Why are you laughing at me?
Y’all know, us Americans be ate-up with this stuff. Slang is our thing and we take the cake. That is of course when we are not droning on about those Dudes on the wrong side of the pond. Don’t believe me? Yo Homie, hold my beer.
Running Long: If a meeting or an event is going on longer than predicted, it is running long and you will be late for your next appointment.
Ambulance Chaser: The planet’s distaste for Attorneys/Solicitors has a long and distinguished history. Bill Shakespeare: “First thing we do, kill all the Lawyers.” In The US, these guardians of decency sometimes approach folk and ask if they would like to sue some big-money organization. Ambulance Chaser is a derogatory term describing an Attorney.
Red Zone: In God’s idea of real Football, the last twenty yards before the end-zone is referred to as The Red Zone. The team on defense will take different formations and go into Prevent Defense. They will allow the opposition to have a yard or two but stop any big plays that will result in a touchdown. In slang, being in the red zone means “pulling out all the stops” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) in desperation. Oftentimes, this refers to anger.
Thick: Being old with few teeth; I can tell you that back in the day being thick meant you were dumb, or perhaps referring to the width of an item. Today it’s a slightly sexist complement. Two boys may refer to a lady with an ample rear-end as being thick. This is not a woman who is fat but refers to a lady who is well endowed, curvy and attractive. While not rude, exactly, it’s not something you would call your friend’s wife at the dinner table.
Jacked-Up: A common saying in the American South. If something is jacked-up it is broken or not in good condition. You may also refer to something that someone did as jacked-up if it were simply stupid and a poor choice.
Being one of the very few Americans living here, I often say things that seem perfectly normal to me and I suddenly get an unexpected reaction. Strangers seem not to even recognize the accent but my mangling of the language is a never ending source of entertainment for all.
As an aside, should you meet an American and find yourself unsure if you were just insulted or complemented, try this website: https://www.urbandictionary.com AND for the love of all that is Holy, never ask an American to use his rubber on that fag ash mark.