17 November, 2009

Another useful Ukrainian proverb

The other day I gave my elder daughter something to eat. She dropped it, and without pause reached down, picked it up, and popped it into her mouth. My wife rolled her eyes and sighed, Русский не поваляет, не поесть.

I understood everything except the third word. My wife translated, "A Russian can't eat, unless he wipes the floor with his food. It's a Ukrainian proverb. My father's mother used to say it all the time." She had to remind me that her father's side of the family is Ukrainian.

I once came across a web page dedicated to Ukrainian proverbs about Russians. I only remember one, which I thought funny and related to a Russian officemate. He wasn't quite so amused; for some reason, Ukrainian proverbs about Russians tend not to be flattering.

I suppose that when a neighboring nation's armies take up long-term residence on your territory, it grabs one's cultural attention. Perhaps in a similar vein, Italian pop songs from the 70s and 80s refer frequently to America or to Americans: for example,

  • in Mamma Maria, the group Ricchi e Poveri sing, così la bionda americana, o s'innamora, o la trasformo in rana ("so that the blonde American either falls in love [with me], or I will turn her into a frog");
  • and again in Piccolo Amore, they sing, strano e colorato, come un film americano ("strange and full of color, like an American film");
  • while in L'italiano, Toto Cutugno sings, Buongiorno Italia con i tuoi artisti / con troppa America sui manifesti ("Good day, Italy, with your artists, with too much of America on your posters");
and one could go on a while.

Now I need to figure out whom I can blame for my daughter's genes. Not me, surely.

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