Russian Language Blog

It Is Always Timely to Sing About Hares Posted by on Aug 23, 2012 in Culture

Have you had a chance to watch Бриллиантовая рука (The Diamond Arm) yet? Since the first post about it, I got to watch it again AND I watched a documentary called Бриллиантовая рука 2. It was fascinating and full of interesting trivia. If you like trivia, love the original movie and want to challenge your Russian comprehension skills, then I highly recommend it.

What’s the big deal about the original movie, you might be wondering… Since it first вышло в прокат (was released on the big screen), it was разобрано на цитаты (became extremely quotable). You will hear one-liners from this movie a whole lot when you are around Russians. In case you don’t have time or desire to watch the movie, here’s a list of some (not all) of the most-oft heard phrases:

Я не трус, но я боюсь (I am no coward, but I am scared) – best used if you are apprehensive about something, such as a dental appointment or asking a boss for a raise.

Не виноватая я, он сам пришёл! (I am blameless; it was his idea! lit: I’m blameless; he got here himself!) – say it whenever you want to jokingly profess your innocence. Can shorten it to не виноватая я! If you are a male, do not change it to the masculine form не виноватый. What you will gain in grammar you will lose in the comic effect.

Семён Семёныч (Semyon Semyonich) – this, of course, is the name of the main character in the movie. As a цитата (quote) it is used in a variety of situations, usually to укорять (reproach) someone or to show your разочарование (disappointment) in someone’s overly naive or absent-minded behavior.

Будете у нас на Колыме – милости просим! (When you are in Kolyma, we’ll welcome you!) – as you know, Kolyma area, located за полярным кругом (above the Arctic Circle) in the Russian Far East was a place of infamous labor camps for both common criminals and political prisoners. If you are visiting a friend in Manhattan and, at the end of your stay, want to say they are always welcome in your home in Fargo, North Dakota (or similarly out-of-the-way place), while understanding how unlikely it is they will make a trip, you might use this phrase. To which your friend will likely reply with Лучше уж вы к нам (Better you visit us).

Цигель, цигель, ай лю лю – There’s no way to translate it, but you’ll use it the same way as you’d use “chop-chop” or “on the double” in English.

Клиент дозревает (lit: Client is getting ripe) – when after much hinting, persuading, nagging or selling, a person is getting ready to “close the deal”.

За чужой счёт пьют даже язвенники и трезвенники (When booze is free, even a person with an ulcer or an abstainer will drink) – nobody can resist халява (freebies)

Если человек идиот, то это надолго (If someone is an idiot, it’ll last a while) – any time you disagree with someone. It’s especially handy when talking about your boss (out of his earshot, of course)

And now, as promised, Песня про зайцев. Gesha Kozodoev was wrong when he said про зайцев – это не актуально (About hares is of no immediate interest). As you will see in a moment, this song is актуально всегда (is always timely).

В тёмно-синем лесу,
Где трепещут осины,
Где с дубов колдунов
Облетает листва.

На поляне траву
Зайцы в полночь косили.
И при этом напевали
Странные слова.

А нам всё равно,
А нам всё равно.
Пусть боимся мы
Волка и сову.

Дело есть у нас
В самый жуткий час.
Мы волшебную
Косим трын-траву.

If you got this far, the rest of the song is here and you can try singing it karaoke-style online here.

If you are puzzled about the words, the song is about зайцы (hares) who косят траву (mow grass) in a clearing of a forest at midnight. Why? Because they believe if they only mow the magic grass three times a year at midnight they will become brave.

In the dark spooky woods
Amid shivering aspens
Where the leaves slowly fall
From the mighty oak trees

In the clearing there
Hares mowed at midnight
All while quietly singing
Strange-sounding words.

We don’t give a hoot
We don’t give a hoot
So what that we are
Scared of wolf and owl.

We’ve got things to do
In the scariest hour
We are mowing
Miracle “whatever” grass.

A quick note about a couple of words:

Зайцы – the diminutive of this word is зайки (little hares) as in скачут зайки на лужайке (little hares are hopping around a lawn). This, by the way, is a line from a rhyme про заек (about little hares). A person who writes in rhymes is called поэт while the one who writes in prose is called прозаик. Which, in turn, reminds me of an old untranslatable joke (but now you can understand it without a translation, right?):

– Вы кто?

– Я писатель-прозаик.

– Про каких таких заек?


Косить – to mow, but also to dodge as in Он косит от армии (He is dodging the draft). Another meaning of the verb косить with the preposition под  is “to act in a certain way” as in он косит под идиота (he plays dumb) or она косит под наивную девочку (she plays innocent girl). Зайцы косят траву и косят под бесстрашных зверей (Hares mow grass and pretend to be fearless animals) or, as the photo above reads “Nowadays, it’s fashionable to pretend to be Russian”

Трын-трава – it’s a noun, but is used as сказуемое (predicate) to express one’s feelings about something as being insignificant or unimportant. You can find трын-трава in works of classical Russian authors, such as Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Anton Chekhov (don’t bother looking for косить in its meaning to dodge or to pretend in their works though). Ему всё – трын-трава (everything is unimportant to him) means the same as ему всё по фигу, but sounds a lot more cultured, so teachers prefer the former when talking to parents.  Originally трын-трава was called тын-трава, where тын is a type of fence. So it was, essentially, a weed. If you are thinking right now about a phrase “to smoke weed”, you might be interested to know that one of the ways of saying it in Russian is курить траву. Just FYI.


Tags: , , , , , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it


  1. Al Dorman:

    Wow, I’m loving this blog, keep it up!

  2. Rob:

    Вопрос о лозунге на футболках (в картине “Demotivator”):

    Can it be correctly translated as “It’s so f***ing awesome that I’m a Russian”? (I assume it’s in the same spirit of good-natured braggadocio as the rousing anthem from Team America: World Police…)

    Mainly I want to know whether I’m correctly interpreting the second word on the T-shirts. 😉

  3. Yelena:

    Rob, you’re absolutely correct 🙂