Russian Language Blog

Silver Linings: Five Idioms For Dealing With Shock And Disappointment Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in language, News

woman covering her mouth in shock

Image from Pixabay

The results of the presidential election in the US came as a surprise to both supporters and opponents of the President-Elect Trump. For situations like this, along with Brexit, which we covered on this blog, a few Russian idioms may come in handy. How and whether you will use them will depend on your outlook.

Вот тебе́, ба́бушка, и Ю́рьев день

The time around Юрьев день (St. George’s Day), November 26, used to be the only period in the year when serfs could leave one fief for another. However, the practice ended up being suspended and then altogether abolished, and serfs were obligated to stay with the same landlord, unless sold or set free.

This idiom literally says “There goes St. George’s Day, grandma” and is used to express disappointment when something you were counting on fell through.

— Я, това́рищи, когда́ услы́шал о нападе́нии Герма́нии… […] Услы́шав об э́том, я сказа́л: «Вот тебе́, ба́бушка, и Ю́рьев день!»
(— Fellows, when I heard about the German aggression… […] Once I heard about it, I said “That’s a fine how-d’ye-do!”)
[Владимир Войнович. Жизнь и необычайные приключения солдата Ивана Чонкина (1969-1975)]

Ба́бушка на́двое сказа́ла

Ба́бушка/ба́бка на́двое сказа́ла (literally, “grandmother said two ways”) is used to describe a toss-up, something that is unclear and remains to be seen. This expression is close to “it’s anyone’s guess.”

Сейча́с ситуа́ция в регио́не прогнози́руемая ме́сяца на три-четы́ре вперёд и стаби́льная. А что случи́тся че́рез год, осо́бенно е́сли кри́зис, кото́рым пуга́ют экономи́сты, действи́тельно придёт в Росси́ю, ба́бушка на́двое сказа́ла.
(The situation in the region now is predictable and stable for the next three to four months. What will happen in a year, especially if the crisis the economists have been scaring us with really comes to Russia, is anyone’s guess.)
[Александр ГРИШИН. Ушел, чтобы вернуться // Комсомольская правда, 2012.07.12]

Не мытьём, так ка́таньем

This saying means “one way or another” and is used to talk about something that will be done no matter the means. It likely comes from descriptions of washing clothes and could be literally interpreted as “if not by washing, then by rolling.”

Потихо́ньку-полего́ньку он возде́йствует на обще́ственное мне́ние, прово́дит ми́рные, но де́йственные а́кции проте́ста, не мытьём, так ка́таньем добива́ется от прави́тельств и фирм реше́ния вопро́сов эколо́гии.
(Slowly but surely it [=Greenpeace] influences public opinion, holds peaceful but effective protests, and one way or another forces governments and companies to address environmental issues.)
[Владислав Быков, Ольга Деркач. Книга века (2000)]

По́сле дра́ки кулака́ми не ма́шут

boxing gloves

Image from Pixabay

This saying literally means “You don’t wave your fists around after the fight” and may be seen as an equivalent to “Too little, too late” or “It’s no use crying over spilled/spilt milk.”

Экспе́рты о́трасли отмеча́ют, что по́сле дра́ки кулака́ми не ма́шут и при́нятый зако́н — сверши́вшийся факт.
(Industry experts point out that it’s too little, too late and the passed law is a fait accompli.)
[Юлия Калачихина. Европейские авиаперевозчики просят отменить налог на выбросы углекислого газа // РБК Дейли, 2012.03.13]

Нет ху́да без добра́

This proverb says “there is no evil without good” and is similar to “Every cloud has a silver lining.” It is said to point out an unexpected good aspect of a bad situation.

Ску́чно. Но нет ху́да без добра́. Благодаря́ дурно́й пого́де я с таки́м рве́нием за́нялся инструменто́вкой конце́рта, что дня че́рез три всё бу́дет гото́во.
(I’m bored. But every cloud has a silver lining. Thanks to the bad weather I set out to work on the instrumentation of my concerto so zealously that it everything will be ready in three days or so.)
[П. И. Чайковский. Письма к Н. Ф. фон-Мекк (1878)]

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.