Russian Language Blog

При чём тут arrow in the knee? Posted by on Jan 9, 2012 in Culture, language

Do you play видеоигры (video games)? Turns out, they can provide a whole new dimension to language-learning. And it goes beyond Russian language интерфейс (interface) and ability to follow instructions in Russian. Playing games, or at least following friends who play, can give you a glimpse into культура современного общества (society’s contemporary culture) in a way not possible with textbooks.  I am talking about мемы (memes).

A good example of a meme with an origin in a video game is the “then I took an arrow in the knee” one. In case you don’t play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it seems that all the guards in all the cities tell you, the player, the same story: “I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow in the knee.” (Ok, I haven’t played Skyrim, so I have to rely on this article).

So I googled the phrase and, sure thing, a Russian version of this meme живёт и процветает (is living and thriving).

In the Russian version of the game, the guards all say Меня тоже когдато вела дорога приключений… А потом я получил стрелу в колено. This is not дословный перевод (word-for-word translation) of the original, as you can see. Nor is it the one spread through the meme. Instead, this version is used:

Я раньше тоже был искателем приключений, как и ты, а потом получил стрелу в колено.  

Not only is it closer to the original English phrase, but it also avoids the use of страдательный залог (passive voice) which is not as common in Russian as it is in English.

Back to the meme… It acquired the form of Я раньше тоже + глагол в прошедшем времени + а потом получил стрелу в колено. (I, too, used to + a verb in past tense + then I took an arrow in the knee.) Of course, if a woman uses the meme, then it is получила and the verb in the past tense should also have a feminine ending, such as

Был – была (was)

Хотел – хотела (wanted)

Пытался – пыталась (tried)

Играл – играла (played)


Some of the наиболее остроумные (the wittiest) examples that I’ve found are

Я тоже сначала был за честные выборы… А потом получил стрелу в колено. (I used to be for fair elections. Then I took an arrow in the knee.)


Я хотел быть либеральным президентом… А потом получил стрелу в колено (I wanted to be a liberal president… Then I took an arrow in the knee.)

Когда-то я думал так же, как и ты… Но потом получил стрелу в колено. (I used to think the same way. Then I took an arrow in the knee.)

And some of the ссылки (references) to this meme are phrases such as

Получи стрелу в колено. Стань искателем приключений. (Get an arrow in the knee. Become an adventurer.)

Если у меня будет стрела в колене, стану ли я стражником в Скайриме. (If I get an arrow in the knee, will I become a guard in Skyrim)

Ты не поймёшь этот мем, пока не получишь стрелу в колено. (You won’t understand this meme until you get an arrow in the knee.)

Of course, the fact that all the guards в Скайриме (in Skyrim) got into the same predicament raises a question. How come they weren’t issued proper armor, поножи (greaves)?

If you are wondering what other phrases guards use in the Russian version, here’s a comprehensive list. Do you play games? If yes, which ones? If they spurred their own memes, let me know and I’ll try to find a Russian-language version.

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  1. Minority:

    The most famous Russian game meme is “можно грабить корованы” [note that this word is written with mistakes – you should write it “караваны” – “caravan”, “camelcade”].

    You can read the whole story about it here.

    One day the game development company “Mistland” recieved a letter with idea of 3d-action game. The whole text of this letter shows that not every russian knows his language well. =)

    • yelena:

      @Minority Minority, this is hilarious!

  2. crojon:

    я мог говорить России, А потом получил стрелу в колено.

  3. Minority:

    crojon, you’re almost done it!
    “Я мог говорить по-русски” =)

  4. Tejanarusa:

    I was just going to comment that the piece on the game memes was really interesting,especially as I don’t play games.
    But the comments made me (really) laugh out loud.
    Hmm. Is there an equivalent to LOL по-русски?

  5. Dandy:

    Yes. The closest equivalent to LOL in Russian is “ржу не могу”.

  6. Tejanarusa:

    Dandy -большое спасибо!