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Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Sunday Question

This post is just an obscura for the Russian speakers. Others, pay it no mind.

Have a gander at this cartoon from ellustrator:

Is this funny? If so, why? LR would dearly love for somebody proficient in Russian to tell her.

She gets that it is a play on words about the two artificial, Kremlin-concocted political parties, "Yedinaya Rossiya" ("United Russia" -- the first ticketholder) and "Spravedlivaya Rossiya" ("Fair Russia" -- the second ticketholder). The enforcement officer (on a train or bus?) says, "Citizens, show me your tickets." The first guy says, "I have a whole one" (using the same word, "yedinyy"as you would for the party). The second guy says, "I have a fair one" (using the same word for the other party). There were unusually few comments by readers. One called it a "great play on words." Another one commented that the choice in Russia is between a "Russia that united but not fair, or fair but not united."

After that, LR is lost. What's the point? Is it a subtle linguistic thing? Do you just have to be Russian? Can anybody help?


LL said...

I don't think this joke is awfully funny: not bad but no more.
Yes, it is a play on words единый (single, whole, united) and справедливый (just, fair) related to the names of those political parties.

What is missing is another colloquial meaning of the word единый - that is a type of a seasonal public transportation ticket. A request from a controller to present a ticket would normally be responded as "единый" by a holder of such a ticket. When the next guy all of a sudden responds "справедливый" (which of course makes no sense in a bus), that is what produces comical effect.

Having written all that, I do realize that jokes are always the hardest thing to translate; even when a joke is explained, it is no joke anymore. No wonder too many Russians honestly beleive Americans have no sense of humor, just as well as too many Americans beleive the same about Russians... :)

Anonymous said...

in russian a edinyi bilet is one that gives access to a lot of services which might ordinarily require several tickets. if you went to disneyland (i haven't), a edinyi bilet would let you experience a lot of different attractions. a edinyi travel bilet might include different forms of travel (metro, bus, trolleybus). so one guy shows his edinyi bilet, which is a real normal existing concept, and then the political joke: the other guy shows his spravedlivyi bilet, which makes us re-read the first ticket, edinyi bilet, as political too.

La Russophobe said...

Thanks guys! Insights most interesting and appreciated!