Skip to comments.Secondary meaning of Russian phrase
Posted on 03/15/2013 9:11:18 AM PDT by Sokol
Quick question about the phrase:
Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей.
English: "Don't have a hundred rubles; have a hundrfed friends."
The question is: Does this seemingly innocent phrase have a double meaning in Russian? Besides the obvious "have a lot of friends (and be poor)" meaning, Can it also mean - in context, "Better watch your back..."?? I have tried out this phrase with my poor Russian through the years to various Russians and they have not received the phrase well. Maybe it was my awful Russian, I don't know. This all has to do with a fiction book I am working on: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/900679147/a-hundred-friends-a-novel
Thanks for any help.
My impression is that it means friends are more valuable than money.
Money can buy you any material good, but it cannot buy you friends. A man can be rich with wealth but poor with friends.
Sounds great, until the 100 seek repayment at the same time.
The phrase I picked up on while working in the CIS was
“I would rather have 50 friends than 50 Rubles” - there are variations of this theme.
Friends are better than money, or cannot be bought with money. Don’t know if the phrase is Old Russian or a artifact of the Soviet time
Ни имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей. [Do not have a hundred rubles, but do have a hundred friends.] This saying stresses the importance of friends over riches. Actually, "сто друзей" is not all that realistic in Russia because the word друг "friend" in Russian is taken very seriously. There can really be only two or three of them in the course of one's life, the remaining "friends" being знакомые "acquaintances," одноклассники/однокурсники "classmates at school/in college," приятелей "buddies, pals" and many other similar designations. Note also the recent clinical variant не имей сто рублей, а имей тысячу [Do not have a hundred rubles, but do have a thousand rubles].
It could be that it is a sly way of telling someone they are cheap while appearing to say that friends are more important than money. Sort of like “may you live in interesting times” was a Chinese curse presented as a blessing, or the usage of “bless your heart” sometimes in the South.
There is one Russian saying always struck me as pretty straight forward, “The tallest blade of grass is the one cut’’. Served people well during Communist times.
I think I have a pretty authoritative response. I have a good friend who is Russian (now a US citizen) and I ran this past her. I told her my take on it was that that, with regards to power, that it was better to have lots of connections rather than lots of money.
“Yes, this is a very common saying back home. My interpretation of it has always been that its not the money but true friendships/relationships that matter (I have never associated it with power, but I suppose it can be). I really dont think it means better watch your back ... It is likely that the author is having such a negative experience with this phrase because there are a lot of bitter Russians out therefrustrated first with shortages, and now with abundance of everything (but lack of money). So they may be thinking he is being sarcastic by using the phrase...”
I want to point out that her English is impeccable; she taught English in Russia, was an interpreter, and is a board certified editor here in the States.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the phrase any way you like to get your point across, i.e., using it with sarcasm or irony. But I think using it that way without a nod to the original intent weakens the impact of the irony/sarcasm.
But Russian is a very “colorful” language and I'm sure others use it in countless ways.
It's really hard to explain what I mean about “colorful” unless you understand the language. Slang, sarcasm and cursing seems much more intense in Russian. A speaker will even “create” words and the listener knows exactly what they mean.
An idea of this proverb is that connections and good relationship solves problems better and faster than money. By default is has no double meaning.
In the South this was expressed as “Nothing wrong with being poor, as long as you have lots of friends”.
This is academic since I’m retired & can say that I do know where my next meal is coming from.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.