10 funny phrases with the word ‘Russian’ in other languages

Anton Romanov
We asked Russia Beyond readers to share interesting examples of how the word ‘Russian’ is used in various idioms in their languages. We were not disappointed!

There are many things in this world one might refer to as being “Russian”,  the most well-known examples being ‘Russian roulette’, ‘Russian Mountains’, ‘Russian salad’ and ‘Russian red’ and many others. We explained their meanings here. But today, we look at how our country is being inserted into lesser known phrases used by people around the world. Our Facebook followers provided many more examples than we previously thought existed!

1. Very brutal Russia - Thai 

One of our  readers from Thailand told us they use this phrase in a situation when someone has done something impossible. “The origin of the idiom comes from an online game tournament when everyone thought that the Thai team would beat the Russian team because the latter had only one player left, while Thai team had three. But the Russian player single-handedly managed to defeat the three Thai players”. Brutal indeed!

2. As long as a Russian month/year - Polish

“Będziesz to pamiętać jak ruski miesiąc”/ “You will remember it for as long as a Russian month”. According to our Polish reader Matt Octarine, this means a very long time. 

"Czekałem na to ruski rok"/"I was waiting for a Russian year for this".

3. Once in a Russian year - Polish 

Another reader from Poland, Mariusz Misiołek, has provided other examples: "Raz na ruski rok"/"Once in a Russian year" - meaning veeeeery rarely!

4. Little Russian - Portuguese 

According to our Brazilian reader Daniela Costa, some old folks call kids with blond hair “russinho” (little Russian).This probably comes from an old Portuguese word, "ruço", which means "a person with light brown hair". The word is rarely used nowadays. By the way, any blonde in Brazil is usually referred to either as a "Russian" or "German". This is interesting, given that Russians and Germans are by far not the only traditional blondes out there.

By the way, she also told us that in some parts of Rio de Janeiro, they call the fog “russo” (Russian). This association, however, leaves us completely lost!

5. God is high above, and Russia is far away - Serbian 

“Bog visoko, a Rusija daleko” / “God is high above, and Russia is far away” A Serbian reader Kontesa Nera says this means that help is far and unlikely. This idiom is used in the cases of total hopelessness, and relates to how the Slavic peoples of Russia and Serbia have always traditionally stuck up for each other in world wars and beyond.

There is also the idiom ‘Bog na nebu, Rusija na zemlji’/ “As God is in the sky, soRussia is on Earth”, which, again, references the time-tested brotherhood between our two nations. 

6. Interesting sexual practice - Spanish 

We are not judging anyone, we’ll just give you a funny quote from our reader from Mexico,  Benito González III: “There's a sexual practice, when the woman rubs her breasts against a man's penis, which is also called 'rusa' in Mexico. Well, here comes the sole idiom I know. Once, I heard a big breasted woman say to a good looking man: "con este par, no solamente te hago una rusa, te hago toda una Unión Soviética", which is translated as "with this pair, I won't even get you a Russian, but a whole Soviet Union". I don't really know if that can be called an idiom, but I really hope it catches on”. He also admitted that the Mexicans see the Russians as a little wild.

7. Russians are brothers and true friends - Hindi 

Well, our most loyal Indian readers submitted us this most lovely response. “There are no popular idioms in India about Russia. But we always say "You are a friend to me like Russia to India", Ajay Gangwal wrote.

8. Fast as a Russian tank - Polish 

"Zasuwać jak ruski czołg"/"Move fast as a Russian tank". Mariusz Misiołek suspects that this idiom is an homage to the fast Soviet tanks of the BT series.

9. Russian tea - Polish 

Polish babushkas used to call "ruski czaj"/"Russian tea" is one that was brewed so long that it becomes practically undrinkable.

10. A Russian old chunk of meat - Hungarian 

Well, we don’t want to be too narcissistic and provide only the idioms where Russia comes out as either strong, brotherly, erotic and other such things, so here’s an offensive one from Hungary - albeit also funny - from Linda Magyar. Thanks, Linda!

"Úgy néz ki, mint egy tagbaszakadt orosz nő" / "She looks like a russian old chunk of meat"

We can imagine this last one can be applied in many a creative way...

If you have some other idioms to share with us from our language - feel free to write in the comment section below.

The paragraph on the Little Russian paragraph was updated on Sept. 24

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