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« Our New Digs In Krakow | Main | Serbian Farm Life »

Serbian Wisdom The Billboard Way

OK - one morning we're sitting around the table under the arbor with friends drinking coffee, and we start talking about a billboard we saw on the way home from Nis the night before.  It said (in English): Brain Rules Force Timber Push

What?  The Serbs all started trying to explain -- talking at the same time in those loud voices that makes our friend Paul tell his Serb girlfriend "When I learn Serbian - don't talk to me like you're mad."

What they decided was that it was a VERY literal translation of our saying Mind Over Matter. Get it? Pretend the word timber means "large log".  Now do you get it? It took more words than I feel like typing, but trust me -- it works.

That started us thinking... what other Serbian gems might we need to know?  Here are a few that our friends came up with:

"Pomesaj Se Sa Mekinje, Pojesce Te Svinje"  If You Mix With Slop, The Pigs Will Eat You.  (Choose your friends wisely)

"Ko Sadi Hkve Sa Djavolom O Glavu Mu Se Lupaju."  Who Plants Pumpkins With The Devil Will Get Hit In The Head With These Pumpkins (I think this is basically the same, but it's so very pumpkin-specific that I can't be sure.  Maybe it only applies to farmers, or to Halloween?)

"I Crna Krava Belo Mleko Daje."  Even A Black Cow Gives White Milk  (Self-explanatory, even to girls from LA who don't milk cows)

"Ili Jare Ili Pare"  The Money Or The Goat  (You can't have your cake and eat it too) This one is terrific because it sounds so cool when you say it. Our kids hate it already.

Here's another billboard we saw, again in English, that we haven't figured out yet, so all you Serbs out there -- explain please:  Hard To Frog Force In Water.




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Reader Comments (11)

OK, I'm not Serbian, but can I venture a guess for "Hard To Force Frog In Water"?

If someone is comfortable (in their lives/element) it's hard to get them to change.

Not sure if it's assumed that you're trying to initiate change for their personal betterment (ie; a meth addict to try rehab) or on a larger scale (rather than lifting weights at the gym pound nails on a Habitat for Humanity project). Who knows, in a loose interpretation it might also relate to your situation? You all were basically comfortable, yet wanted something more, something that required great change. Not sure how "force" applies here though. Force of will?

This is why I'm not a philosopher.

Jul 15, 2009 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

can't teach and old dog new tricks ......LOL sounds like your really having a learning experience Bev....

Jul 15, 2009 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBev Lewis


Jul 15, 2009 at 9:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDarleen

Hard to force a fron into water!!!

It sounds to me like that one.... You can't teach a pig to sing!

Missing you badly! An email would be good!!!!!

Jul 15, 2009 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterKim

But don't frogs like water? I think this may be more subtle. Like, you can't force anyone about anything. Don't push. You can point a horse to water but can't make him drink. That kind of thing. I love the fact that they have English billboards in the first place.

Jul 15, 2009 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulie in Woodland Hills

Is it akin to "It is easier to ride the horse in the direction it is going?"
Or rather "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?"
How about "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink?"
Perhaps - you can't force (get control over/catch) a frog in water (it's natural element where it has control) because it will simply swim away. Or you can't force someone to do something they're naturally going to do anyway (who's in control?)...
Oh, the options are truly endless.

I'm loving your trip!

Jul 15, 2009 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I love your posts, Bob. This one is reminiscent of translations I remember from Japanese to English. So interesting how the translations are different, yet the same and somehow so comical. Thanks for sharing the little things about your journey.

Jul 16, 2009 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterKaren, now in Alaska

Thanks Karen. I've always loved searching for the meanings of things lost in translation. I'd love to snake the credit for the post, but it's actually Brenna's.


Jul 16, 2009 at 12:33 PM | Registered CommenterBob & Brenna Redpath

The devil's pumpkins - "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

These were fun! Thanks for sharing your enjoyment and discoveries.

Jul 16, 2009 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterMargery (UUCSC)

But it states "hard to FROG" not "hard to FORCE."

it's a translation of Kermit the Frog's "It isn't easy being green..."

Jul 19, 2009 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterjeanie

I think I'll be saying il jare il pare all day now :)

Jul 20, 2009 at 5:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnil

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