Humour and culture
Well, I have already learnt something new about Russian culture! I had no idea that black humour was such an integral part of Russian life. But your example joke demonstrates very well how people use humour to help them cope with a bleak situation. I totally agree that it's very difficult to translate jokes: understanding humour very often depends on knowing the culture that produced the joke. To tell you the truth, it was always a hairy moment when one of my students decided to tell me a joke. Quite often, I didn't appreciate the joke, because I didn't understand the culture... but I did my best to laugh anyway...
We British people also use humour to cope with problems and frustrations, but I don't think British humour is quite as black as Russian humour. Brits often use sarcasm in their humour: for example, if someone has to stand in a queue for a long time, they might say 'Isn't this wonderful? I love spending my entire lunch hour standing in a queue.' In fact, they mean the exact opposite - they think it's terrible and they hate spending their entire lunch hour in a queue. You can often tell when a British person is being sarcastic by the tone of their voice and the look on their face, but sometimes it's hard to be sure. Sometimes they use colourful language too, which helps you to understand that they don't really mean what they are saying.
On to the English lesson... you have used some lovely phrases Olga, especially at the start of your sentences, such as these:
- It is a pity that the real Russian jokes, cool ones are unlikely to be translated.
- So, as a bottom line I can say that Russian humour is subtle yet cuts like a blade!
- It is worth mentioning Russian profanity ("mat"). (I've deleted 'about' - we don't need a preposition with 'mention').
- But I think I should give you at least one anecdote...
And you've also used linking devices such as 'despite', 'although' and 'however' effectively.
I didn't spot any binominals in your blog, but for all those people who did their 'homework' last week - congratulations to all of you: everybody got the right answers! Just to confirm the correct answers:
- (1) bits and pieces - (c) a variety; lots of different types
- (2) born and bred - (b) was born and grew up
- (3) scrimped and saved - (d) saved as much money as possible, by only spending money on things that were absolutely necessary
- (4) trials and tribulations - (a) problems, challenges, difficulties
And now for some advice and corrections. The first thing I'd like to mention is this sentence:
Humour is being used as an "antidepressant" by Russian people since far from now.
You're talking about something that started in the past and is still happening now, so you need to use the present perfect tense. So instead of using the present continuous passive (is being used), you need to use the perfect form. Strictly speaking, the perfect continuous passive of 'is being used' is 'has been being used', but English speakers almost never use this. It's a bit of a mouthful! Instead, they use the present perfect simple tense and say 'has been used'.
You've used the word 'since' to refer to a point in the past - that's super! But 'far from now' doesn't sound quite right. I suggest changing it to 'the olden days' - it's quite a poetic expression in English, but it sounds just right for your blog! So your complete sentence would read:
- Humour has been used as an "antidepressant" by Russian people since the olden days.
And finally, I want to focus on this sentence:
- Why are we laughing on where we should cry?
I think this sentence could be improved by rewriting it like this:
- Why are we laughing when we should be crying?
Does it sound better to you? I hope so! I've done a couple of things to improve it. First, I've got rid of the preposition 'on' (we don't need it) and changed 'where' to 'when'. I've also used the continuous form in both the verbs 'laugh' and 'cry':
- Why are we laughing when we should be crying?
It gives a nice rhythm and balance to the sentence, don't you think? Repeating grammatical structures in a sentence is called 'parallel form'. It's a very nice technique to use in your writing. Parallel form makes your sentences very elegant!
Here are some more sentences from my blog that use parallel form. I've highlighted the matching verb forms:
- (participle + noun) Understanding humour very often depends on knowing the culture that produced the joke.
- (present simple negative + object) I didn't appreciate the joke, because I didn't understand the culture...
- (the + noun + of/on their + noun) the tone of their voice and the look on their face
And now, Olga and everyone else, here is this week's homework task. It's in 2 parts. Here is part 1: Can you spot any more examples of parallel form in my blog? You should be able to spot at least 2 in the second paragraph.
And for part 2 of your homework - everybody please try to use parallel form in at least 2 sentences in your next blog / comments!
That's all from me for now - be good and take care!
- black humour - talking about the bad side of life in a joking way.
- integral - a central or essential part
- bleak - depressing, hopeless
- colourful language - swearing, cursing
- a bit of a mouthful - a phrase or sentence that is quite complicated and difficult to say out loud