This morning on Deutsche Welle there was a programme about German comedians. It was a very short programme.
No really, I kid you not, the above is quite true, and it reminded me that a week or two ago I told you my favourite Russian/Yiddish joke. Yiddish is closely related to German of course, the word ‘Yiddish’ coming from German ‘Jüdisch Deutsch’; ‘Jewish German’. But that’s just an aside of slightly arcane knowledge of the sort in which I delight; today I want to tell you my favourite (non-Yiddish) Russian Joke, first told me by a Russian professor of translation at a conference in Sheffield. (That too is beside the point; I’ve only just got out of bed and my thoughts are scattered.) So here’s the story, and please, stop reading at once if you recognize it; there are few things more embarrassing than telling a joke and realizing half-way through that your audience has heard it before:
It is a winter’s evening and the peasants are returning from the fields. It is so cold that the birds are freezing in mid-flight and dropping from the sky. One lands right at a peasant’s feet. ‘Oh, the poor thing’ he thinks and, picking it up, looks round wondering where to put it for warmth. Just then a cow, returning to the byre for the evening milking, lifts its tail and drops a big steaming cow-pat. ‘Just the thing!’ thinks the peasant, plops the bird down in it and goes on his way, pleased to have done a fellow-creature a good turn.
The bird, rejoicing in its new warm environment, starts to chirrup and wriggle about, thus attracting the attention of another passing peasant who plucks it up, wrings its neck, and takes it home to cook for dinner.
This story has three morals:
1) He who drops you in the shit is not necessarily your enemy.
2) He who gets you out of the shit is not necessarily your friend.
3) When in the shit, don’t make a song and dance about it.