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whippersnapper
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MI: You reason like Russian's comfort with silence is something abnormal, that needs special explanation, while for me American discomfort with silence is something abnormal, that asks for explanations.
Time to confess -- I just couldn't come up with anything glib to account for American discomfort with silence.
Let's try out a few:
- Frontier thesis. Hmm. Rugged individuals conquering unbound wilderness in a spirit of democracy and freedom feel compelled to chatter incessantly in order to, um, to... Eh, this one doesn't work for me.
- Horror vacui -- the fear of emptiness. Silence is an emptiness that Americans feel compelled to fill with talk, no matter how small, in order to make their mark on the world. Maybe. But I don't see anything distinctly American in this.
- Freudian. Silence is a type of container that Americans feel compelled to fill, and this is a metaphor for sex. Hmm. The Freudian approach is so, well, Freudian.
- Impatience/getting value/"bang for the buck." I don't think the American sense of getting ripped of nearly approaches, for example, the Singaporean notion of kiasu. But we definitely have a sense here of getting value for our money. Not that I'm trying to equate interpersonal exchange with monetary exchange, but how about some sense that an American feels that conversation is an obligatory part of certain interactions, and gosh, darn it, I'm going to get some conversation out of this no matter how banal or trivial that conversation is! (How do different people react to John Cage's 4'33", which is a piece of music in which a conductor and musicians observe four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence? Some audiences perhaps feel it's a hoax or a joke or they're being ripped off. Maybe the more sophisticated listener might get the point that music is about the organization of sound and silence and Cage is drawing our attention to that by using silence exclusively in this composition. Igor Stravinsky (my favorite composer), who is a great source of pithy quotes, is reputed to have replied to the question of what he thought about the trend among young composers to have works consisting of silence that he was hoping to hear from these composers works of great scope and duration.)
Russians have an interesting expression to break an uncomfortable silence: "a policeman was born." (I know two variants, one with the neutral, normative word for policeman, and another with a slangy word for policeman that is generally not used in polite company.) The idea seems to be "just imagine, in the few minutes here we've been sitting here not talking, somewhere out there was born a person who will grow up to be a policeman -- how depressing." In my experience, however, somebody saying "a policeman was born" doesn't revive the conversation much, and everybody eventually slips back in to silence.
Observed moments of silence. Russians have this tradition of sitting for a moment of silence before setting off on a journey. Americans tend to have observed moments of silence to mark some event. Don't know if there's anything we can draw from this.
MI: We also have "bezmolvie", which is an elevated variant of "molchanie".
Didn't know that one. Ozhegov also lists bezmolvost', which I haven't heard either. Could you come up with a sentence that uses bezmolvie in which molchanie isn't possible or likely?
 
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In "Godel, Escher, Bach," Achilles comments that 4'33'' would be very nice to play on the jukebox of a noisy diner as then one could enjoy a few minutes of quiet.
 
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This all contradicts the adage of Silence is Golden.
 
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Rufus BugleWeed:
This all contradicts the adage of Silence is Golden.


Then what color is noise?
 
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

Then what color is noise?

 
Anonymous
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

Then what color is noise?


noise is pollution
 
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Then what color is noise?
In a signal processing theory, there are at least two colors of noise: white and brown. White noise is complete randomness, brown nouse is essentially brownian motion, with serial correlation.
 
Thomas Paul
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So we now have 3 different colors for noise:
Golden - John Cage 4'33''
White - static?
Brown - ?
[ October 10, 2003: Message edited by: Thomas Paul ]
 
John Smith
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Well, there are also pink, orange, and black noise. See Colors Of Noise (or your Electrical Engineering textbook) for full spectrum.
 
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MM: Russians have an interesting expression to break an uncomfortable silence: "a policeman was born." (I know two variants, one with the neutral, normative word for policeman, and another with a slangy word for policeman that is generally not used in polite company.)
Which words are they? I have only very vague feeling that I ever heard this expression, but I must have heard it, because this very vague feeling told me it's closer to "policeman" (which was in use in Tsarists Russia) rather than contemporary "milizioner". I searched on the Internet and the only result indeed uses "policeman": http://lib.ru/RUFANT/BAGRQK/adventur.txt
Could you come up with a sentence that uses bezmolvie in which molchanie isn't possible or likely?
bezmolvie literally means "absence of speech" but it is applied to inhuman phenomena, usually big nature scenes. I think I won't be too wrong to say that the word is used mostly in poetry and other forms of fine language, you won't meet it in a daily conversations. I found "bezmolvie of snow", I can easily imagine "bezmolvie of mountains"... J. London's "The White Silence" was translated as "Beloe bezmolvie". Castaneda's Book 8 "The Power of Silence" is "Strength of bezmolvie" in Russian.
Observed moments of silence. Russians have this tradition of sitting for a moment of silence before setting off on a journey.
I read somewhere that this is an old pagan ritual. The goal is to fool adversary supernatural forces by pretending that we do not plan any journey, just sitting here - you see?
P.S. When I was searching for examples of bezmolvie usage, I came across this funny forum, that said:
Добро пожаловать, Проходимец. Логин или Регистрация.
(Welcome, proxodimets. Login or Register.)
Morphologically "proxodimets" is made out of parts that mean "passerby", but it's real sense is "impostor, villain, crook, rogue, scoundrel, rascal" as my dictionary said. That’s a funny word play.
 
John Smith
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Which words are they? I have only very vague feeling that I ever heard this expression, but I must have heard it, because this very vague feeling told me it's closer to "policeman" (which was in use in Tsarists Russia) rather than contemporary "milizioner".
Michael Matola probably meant some derogatory terms that the Russians use to refer to a policeman, such as kozel (goat), musor (trash), ment (no equivalent in English), etc. Incidentally, I've never heard an expression "a policeman is born".
 
Anonymous
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I believe the original saying in these situations of silence was "a fool is born". ("Durak rodilsya") The policeman's birth was but a natural and logical extension of this.
 
Mapraputa Is
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I thought ment is more or less equal to "cop", it isn't particularly derogative. It perhaps started as such, but then was replaces by musor in this function.
[ October 10, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
Anonymous
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A milizioner would probably appreciate being called a "ment" exactly as much as his American counterpart would enjoy being labeled a "pig". Which is to say, he wouldn't. "Musor" is the harder to translate into the American value system.
 
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There was a very popular TV show Called "Menty" (aka. "Ulizy razbityx fonarey"), also there is "novie priklucheniya mentov" etc. The word itself isn't offensive (unlike "pig"), as it doesn't mean anything, or at least I am not aware of any other meaning. "Musor" might have some analog in criminal argo, but I couldn't find anything besides "copper", which doesn't seem bad enough.
 
Anonymous
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Thought you might be interested in the following quote from Chapter 3 of Twelve Stories of Russia: A NOvel, I guess:
"...As we sat around the table, our conversation rose and fell until it settled into a long drawn-out silence. Tanya was smoking a Marlboro. The redhead was smoking Prima. As I did not smoke, my hands were conspicuously free and so I smiled emptihandedly. The awkward stillness lasted a half-minute. Then Tanya's face lit up:
Do you know what we say about these types of silences?
I shook my head.
We say that when there's a long silence like that, you know like the one that we just had. . .when that happens we say that it means a policeman is being born.
The redhead didn't laugh:
I've heard the same thing about tax inspectors, he said.
Tanya didn't laugh.
Again the conversation died. And again a long drawn-out silence.
Another pause. Another awkward stillness. Maybe she was right? Maybe that's why there were so many policemen here. . . ?
The silence lasted an entire precinct...."
 
Mapraputa Is
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Ha, that's funny.
Do you have the book???
 
John Smith
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allabout: The silence lasted an entire precinct
What happened then?
 
Anonymous
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What happened then?



...And then I published the book. You�ve got a great forum here...hope you don�t mind if I come back from time to time to put in my two kopeks...? A.J. Perry
 
Mapraputa Is
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You are real A.J. Perry? No kidding?
I almost believe , because this quote from chapter 3 isn't online (at least I couldn't find) and it's unlikely that an accidental "Meaningless Drivel" visitor has this rare book.
"Policeman was born" derived from "fool was born" is plausible, here is a proof.
Interesting, that when searching for "fool born" I found a fairy tale "Erema-fool and death", with a line "... Even the day he was born, there was a strange, bad silence". Perhaps that's the origin, and the expression under discussion was derived by means of inversion. Or this juxtaposition can be a pure coincidence, a search engine artifact.
It's nice that Amazon D. Com doesn't lack a surrealistic sense of humor either and listed publication date for Twelve Stories of Russia: A Novel, I Guess as October 1901.
 
John Smith
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You�ve got a great forum here...hope you don�t mind if I come back from time to time to put in my two kopeks...?
It's been a long time since I actively used the colloquial Russian, but if I am not mistaken, the Russians would say "five kopeks", not "two kopeks". Anyway, welcome to MD, Anthony. We only have one rule here, -- don't act like a Russian here (i.e. be nice).
 
Anonymous
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Thanks for the welcome!
 
Michael Matola
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Seems almost an afterthought to post this now, but it was
Rodilsia ment
that I've heard a number of times, from Russians, spontaneously, in the wild. "Rodilsia militsioner" I have heard only a single time, from a somewhat proper Russian woman in her forties. She went on to "explain" the expression to me, and when I said that I had more commonly heard it as "rodilsia ment" she was extremely surprised, both that I knew the expression to begin with and that I knew the word "ment."
For what it's worth, here's another example, of the usage in print, so to speak.
 
Mapraputa Is
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MM wrote: The editing/pacing at times is brilliant. There are some long, slow-cut scenes, particularly in the first third of the move. A couple of them have no music going and (I'd have to see the movie again to verify this) no ambient noise either. Boldly trying to interpret the intent of the director, I would say that she was doing this to make the typical American audience member uncomfortable.
Just watched the movie. I periodically reminded myself about your observation and tried to catch these scenes, then forgot again, then remembered... Well, the total is: I did not notice any particularly silent moments. Everything is relative, I guess...
MM also wrote: I know the feeling well. I get it too just about anytime a Russian starts talking about the Russian soul. They're like all "I'm so in touch with my emotions" and "Russians think on a more philosophical level than others."
As a "thank you" gift for recommending this movie, here is something about Russian soul. George Mikes' "How to be an Alien" ("Soul and understatement" section):

Foreigners have souls; the English haven't. On the Continent you find any amount of people who sigh deeply for no conspicuous reason, yearn, suffer and look in the air extremely sadly. This is soul. The worst kind of soul is the great Slav soul. People who suffer from it are usually very deep thinkers. They may say things like this: 'Sometimes I am so merry and sometimes I am so sad. Can you explain why?' (You cannot, do not try.) Or they may say: I am so mysterious. . . . I sometimes wish I were somewhere else than where I am.' (Do not say: I wish you were.') Or 'When I am alone in a forest at night-time and jump from one tree to another, I often think that life is so strange.' All this is very deep: and just soul, nothing else.


The whole text is anti-British, though.
[ October 12, 2003: Message edited by: Mapraputa Is ]
 
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The English have no soul; they have understatement instead.
But no one should accuse the English of a lack of proportion.
"someone wrote on a message board set up to honour Her Royal Highness The Queen Mother, :
�I think the Queen Mum and Princess Diana are our very own Twin Trade Towers.� Poor soul."
BTW it's supposed to describe the magnitude of the loss.

regards
[ October 13, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
 
Mapraputa Is
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Speaking about Queens, this is from the same text, "How to be rude" section:

In the last century, when a wicked and unworthy subject annoyed the Sultan of Turkey or the Czar of Russia, he had his head cut of without much ceremony; but when the same happened in England, the monarch declared: 'We are not amused'; and the whole British nation even now, a century later, is immensely proud of how rude their Queen was.


 
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