Reede, 20 Juuli 2018 19:00
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 29 2018
From the previous installment about how Russians and Latvians perceive Estonians through jokes, a stereotype seemed to emerge, at least through the eyes of Latvians – that Estonians aren’t as nimble-minded as their southern neighbour. A rather superior attitude from Latvian joke-tellers was palpable. However no conclusions can be drawn from the few jokes we’re able to relate from the possible thousands of anecdotes Latvians may have created about Estonians. Some more for your appraisal:
Russian: An Englishman, Estonian and Russian are stranded on a desert island. For ten years they have survived the ordeal. They finally find a Golden Fish (equivalent to Genie in a lamp) washed up on shore. It can grant three wishes. The Englishman wants to go home immediately to his wife and daughter. The Russian wants the same. The Estonian thinks for quite a while and finally asks, `Can I send someone greetings?`
Russian: A Soviet traffic cop stops a Cherokee. An Estonian is driving, with unfastened seatbelt. “Pay the penalty,” commands the cop. “Don’t have any money,” the Estonian replies. The cop gets angry, “You’re messing with me.” “I make 500 a month, but don’t have any money,” replies the Estonian. The cop argues, “Five hundred a month and you drive a Cherokee.” The Estonian explains, “In the army I made seven rubles a month and I drove a tank.”
Russian: An Estonian couple visits a market in the middle east. An Arab there asks the Estonian if he will take 50 camels in exchange for his wife. The Estonian reflects, “…for 5 minutes, for 10, for 15”.His wife is furious that he hadn’t rejected the offer immediately. The Estonian explained that he had to figure out if he could put 50 camels into their apartment.
Russian: A history lesson in an Estonian school during the Soviet occupation. The teacher asks what the three colours of the national flag stand for. Tiit is the first to answer: The blue is our beautiful sea, which the Russians have polluted. Teacher: “Well done, right answer.” The next is Kaido: “Black is Estonia’s soil, which the Russians have defiled”. Teacher: “Exactly right.” Volodja is desperate to get the last answer: “White is the same snow that Estonians didn’t clear away in Siberia, and if Tiit and Kaido don’t keep their mouths shut, they’re going to go there to finish clearing it.”
Latvian: Estonian mobile phone companies offered new marketing incentive – first 50 seconds of the call is free if caller chooses wrong number. Estonian scientists have discovered that the most amount of vitamins are in drug stores. Sometimes it’s not that bad being an Estonian – one’s wages are often not spent by the end of the month.
Latvian: Toivo is clasping his ankle and asks his friend, “Do you have any antidote for snakebite?” “No, but why do you asks?” “Well, you see that snake way over there?”
Russian: An Estonian and Russian after a ship wreck have been isolated on a desert island for years. The Russian finally sees something move on a neighbouring island. Conjuring up images of a possible women being there, he plunges into the ocean and swims over. After a while The Estonian sees him frantically beckoning him to swim over. The Estonian doesn’t react. The Russian manages to shout out that there is something here which they haven’t seen or experienced for years. The Estonian jumps into the water and murmurs to himself: “Sauerkraut soup, sauerkraut soup, sauerkraut soup.”
Do trends exist in ethnic humour. Scholarly literature is contradictory in concluding this. The examples chosen in these last two installments are just a few jokes in probably thousands that have been told and certainly if a trend is apparent then it’s a deliberate choice of the compiler of the anecdotes to make a point.
However it has been observed that Russians do, on occasion, relate stories of an Estonian characteristic that they have perceived – slow to react. Russians themselves insist that they have many more jokes about Finns than Estonians – with the same perceived characteristic. Both ethnic groups are said to speak in a slow monotone. This is odd in that Estonian speaking ex-patriots in their first visit to their land of heritage complain that Estonians there speak too fast to be properly understood.
One of the themes that are evident in both jokes said to be originated by Russians is the following: A contest is set up amongst the three Baltic countries to see which nationality can pound the most nails into wood with the head. An Estonian competes first and can bang in 60 with his head. Next is a Lithuanian and can drive in 80. Last is the Latvian and pounds in many more until the judges stop him. The judges convene to make their decision. They announce the Lithuanian as winner. People are outraged. The judges explain: The Latvian was disqualified because he pounded the nails in backwards, pointy end out.
What’s the message here? Stupidity? Machismo? This writer has seen the same joke in at least three different collections. The ethnicity of the butt of the joke is different in each case. Conclusion – no one knows who originated the joke.Laas Leivat
(To be continued.)