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_____ like a horse

December 7, 2011

A quick follow-up to yesterday’s post on Russian Dinosaur on Oliver Ready: in the spirit of caring about “languages” as well as “language,” let’s look at the nuts and bolts of “врет как лошадь.” I wonder if it’s comparable to saying “thinks like a fish” (or “winks like a fish,” etc.) in English – a novel expression that might sound good in context because everyone hears the rhyme of an established expression. Caveats: I’m not a native speaker and haven’t consulted one, Google searches are no replacement for a proper corpus, and Russian has changed since the 1860s. That said, here’s what a quick search reveals:

“ржет как лошадь” – 144,000

“жрет как лошадь” – 168,000

“пьет как лошадь” – 186,000

And compare some plausible ones that don’t rhyme with врет:

“скачет как лошадь” – 36,800

“ест как лошадь” – 65,300

In the same spirit as “врет как лошадь” consider a later example from Maiakovskii’s “Crimea” (Крым, 1928):

Воздух —
желт.
Песок —
желт.
Сравнишь —
получится ложь ведь!
Солнце
шпарит.
Солнце —
жжет.

Как лошадь.

If it’s that kind of expression, then “lies like a rug” doesn’t seem the best approach, horse symbolism aside, though it certainly preserves English fluency. Also, to prove me wrong, here’s a ведь where “after all” is not better than a tag question for pure lexical meaning.

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