How I misinterpret Russian song lyrics

A couple weeks ago, Mr. B and I ordered Russian cable , because all the best concerts and shows are on in time for New Year and, honestly, watching American TV for New Year is like spending Christmas in Florida, a la Home Alone 2.

When you order Russian TV, you get three channels: Perviy Kanal (Channel 1), RTV, and RTV+, I believe.  While these are three Russian channels, they are Russian channels in the same way that mall sushi is Japanese food.  The content is filtered and packaged for the American Russian-speaking market.  People our age don’t order Russian tv, so basically it’s geared for grandparents, most of who don’t have the Internet and don’t speak English, meaning that Russian TV is often their only media lifeline for entertainment throughout the day.

So instead of actually cool and ridiculous Russian shows like Afromoskvitch (An African…Muscovite!) and The Russian Nanny, we get shows that teach you how to speak English using key vocabulary from the Holocaust.  I wish I were making this up.  We cancelled Russian TV about four days after we got it.  Ok, I think the Russian Nanny is ridiculous enough to merit a full epsidoe YouTube clip instead of a link :

But the one cool thing that it does have is the New Year’s concert, where Mr. B and I heard this song and instantly fell in love with it. It is so rare for Mr. B and I to agree on music that I chalked it up to a New Year’s miracle.


The song is called Absent’ (ahbSENT), or Absinthe, and is basically about a chick who hangs out in bars and drinks a lot and won’t tell her boyfriend that she loves him because all she wants to do is party. But in a classy way. It was originally sung/written only by the female singer in the clip, Elena Vaenga.

It goes something like this:

I don’t know why it’s pulling me,

It’s pulling me, oh, how it’s pulling me,

And I always vanish at night, at night, at night

It didn’t happen only once, unfortunately,

This is going to repeat, repeat

I’m only going to change the time and the faces,

The green color-I won’t change


I found out an interesting fact

That Van Gogh, Matisse, and Dali,

Smoked tobacco,  used absinthe,

And, actually, could do a lil’ something else.

This is a really bad translation because there are very distinct Russian nuances, but you get the point.

So, Mr. B and I were driving in the car last week, listening to this song admiringly, when I turned to Mr. B, as I often do when I have problems with the Russian language, and broke the silence by asking , “So, what does it mean?”

“What do you mean, what does it mean?”

“So, like, she had sex with Van Gogh, Matisse, and Dali?”

“What?  What are you talking about?”

“In the song.  She says the she found out that they could do a lil’ something else.  So she basically had sex with all three of them?”

“What?  No.  Are you daft?* A lil’ something else means she found out that, not only do they smoke weed and drink absinthe-”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.  I thought таба-табак was, like cigars and stuff.”

“No, I’m pretty sure she means that they smoked weed.”

“That ruins my whole image of the song, of them hanging out in fin de siècle Vienna and smoking cigars and discussing art and stuff.  Ok, fine.  But what about the sex?”

“There is NO sex.  She just means that, in addition to all the bad stuff they do, they were also all geniuses and managed to create some of the greatest art, in between the absinthe and the weed.”

“Are you sure? I thought it was like, ‘You know, they could *wink wink nudge nudge* do something else, too.”

“Yeah, no, I’m pretty sure.”

We went back to listening to the song.

We listened to it for 10 more seconds.

I turned it off.

It just wasn’t as good anymore.

*he actually said stupid, but I like to pretend that we are British and we fight classy-like. Just pretend he said daft.