I'm learning a song/piano piece (by the now departed English comedy duo Flanders & Swann) known simply as The Hippopotamus Song. A good example recording of this song is here; if you listen through it you'll notice that the second chorus is supposedly sung in Russian. The pianists mother was a Russian emigree and his uncle a famous Russian musicologist https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Swan

I'm not familiar with Russian, but am interested in learning about the particular usage of it in this song. As I was aware that the Russian chorus wasn't quite a literal translation of the English one, I was curious to find out what it literally meant so I could enjoy any extra jokes that had been thrown in. I did a fairly thorough internet search for an actual transcription of the Russian chorus, but was unable to find anything more than a phonetic transcription which I would have been capable of doing myself. I had equally little success with Google Translate (aside from the word "mud").

So, my request is that (assuming it's in genuine Russian) someone provide a direct transcription, a word-for-word translation to English, and a non-English-accent phonetic transliteration. If it's not genuine, please let me know and I can just do my best to copy the recording.



Грязь, грязь, чудная грязь,

лучшее средство как кожная мазь.

Так возьми свою даму

и поведи её в яму,

и там мы окунемся в чудную грязь.

Fairly close to the English chorus earlier.

['grʲæsʲ 'grʲæsʲ 'tɕudnəjə 'grʲæsʲ] // mud mud wonderful mud

The singer isn't de-voicing that final /zʲ/ enough. Maybe not the first time when the two words are repeated back to back and a voiced consonant follows, but for the rest, it should just become [sʲ], no middle ground there.

['lutʂəjə 'srʲetstvə kɐk 'koʐnəjə 'masʲ] // best remedy as skin ointment

The grammar's a bit awkward here, but could just be strained to fit the metre. The "tch" cluster in the middle of the first word is a bit too soft, but it could be how some Russians actually said it half a century ago (but then again your audience might not know that, and it will come across as foreign). That final /zʲ/ isn't de-voiced enough, again.

[tək vɐzʲ'mʲi svɐ'ju 'damu] // so take your lady

[i pəvʲɪ'dʲi jɪ'jo 'vjamu] // and take/lead her to pit/hollow

[i 'tam mɨ ɐ'kunʲəmsʲə 'ftɕudnuju 'grʲæsʲ] // and there we will_dip into wonderful mud

The very non-dental [t] at the beginning is probably the most foreign sound in this otherwise fairly good rendition. Make that [t] as "French" or "Spanish" as you can instead. A weird stress pattern in окунемся (ought to be окунёмся); archaic? plain incorrect? greater poetic licence than what would fly these days?


It all sounded gibberish, except for one phrase, that I've caught "лучшее средство" - "best remedy" or "best cure".


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