Wikipedia claims that the expression И рыбку съесть, и в воду не лезть is equivalent to "having your cake and eating it too", literally translated to wanting to eat a fish without first catching it from the waters.

It references a footnote however, that says that: this is a euphemism for a common vulgar expression и рыбку съесть, и на хуй сесть first used by Alexander Pushkin in a private letter.

I am wondering if it is then ok to use И рыбку съесть, и в воду не лезть, or will it be offensive? Note that the context is rather formal, but I would like to include this phrase in Russian (the rest of the work is in English).

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    The Pushkin's phrase is vulgar, the phrase about water is not, but since it's a proverb it sounds rather colloquial.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 0:46
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    the proverb about eating a fish is commonly known in its profane version, therefore it's indecent inasmuch as it reminds the interlocutor of the former, and in fact it most likely will be perceived as an attempt to moderate THAT version, basically as the footnote you refer to says Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 8:11
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    This is the first time I see "и в воду не лезть" variation. I've seen mostly "и на елку влезть", "и косточкой не подавиться" (немного примеров)
    – Alexander
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 21:33
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    I would refrain from using "И рыбку съесть" euphemism, because most native speakers would instantly recognize the "и на хуй сесть" alternative, which is far from being socially acceptable. Commented Dec 13, 2017 at 17:45

4 Answers 4


Take your pick:

  • Убить одним выстрелом двух зайцев (Kill two rabbits with one shot)
  • (Дать) и вашим, и нашим (Please one's friends and enemies)
  • Сидеть на двух стульях (Sit on two chairs)
  • Объять необъятное (Embrace the unembraceable)

The last two are normally used in the negative sense:

  • На двух стульях не усидишь (You can't sit on two chairs)
  • Нельзя объять необъятное (You can't embrace the unembraceable)

The one you quoted:

  • И рыбку съесть, и в воду не лезть

is a classic proverb. There is nothing inherently offensive about it. It would make a nice epigraph.

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    Любишь кататься - люби и саночки возить)))
    – shabunc
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 9:12
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    @shabunc, not quite: the cake expression is about having "the best of two worlds" while yours is about having to pay for what you use. Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 17:55
  • Also: гнаться за двумя зайцами (literally: chasing two hares, meaning: trying to achieve to incompatible objectives or those that can not feasibly be achieved together)
    – StasM
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 19:26

"И волки сыты, и овцы целы." (The wolves are fed and the sheep are safe.) Often used as a metaphor of two mutually exclusive goals.

  • True but the meaning is a bit different. The cake one implies somebody is trying to do the impossible, and probably is pulling some self-serving trick or get more than their due - both eating cake and having cake. Something similar to "в два горла жрать" or original meaning of "двурушничество" (a beggar that uses two hands - thus doubling the income - instead of customary one). The волки one described positive outcome, with implication of congratulating for achieving a good resolution of a tricky situation.
    – StasM
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 19:24

"нельзя быть немножко беременной" or "нельзя быть наполовину беременной" (выбор между двумя противоположными альтернативами. Попытка выбрать что-то промежуточное или невозможна, или приведёт к одной из них.)

A bit rude expressions:

  • и невинность соблюсти, и дитя приобрести
  • и честь соблюсти, и капитал приобрести

If I understod right, the opposite for "Have your cake and eat it too" is "Сапожник без сапог". It illustrates a situation, when man have a some talent or skill and does not use it for his own profit. The same: "Зарывать таланты в землю" - do not use your own talents\skills\resources.

May be this sentence will be close to "Have your cake and eat it too": "На Бога надейся, да и сам не плошай" - have a trust in a help from God in your business, but make your own work at 100%, only then you will succeed.

  • Sorry, but I think that the meaning of the OP's phrase is quite different.
    – Ark-kun
    Commented Dec 15, 2017 at 9:02

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