Reading a Russian book about a Russo-Japanese war, I saw the idiomatic expression на три господа бога:

Тут, брат, все сделано на три господа бога.

I performed a Google search and found some results with this expression:

У нормальных городских автобусов все рассчитано на три Господа Бога.

Мостик-то обоснован на три господа бога!

Thе idiomatic expression looks very impressive and poetic, so I am eager to fully understand it and to learn to properly use it.

Could you explain this idiomatic expression, addressing the following specific points?

(a) What is the precise figurative meaning of на три господа бога and how is it derived from the literal meaning?

(b) Why is the inflection not на трех господ богов? Isn't the accusative case required after рассчитано на and сделано на? Would you say обед приготовлен на трех господ офицеров or обед приготовлен на три господа офицера?

(c) Does the expression refer to the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

(d) Should I use normal or capital letters for г and б?

(е) Am I correct in using this idiomatic expression as follows: он наловил рыбы на три господа бога; я подготовилась к экзамену на три господа бога; я разобралась в ситуации на три господа бога?

  • 1
    Mitsuko please tend ask one question per post
    – shabunc
    May 19 '19 at 9:23
  • @shabunc Okay, sorry, I will ask one question per post in my next posts.
    – Mitsuko
    May 19 '19 at 9:26
  • @shabunc i wonder what that was May 19 '19 at 9:32
  • @БаянКупи-ка if you are referring to a deleted post it was erroneous phone autocorrection.
    – shabunc
    May 19 '19 at 9:33
  • @shabunc oh ok, technology is dangerous May 19 '19 at 9:36

Google knows as few as 7 (seven) occurrences of this idiom.

(a) Judging by the context it means основательно, впрок, прочно, с запасом прочности, на века

(b) It's because господа (господ) is plural of господин, which is a noun different from господь, and so they inflect differently.

(c) Can't comment. It's my 1st encounter with this expression.

(d) Since it's an idiom the use of господь бог is generic and doesn't mean бог in religious sense, therefore i think capitalization is unnecessary. But a religious person might still use it out of deference.

(e) Not sure this idiom is good fit in these sentences because основательность, прочность (as per my understanding of what the idiom refers to) are rather physical qualities implying long term durability and robustness which cannot be attributed to knowledge, understanding etc.
Perhaps it fits the 1st sentence better but i myself would likely not use it in this context as i wouldn't say Я наловил рыбы на века.

On the other hand since i myself have until now never encountered the expression and considering its extremely low frequency in Google, it perhaps would be reasonable to refrain from using it as it might not be understood by other native speakers as well especially if used incorrectly.

  • It is interesting and puzzling that the author of such a bestseller about Russo-Japanese war - a book that was published in the USSR, obviously passing numerous stages of censorship, correcting and editing - used such a rare idiomatic expression! And that this expression survived in the book, being not excluded by the correctors, editors, and censors! If this idiom is hard to understand, how could it survive in the book and be shown to the entire population of the USSR?
    – Mitsuko
    May 19 '19 at 9:41
  • 3
    @Mitsuko that's a question to the literary editors, we may speculate that it was more current at the time of the actual composition and publication (the 20s and the 30s of the last century), but hasn't survived until the advent of the WWW which is the reason for its being virtually non existent there May 19 '19 at 9:51
  • I am puzzled by your response to (b). Why is the singular form used, not the plural form? Let's consider a very simple example: палатка рассчитана на трех туристов. Is it okay to say instead палатка рассчитана на три туриста?
    – Mitsuko
    May 19 '19 at 9:54
  • I checked the inflections of господь (ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/…), and it turned out that this word does not have the plural form at all. Го́спода is the single form of the accusative and genitive cases of господь. So in the expression на три господа бога we have a numeral три followed by a singular noun in the accusative or genetive case. This is very puzzling!
    – Mitsuko
    May 19 '19 at 9:58
  • @Mitsuko since in Christianity бог is perceived to be one, the need to use plural form of господь usually doesn't occur, but when it's necessary to agree with numerals it can be inflected ad hoc as follows И.п. Го́споды Р.п. Го́сподов Д.п. Го́сподам В.п. Го́сподов Тв. п. Го́сподами П.п. Го́сподах/ам, in this idiom however it's another Genitive plural form which corresponds to numerals 2-4 (два, три, четыре) used with inanimate nouns in Accusative, why it follows the inanimate noun paradigm in this case in another question May 19 '19 at 13:28

I found one single case, from "Tsushima". To be honest, another cases looks like automatically generated comments from a click factory.

This expression is very incorrect for a Christian. The Lord ('Господь Бог') has be the only and the single without an option. A Christian could just mention three persons of the Lord which's not the case.

I think (I am not sure, of cause) that the expression is an editorial error. The novel's text was heavily edited in 1930s before the first publication. The editorial process inserted many errors and false facts in the novel because of ideology.

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