5

While reading a Russian book about the 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!

This idiom looks very impressive and poetic, so I'm eager to fully understand it and to learn to use it properly.

Could you explain this idiom, 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 capitalize господа and бога, or leave them lowercase?

(е) Am I correct in using this idiom 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?

8
  • 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
  • 1
    I must tell, I've never heard this expression in 40 years of my life. It must be very uncommon. I just thought I would give you my naïve understanding of what people might think of this expression (before I go and google what that means). Given the context I can reasonably guess that it means "very robust" or the opposite of it, "very flimsy". More likely robust. And my guess is that it can withstand some mishap three times, because "Господи боже!" or "Господи, помилуй!" is what people might say when some trouble happens.
    – il--ya
    Dec 15 '21 at 17:39
7

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

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

(d) Since it's an idiom, the use of господь бог is generic and doesn't mean бог in the 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 a 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 suits the first sentence better, but I myself would most likely not use it in this context, just like 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 would perhaps be advisable to refrain from using it as it might not be understood by other native speakers either — especially if used incorrectly.

7
  • 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
  • 1
    @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
-1

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.

-1

I've never heard this expression before, and I couldn't find anything close to it in the Russian National Corpus, except for that one example of yours from the book about Tsushima. This expression must be very uncommon, but it does seem to exist.

сделан/рассчитан на три господа appears to mean extra robust, secure.

Домики полярных станция укреплены и утеплены на три господа бога, замерзнуть сложно. (Удивительная Антарктида)

АС: А вот интересно, кто-нибудь из нас здесь застраховал свою жизнь?
ДИ: Я в трех банках застрахован
ДИ Плюс еще в нагрузку к ОСАГО есть
АС: полный комплект
ДИ: На три господа бога, так сказать...
(some forum discussion)

K: А вообще пилотам это не страшно они там так зафиксированы что практически всегда отделываются испугом! Гораздо чаще мрут тупоголовые зрители!
S: K, Да, там у них всё на три Господа Бога рассчитано. Но всё равно - автоспорт штука рисковая...
Race video discussion on forum

Also different meanings:

— Не разобьешь к двадцатому – пеняй на три господа. Это уж я тебе как родному. Поверь!
Ковальков Юрий. Сезон туманов.

Вечерок на три господа.
Мемуары деда. 1926. ВОЕННО-МОРСКОЕ УЧИЛИЩЕ - летняя практика. Линкор "Марат"

Экономики нет ни хрена, сырьевой придаток Запада, а понтов на три господа Бога.
random comment from internet

There's also a strong expression "в три господа бога". Bear in mind that in Christianity, God is at once the embodiment of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so talking about three gods is a heresy and blasphemy from a Christian perspective. That might explain why we don't see many instances of it in literature.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.