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I was given a Russian song as a listening exercise, and, as far as I could discern, its chorus is:

И мы не устаем, и с ночи до утра

Мы можем говорить, говорить о мужиках.

Бокал до дна в трудные минуты.

"Все мужики козлы," скажут подруги.

Translated into English, these lines are:

And we don't get tired, and all night long

We can talk, talk about men.

A full glass of wine at hard moments.

All men are billy goats, female friends will say.

Intrigued by the phrase все мужики козлы (all men are billy goats), I did some research, and it turns out it's a popular idiomatic phrase, with Google suggesting there are 216,000 web pages with that exact phrase.

Wiktionary says that козёл (a billy goat) has a second meaning:

(slang, derogatory) idiot, blockhead; jerk, bastard, ass

But it is utterly unnatural and nonsensical to say that all men are idiots or bastards in the general sense, and it appears to me that the phrase is rather about some specific inherent quality of all men that reveals itself in intergender relationships. At least, the phrase appears to be used almost exclusively in that context.

My question: What quality of all men is the phrase about, or how could you explain that phrase to a confused Japanese student who doesn't fully understand the Russian culture of intergender relationships?


UPDATE: @Quassnoi suggested in a comment below that the phrase simply means all men are jerks, and his comment received 7 upvotes. What remains unclear to me is the following thing. Google says it has much more results for the exact phrase все мужики козлы than for all men are jerks (226,000 vs 17,200). Given that the English-speaking part of the Internet is larger than the Russian-speaking one, it is clear that все мужики козлы is much more popular in Russian than all men are jerks in English is. Why is the Russian phrase much more popular than its English counterpart?

UPDATE 2: Perhaps the true English equivalent actually is all men are dicks (about 136,000 results). Still, it is considerably less popular in English than the Russian phrase is in Russian, even in absolute numbers of Google results. Adjusting the numbers of Google results for the fact that there are twice as many native English speakers as native Russian speakers (340 million vs 145 million, see this link), I estimate that все мужики козлы is about four times as popular in Russian as all men are dicks is in English. I am curious as to why it is so.

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    This phrase means "all men are jerks", there is nothing specifically Russian about it except its language – Quassnoi Feb 27 at 13:00
  • @Quassnoi : "all men are jerks": about 17,200 results. "все мужики козлы": about 226,000 results. Given that the English-speaking part of the Internet is larger than the Russian-speaking one, it is clear that "все мужики козлы" is much more popular in Russian than "all men are jerks" in English is. Is there any explanation for that? :) – Mitsuko Feb 27 at 20:56
  • amazon.com/All-Men-Are-Jerks-Understanding/dp/1580621732 I don't know, maybe there's something in this book – Quassnoi Feb 27 at 21:00
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    btw are you asking why do many women feel that all men are dicks or why is this Russian phrase is arguably more widespread than the English one? If the former, this belongs on interpersonal.se, if the latter, please update your question accordingly, with the sources and all. Thanks! – Quassnoi Feb 27 at 21:06
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    @Mitsuko I think your question about why the Russian phrase is more popular than other English similar phrases is actually a serious question. I really think it's because in the Russian speaking world the degree of tolerance to some rude expressions is lower, such phrases are tolerated by speakers especially on the internet. Probably Russian speaking internet on average is ruder. That's my theory, but it's difficult to prove. There are similar rude phrases about 'All women are..' in Russian speaking world... in brief, we are just ruder on average (not to accuse people, but seems like fact) – alexsms Mar 5 at 11:30
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But it is utterly unnatural and nonsensical to say that all men are idiots or bastards in the general sense, (…)

It is nonsensical, at least by the modern-day Western standards, but it's also exactly what the idiom is supposed to mean. Its usual partner in crime is the idiom “Все бабы дуры”, which literally translates to “All women are stupid”. Yeah. Here is a quick Google search, which shows these two playing together. Wait until you find out about “работать/пахать/вкалывать как негр” and its counterpart “(делать что-то) как белый человек”.

History is complicated, and so are the relationships between the sexes, genders, races, and so on. In most modern contexts and among most young people these idioms are only used ironically. At least in my social circles, that is.

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"..и все бабы - дуры", and all womens are fools... Usually, such expression are used by women abandoned by men (sometimes repeatedly), or their dolly girl-friends (not a lesbians... or lesbian too :>) to reassurance them ... The goat here acts not only in the role of some kind of villain, but also as a cunning and insensible shameless creature...(like a goat entering the garden and eating everything there; we have the proverb - "пустить козла в огород") There may be feminist or, conversely, anti-stereotypical connotations, depending on the context.

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The important part of your question mentions intergender relationships.

So you are right that much depends on culture and degree of rudeness, acceptance of rude emotions (or just emotions). So such questions, they are more than just language questions, they are cultural questions.

I think it's a cultural fact that in Russia (and some ex-Soviet countries) there is a substantial number of both men and women who are unhappy, lonely, had unhappy relations in the past. Hence the existence of such simple emotional phrases as 'All men are...', 'All women are...'.

It's just an example of gender relations and how language is connected with them.

I think that many speakers of Russian very often tolerate or use strong, emotional phrases in everyday situations (especially uneducated speakers). And this may apply not to other gender, but to other ethnic groups, sexual orientation, social groups.

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From the point of view of Russian women all men are divided into two categories:

  • Козлы (often spelled казлы)
  • Олени (often spelled алени)

Козёл (goat) is a man who places his own interests above hers, for instance does not want to marry or give her his resources. This comes from the more general derogatory meaning of the word "козёл" "bastard, jerk, dick".

Олень (deer) is a man who marries, gives money to her but the woman cheats on him and uses his resources. This comes from the meaning of the word "олень" "husband on whom the wife is cheating", supposedly because the deer cannot see his horns.

Compare Pushkin:

Как рано мог уж он тревожить
Сердца кокеток записных!
Когда ж хотелось уничтожить
Ему соперников своих,
Как он язвительно злословил!
Какие сети им готовил!
Но вы, блаженные мужья,
С ним оставались вы друзья:
Его ласкал супруг лукавый,
Фобласа давний ученик,
И недоверчивый старик,
И *рогоносец* величавый,
Всегда довольный сам собой,
Своим обедом и женой.

Since the majority of men (of at least those with whom women have affairs) do not want to marry and do not become "deers", women in their frustration call them goats.

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  • Wow, thanks a lot, that's a really interesting answer that provides some insight. Am I right in understanding that most Russian women do not marry, because there are just not enough deers for them as most men are "kozly," who will never marry any woman? – Mitsuko Feb 28 at 6:01
  • @Mitsuko roughly yes, but some also will call their husand kazel as well, in case he prefers his own interests. – Anixx Feb 28 at 9:35
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    To put more briefly, козёл is a guy who takes advantage of you, олень is a guy you take advantage of. – Headcrab Mar 6 at 5:09
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Downvote me all you want but the truth is more important to me, so here's the answer. It's all about beards. The thing is that historically Russian men tend to have beards even though Peter the Great tried to fight this tradition but in a long run he failed.

Goats are well known for having beards, this photo will give you idea:

enter image description here

So, when women are saying that "все мужики козлы" it's actually about "все мужики [выглядят] как козлы".

Personally me as a cleanly shaved man (the most of the time) find this quite offensive and stereotypical, however well, you know, those Russians, not quite Europeans, not quite Asians.

enter image description here

I also have to add that there's another version! Yuri Lotman, a prominent Russian linguist, cultural historian and semiotician, hypothesized that this phrase is related to the fact that goat is European culture is a satanic symbol. Thus, he claimed, we should interpret this phrase as acknowledging the immanently infernal nature of masculinity. While this point of view is gaining some traction, I have to admit that it's still not widely accepted by the academic community.

In my opinion this answer as serious as the question is!

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  • I hope you bear it in mind that not all men have beards, and also all the goats have beards, both male and female, that is, irrespective of sex. – Yellow Sky Feb 27 at 16:45
  • good point @YellowSky good point! – shabunc Feb 27 at 16:46
  • @YellowSky: how do you mean "not all men have beards"? – Quassnoi Feb 27 at 17:34
  • @Quassnoi - What do you mean by "how do you mean"? (-: Some men shave there faces, you know. – Yellow Sky Feb 27 at 17:41
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    You forgot this documentary film. – Ainar-G Feb 27 at 18:01
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Life in Russia/USSR has always been harder than in English speaking countries. People in Russia (USSR) have always been more direct and blunt.

That's one explanation why this phrase is more common on the internet than its English version with jerks. Russian internet is generally more insulting.

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Because of in Russia female gene pool are preserved better than male. And there are few reasons for this:

  • Civil War in 1917 in the Russian empire
  • Second World War 1941-1945 in the USSR

It's two main events in the history of Russia where was died top of the mans, defenders, testament of the nation. Woman who stay at home and take care of childrens at this time are relatively better preserved.

The best men were died and we have what we have.

That is why woman often complain that in Russia no have good man, and those who are - billy goats (but there a plenty of others humiliating comparisons you can find). Woman in they turn should remember that they in most are responsible which man with her. Because women can inspires men, gives him strength, can forms a real man from a boy.

However this history it's considered as fake, I am agreed. But there are right point of view how women can influence a man.

And I think in this situation in Russian, wise woman should don't complain on man that they are billy goats, but take anyone who are wants be with her and she feeling protected with him and make a "president" out of his man.

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    this answer it a good illustration of why I've disliked the question in the first place - it's not about Russian language after all. – shabunc Apr 7 at 12:32
  • Agreed. Do you think that this answer probably can give better understanding Russian mentality, which in turn can be a key for better understand language itself? – pleyades Apr 7 at 15:20
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    There is no such thing as female or male genotype. At the time of conception the genetic material of the parents is randomly recombined, and the sex is also assigned randomly. If Russia had lost its best men, it affected the later generations of men at the same extent as it affected women. – Anixx Apr 8 at 0:21
  • You are correct, I renamed "genotype" to "gene pool". I refer to no biological terminology. As for "affected the later generations of men at the same extent as it affected women" - it's wrong. There is breed signs which can be carried only by specific sex (man or woman). However we - human - are just combination of 46 chromosomes but code itself is NOT univocal. It's mean that the same combination of nucleotides in DNA can be represented DIFFERENTLY in phenotype depends on the context where it is in DNA. – pleyades Apr 8 at 6:55
  • WW2 with USSR taking part in it started in 1939. And then also The Winter War between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland took place. 100k+ casualties. You can also mention famines in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tatarstan and Volga region. Millions of casualties. – Serg Z. Apr 8 at 12:26

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