# distinguishing between "a force" and "the Force" in speech

I once gave a math lecture to students in Russia and stated a theorem that certain mathematical data that "locally" have no obvious relations are connected to each other by a single "global" relation (if you know math, then consider the Gauss--Bonnet theorem or the Hilbert reciprocity law). I commented that this single global relation is like the Force: это соотношение как Сила. However, this sounds just like это соотношение как сила, so I suspect my joke was largely not understood. How would you distinguish between "like the Force" and "like a force" in a way that would be understood by anyone familiar with Star Wars even when the context has nothing to do with Star Wars? This is no problem in English.

I looked on Wikipedia and see that Сила has the synonym Великая сила. Is this alternate term the best way to handle my question? (Saying Это как Сила в Звездных Войнах doesn't seem like a good solution, since it is not concise.)

• I think if you used the English phrase "the Force" (зе форс), emphasizing it with intonation, you'd be understood. As a more formal substitute, you might have used суперсила or сверхсила. Jun 26, 2013 at 0:38
• When I look up сверхсила the links are to a cartoon Ben 10, not Star Wars.
– KCd
Jun 26, 2013 at 0:48
• Wikipedia translates this as "Великая Сила". Good chances are that not everybody would get the reference, so I'd say "как Великая Сила из 'Звездных Войн'" for clarity. Jun 26, 2013 at 2:40
• Can you please hint at where is the joke? After reading your question I still do not understand where is the humor. And I think that Star Wars are not enough familiar to the students up to the degree that the references to be understood without explicit mentioning of the movie. Jun 26, 2013 at 4:41

Star Wars universe is much less familiar to Russians than Americans, so your joke would probably elude majority of students. Even if they recognized the reference, they would probably be not familiar enough with the properties of the Force to understand your point.

However, if you insist on using a Star Wars reference, you could use one of the following devices:

1. Make an explicit reference to Star Wars: это соотношение — как Сила из "Звёздных войн"
2. Use the word джедай: это соотношение — как джедайская сила.
3. Use the verb пребыть: это соотношение пребудет в мире как Сила. "May the Force be with you" is commonly translated as да пребудет с вами Сила, so when used like this, the meaning of сила would be unequivocal.
4. Use "Yoda's hyperbaton": Силе Великой соотношение подобно это.

Note that the last two tropes can easily be mistaken for a grammar fault, especially if your Russian is not perfect.

I'd suggest a more common topic for the joke. Maybe something like this:

• Это соотношение связывает, казалось бы, огородную бузину и киевского дядьку
• Это соотношение как тайный ход: у вас кликнут, а у нас откликаются

or similar.

• I particularly like the fourth option. But this «Великая»… it's been some time since I watched The Star Wars in Russian, so I'm not sure, but I think there was no «великая» in «Используй Силу, Люк», and as a consequence it is hardly used in real life. Furthermore, «Великая Сила» sounds very funny. I wouldn't suggest prepending «Великая». Jun 30, 2013 at 7:17
• Про Йоду — хорошая идея. Так же неплохо особой интонацией выделить, а для самых маленьких и тупых — достать и включить световой меч.
– КуЪ
Jul 3, 2013 at 9:38

If you say «Используй Силу», almost everyone will understand. But don't try to refer to the Star Wars in other contexts.

I normally use «глубокий» in all situations like these. You can say

Это очень глубокое соотношение.

or

Почувствуйте глубокую связь!

Прочувствуйте глубину этой теоремы!

(and make a scary face).

At least you can be sure that everyone understands this, and your scary face kinda makes up for the missing joke.

As for «гравицапа» and «бузина» suggested in other answers, I wouldn't use those either, no one will understand what you are trying to say.

Star Wars series haven't penetrated in Russian culture as deeply as in American. So, in Russian language, difference between the force and the Force can be felt obviously in case of the phrase clearly referring to the some quote from the films, for example, "Используй Силу" ("Use the Force").

If you want to emphasize the importance of this relation in the context being discussed, you can say:

Это так же важно, как гравицаппа для пепелаца".

It will be reference to the movie "Кин-дза-дза!", which should be commonly known to the Russian students. I hope they will appreciate the joke.

• That film was unknown to me before. I just looked up information about it. I had in mind something more specific about the Force that it being an important aspect of Star Wars. But I'll keep your suggestion in mind for other situations when I give lectures there again (in a month).
– KCd
Jun 27, 2013 at 2:47

The film is not enough familiar to the students, so to be properly understood you have to mention the movie name:

Это соотношение - как магическая сила из фильма "Звёздные Войны".

Note that the name of the force is also not established as a recognizable meme and many people do not know what was the role of the force in that film, so if you do not clarify that you mean the magic force, you may be understood as if you meant one of the opposing factions from that film.

I still do not understand your joke and where is the humor.

• Explaining why something is funny usually doesn't make it funny, but I'll try: in Star Wars, the Force connects everything together, even what seems unrelated at first (or second) glance. There are theorems in mathematics that say certain "locally" defined constructions (at all points of some space) must collectively satisfy a certain "global" equation. This global equation ties all the local data together, so it's kind of like the Force (a hidden property that links everything together in a nonobvious way).
– KCd
Jun 26, 2013 at 20:19
• @KCd I see, thanks, but this property of the "Force" in Star Wars in not known to general public. Jun 26, 2013 at 23:15