Selomachean Ethics #4 — Barefoot with the Bull

A son calls his mother from his studio apartment in San Francisco. She lives in the selo, back in the Old Country.

Frank: Mama, iman ti nešto reć! (Mom, I’ve got something to tell you!)

Mama Maria: Što je moja draga? (What is it my dear?)

F: Well, I have been earning lots of money.

M: Oh, that is nice to hear. Have you sent me any?

F: Yes, mama. Every month, remember?

M: Oh yes, and you are feeling well?

F: Quite well! I got a promotion.

M: That is great. So you will get more money then?

F: Yes, I can now afford a great big house by the sea, and I will become the boss of my team!

M: A pa sunce mamino (my sunshine!), što tamo radiš!? (what are you doing over there?!). Ja iman mnogo bikova i san bos svaki dan! Translation: I own many bulls (bik) and I am barefoot (bos) every day!

Okay, so this one takes a little unpacking, but it’s hilarious when told in the Croatian language. The punchline is in the mishearing (perhaps purposely by Mama Maria) of the words big and boss (see bik and bos). The lesson is not that Mama Maria is a bitter old lady who does not encourage her son to do well, but that happiness does not require a 7-figure salary and a mansion in San Francisco. It really is that simple.

There is a saying in the selo, “Selo gori i baba se česlja,” which means “The village is burning and grandmother is combing her hair.” Basically, she’s seen it all. You can always trust baba (and mama, of course) to know what is best in life, and what are obsessions simply worth ignoring.


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