In Soviet Russia, X Ys you!

Originated with Yakov Smirnoff‘s “In Soviet Russia, TV watches you!”, which has also come to be known as the “Russian reversal.” X and Y are placed in such a way that if they were reversed, the statement would be perfectly mundane: thus, the Russian reversal of “you watch TV” is “TV watches you.” The cultural implication of this was negative, too, of course: Big Brother really could have been watching you by some means during the cold war.

This kind of reversal seems to be a slight variation on chiasmus: the “Soviet Russia” reversal does not necessarily require that the items being reversed be previously referred to in the same way, though it is usually implied. That is, “In Soviet Russia, t-shirt wears you!” is a plausible response to, “Hang on, I’m going to change my t-shirt.” So the wearing of the t-shirt is not explicitly stated, disallowing outright chiasmus, but the parallel elements from the first sentence in the exchange to the second are clear.

This snowclone seems to have been popularized via The Simpsons and web-geek culture.

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16 responses to “In Soviet Russia, X Ys you!

  1. It’s worth noting that, while Smirnoff’s own use of this pattern made points about the Soviet Union’s repressive policies (maybe the TVs really *were* watching people), today’s popular uses often lack such implications.

  2. Roses are red.
    Violets are blue.
    In Soviet Russia,
    poems write you!

  3. Pingback: quacky: —–+—+—– :: The Snowclones Database :: December :: 2007

  4. Shouldn’t it be, “In Soviet Russia, Y X’s You? ” In the previous sentence X would come before Y, and it’s important to show that they’re reversed? Or am I just nitpicking…

  5. The order that the variables occur in the alphabet is irrelevant here, yes. The limitation is that “X” is some kind of entity that performs the act of “Y”. If we expanded the snowclone to something like “X does Y, but in Soviet Russia, Y Xes you”, then where X and Y go would matter. It’s hard to limit the snowclone to that form, since the “in Soviet Russia” response can follow a variety of phrasings.

  6. I was born in Soviet Russia. One time, when me and my little brother were visiting our babushka (granny), we took a ladybird in her home. My parents and babushka told us to let the ladybird go, but we wouldn’t listen. There was a show on TV with a man ranting about something, I can’t remember what, and then he said: “please, let the poor ladybird go”! I’m sure it was not a video, because babushka didn’t have a VCR. We believed that the man could see us so we let the bug go. I don’t know if the TV was “watching” us or what, but it still freaks me out.

  7. That is pretty freaky! I hope it was just a crazy coincidence!

  8. Pingback: These are not the Snowclones you’re looking for … « Serendipitous Surfer

  9. In Soviet Russia, TV watches you!

  10. In soviet Russia, nit picks YOU

  11. In Soviet Russia, lady birds YOU!!

  12. In Soviet Russia comment leaves you!

  13. Saw the best one yet on slashdot (I wish I had thought of this):

    In Soviet Russia, government controls commerce.

  14. In America, you have prisons.
    In Soviet Russia, prisons have you!

  15. I was thinking about a possible addition to this. It occurred that it might not actually be that funny. It all started when I responded to “In Soviet Russia, poker chips bet you!” with “In Tsarist Russia, there WERE no poker chips!” as a reference to how the Soviets raised Russia’s economy far beyond what the tsars were willing to. Now, do you find this amusing?

  16. Pingback: boat-sailing breaking seas an overweight middle aged computer nerd buys his first boat quits his job and sails off to adventure

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