Humour and resilience: Laconic sense of life and thinking

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Text: Žikica Milošević

There is an official promotional video for Montenegrin tourism shot by NTO Montenegro in which the main character repeats one and the same phrase, the universal “Ču’š” (“Hear that!” or “Listen to that!”), the short form of “Čuješ”, as a unified answer for anything. With an inescapable dose of humour, this is a kind of trademark of the laconic spirit that all Montenegrins possess, with which they are unmistakeably recognisable as smiling and resilient people.

LACONIC VOCABULARY

The video’s opening sequence tells us about a very old tree, to which the guy replies with “Ču’š!”, which is translated as “Is it possible?”. The second scene shows a restaurant where a girl receives a huge meal and asks, shocked “Is that too much?”, to which our guy, again a bystander, replies “Ču’š!”, while the subtitles read “Try it first, maybe it is not going to be enough!”. The third sequence shows us rafting on the Tara, and in the middle of the whole fuss a wise guy states that the Tara River Canyon is the deepest in Europe, to which our guy replies austerely “Ču’š!”, translated as “We will talk about it later, man!”. The fourth scene shows two cyclists travelling through Biogradska Gora, when one of them states that Biogradska gora is one of the last untouched forests in Europe, where our guy, once again a bystander, states “Ču’š!” meaning “I thought it was the only one!”. The final sequence shows a trip to Lake Skadar and a girl stating that there are at least 281 bird species in this national park, with which, of course, our laconic guy appears out of nowhere to state “Ču’š!” once again, this time meaning “Who counted them?”. The video ends with the statement: you will feel and understand even the thing that cannot be translated. That is true Montenegro. It lies in the subtext.

HUMOUR

Another feature that went viral on the internet was a Podgorica native in Stockholm. The guy is supposedly talking very critically about Swedish society, the state and the very city of Stockholm, comparing all of them unfavourably with the supposedly superior Montenegro, while at the same you can clearly notice that he is actually criticising Montenegro. Famous comedians like Andrija Milošević, Mima Karadžić, or those of Montenegrin origin, like Petar Božović, are amongst the top comedians in Serbian film, all due to this innate Montenegrin ability to mock the world and themselves at the same time. It leaves no place for anger, since the Montenegrins do not mock you; they mock the whole world, including their own part. This is a sign that they know things are perhaps bad, but never mind, we can always laugh instead of whining.

One of the basic characteristics of Montenegrin folk humour and satire is quickness of thought and conciseness of expression. Montenegrins say: “Reply to him with smoke in smoke”. This is the current product of people from the people, who are always strong, in a nutshell, and with jokes which remain for the people, because they are easily remembered and relayed. Although it is often known who first told the joke, the author is most commonly forgotten immediately, while the story told is connected to various personalities and various places, resulting in the joke entering the lives of the people and becoming popular. If a word is used for a joke or satire, then this is a depiction of the situation, for the preparation of a listener or a set of that psychological moment for which the story is told, which causes laughter.

Humour is also present in other aspects of our national creativity. In Montenegrin epic folk songs, for example, people often used humorous stories, especially in the description of personality. The guslars often give a humorous overture before switching to the events that the poem addresses, which are usually benevolent and sometimes salient, sarcastic. At that time, the victims were the listeners. The guslar comments on the faults and the marriage of people, and sometimes the shortcomings of listeners. But this is done exclusively in a cheerful mood and a humorous tone, and it starts from self, in order to be free them to bash other people.

FOOD CUSTOMS

Montenegrins are good and generous hosts. When expecting a guest, according to an old custom, they open their door or gate wide as a sign of welcome. They offer their guest the best food and drink they have in the house, reserve for him the best place at the table and do their best to make his stay in their home as comfortable as possible.

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