In Russian, we have a phrase, which divides people on two categores - left brain and right brain. This is "physicists and lyricists" (физики и лирики). The first better work with maths problems and techonoligal stuff, others are keen on literature, languages, history, art and etc.

What is the best alternative of this phrase, suitable for native's ear?

  • 2
    Probably 'artists and scientists' is as close as we get to a fixed expression, but I wouldn't say it's common enough to merit giving it as an 'answer'. – Edwin Ashworth May 18 '20 at 13:23
  • Nota bene: for whatever reason, an exceptionally crucial point is missing from the question. The two nouns must be perfectly assonant. – RegDwigнt May 18 '20 at 14:16
  • 2
    Physicists and lyricists is pretty darn good. The two nouns are as perfectly assonant (as per @RegDwigнt) in English as they are in the original Russian. I doubt a better alternative exists. – Richard Kayser May 18 '20 at 14:50
  • 1
    What’s wrong with “left brain and right brain”? – Laurel May 18 '20 at 15:20
  • 1
    @Laurel Or even rational and emotional, which is the most explicit way of capturing the qualities being described I can think of. (Otherwise, the question is asking more for a kind of metaphor than anything else.) – Jason Bassford May 18 '20 at 16:00

The whole point of the original expression is not what it means, but how it sounds.

In Russian just like in English, one could easily express the given idea in a dozen different ways. However, only this one way is peculiar in that:

  1. Each of the two concepts is represented very concisely by a single noun that is just descriptive enough to bring the contrast across.
  2. The two nouns share the same number of syllables (three).
  3. Both exhibit the same stress pattern (dactyl).
  4. All the vowels are perfectly assonant ([i]-[i]-[i]).

With that in mind, physicists and lyricists is as perfect a translation as one could possibly hope for. It is really quite remarkable that it exists at all.

Both languages happen to have the same noun pair, ultimately borrowed from the same source, but acquired via very different paths and sent through very different morphological processes. At the end of which, both languages have each noun at three syllables, all sounding as [i], with the stress on the first one.

You have a perfect match for 1, 2, 3, and 4.

And then on top of all that, the meaning is also the same in both languages.

At which point the fact that this question exists at all reminds me of a different Russian saying altogether: От добра добра не ищут.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.