Friday, October 24, 2014

26 Other Things About Living in Budapest

So, I have recently seen this handy list of 26 signs that tell you that you have been living in Budapest too long, and while it is a fairly good list (number 9 is very, very true), it mostly focuses on food and drinking (the number 1 reason most young people visit Budapest). As someone who spent 5 college years in the city (with minimal drinking), here is my take on the same idea:

1. You know exactly which subway car to get into at any given station so you can get off at your destination right where the escalator is.

2. You get off the tram when a large group of college students get on, and you know what a Yellow Grasshopper is.

3. You know whenever Angelina Jolie's in town. And you know someone who's met her.

4. You know the best places to watch the August 20th fireworks without getting trampled, drowned, or set on fire.

5. You have a three-layer action plan for Night of the Museums. And that's just for getting home.

6. You have been hit by a Beer Bike.

7. You have been hit by a bike messenger.

8. You have tested cream cheese, chocolate cookies, and various other food items at the customer research center conveniently located right next to the ELTE Humanities Department. You have also occasionally pretended to pass by in order to score free snacks.

9. You know how to spot a conductor on a bus before they put their arm bands on.

10. You have gone down the Múzeum Boulevard and hit all the used book stores in one spree.

11. You have had lunch sitting on Roman ruins and didn't even think about it.

12. You have been hugged by the Hungarian Holy Mary. Alternately, you have met Béla the white rat, and his owner.

13. There are streets you have never seen not under construction.

14. "We're going up to the castle to hang out" is a normal sentence you use.

15. You know which streets to avoid when you are wearing heels. (Cobblestones.)

16. You have had your fortune told on the afternoon bus. The spell required some money bills.

17. The smell of chocolate pastries immediately makes you think of a subway station.

18. You can spot a stag party from a mile away.

19. You absolutely loathe pigeons.

20. On the other hand, you know what a magpie sounds like.

21. You still call Széll Kálmán Square "Moskva Square." Because that's what it it's called. End of story.

22. You have a working reference map of subways, trams, buses, trolleys and railroads in your head, with schedules attached. You can figure out the shortest way from point A to point B in seconds. You also know the corresponding nighttime schedule.

23. When you see a weird poster you immediately suspect the Two Tailed Dog.

24. You have tried to calculate the amount of sand in the Hourglass.

25. You have a personal connection with the sloths at the Budapest Zoo.

26. You have traveled across town to catch a movie with subtitles.

(I am sure I'll think of some more later)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

BBC coverage of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution

Today is October 23th, the national holiday commemorating the start of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. I play this video for my classes to show them some historical background for the wave of Hungarian immigration to the USA.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Let It Go - Translated from Hungarian back to English

Ever wonder what people hear when they watch a movie dubbed? Is it still the same? Or is it a whole different experience?
Translating movies is a very delicate and tricky thing to do. You do not only pay attention to translating what is being said; you also have to make sure you get the cultural references, and follow the motion of the actors' lips as close as possible, even if it means tweaking what is being said to fit better. Take all that, and then multiply it by 10000 and you get the effort needed to translate a song, where there is rhythm, and melody, and all of that fun stuff.
With all of this said, I wanted to give you a taste of what Hungarian audiences hear when they hear a song in translation. For this exhibit I selected Let It Go from Frozen, because we have not quite heard enough about this song yet. (*dutifully holds up sarcasm sign*)
Here is the Hungarian version of Let It Go:

And here are the lyrics, mirror-translated from Hungarian back to English, by moi:

A sea of snow covers the mountains today,
The light is blinding, isn't it?
Your heart is encased in ice too,
Here at the edge of the world.
I know I made a mistake,
My horrible deed hurts,
How did it even happen?
Maybe it doesn't matter anymore.

My soul has been afraid of this for so long,
It is really hard that this happened today,
So let the wind come, and the winter, and the snow,
Maybe it is good this way too.

Let is snow,
Let is snow,
It has never been like this before,
Let it snow, 
Let it snow,
The kind that moves your soul!
I wish I knew what else will happen here,
Let a hundred storms come,
And all the while ice covers my heart.

Strange powers come today from somewhere far away,
This everlasting feeling is all about passion,
Here and now, this is a turning point,
So let everything be snow and ice,
The heart speaks in a magical voice,
It calls to me!

It is good (isn't it?)
It is good (isn't it?)
That my problems fly away with the wind,
It it good (isn't it?)
It is good (isn't it?)
I don't cry anymore,
A big step, and a home awaits me here,
What was doesn't hurt anymore.

My heart will blow through everything like a blizzard,
Let my soul race, rage, and sing,
And when finally all moments have been turned into ice crystals
Tomorrow will find me,
And the past will descend on me (?)

It is good (isn't it?)
It is good (isn't it?)
As the shining snow takes me away,
It is good (isn't it?)
It is good (isn't it?)
The power is withing me.
Look at me! 
Everything used to be different,
But a new day awaits today,
And all the while ice sits on my heart.

(So, is it just me, or is our Elsa a little more wild and a little less optimistic?... Because that would totally be fitting for a cultural translation.)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shhh, the spider's pooping!

If you thought I ran out of weird Hungarian sayings, you thought wrong. Here is another batch, mostly involving... well. It's hard to explain. Read on.

"An angel flew over us."
Usually said when there is a sudden pause in the conversation, or a roomful of people fall silent at the same time. In other cultures, this is the magical moment when the elusive Awkward Turtle raises its ancient head. In Hungary, it is the sign that we have unregistered heavenly creatures in the airspace.

"Shhh. The spider's pooping."
Well, either that, or it's laying eggs (the same word is applicable). Either way, this saying is also used in the situations above, or alternately, to shush children. It might be weird, but it is till more child friendly than "For heaven's sake, would you please just **** shut up?!"
(You know that all children and most adults would watch a spider poop with intense fascination. Or run away screaming.)
I have also encountered an elaborated version of this saying in which not only spiders are pooping, but elephants are also laying eggs. Obviously, in the same quiet and concentrated manner.

Someone's talking about you. While in Anglo cultures burning ears are the sign of one being mentioned (that, or a mild ear infection), in Hungary you know someone's gossiping behind your back when you start having hiccups. This belief recently has been magnificently portrayed in a commercial where we watched an old lady shaken by violent hiccups while watching the afternoon soccer game, just to find out in the end that she was the referee's mother.

If you hit your right elbow on the doorframe, good guests will soon come to your house. If you hit your left, bad or unexpected guests will arrive. If you hit both, you should probably wear protective gear.

"The iron teeth of Time chewed on it."
A poetic way of saying something is old and worn. Alternately, people would also say "time flew over it." Out of these too, funny or clueless individuals often end up creating a third option: "The iron teeth of Time flew over it." Now there's a mental image for you.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Little Rabbit and the Death List

I haven't posted Hungarian jokes since the Aggressive Piglet, so I thought it was time for a new one. It's a Nyuszika joke. Nyuszika literally means Little Rabbit and it's as close as we get to having a folk trickster character. I will post more Nyuszika jokes in the future, but they are best in smaller doses. You'll see.
Here goes the joke:

Bear is walking around in the forest with a piece of paper and a very menacing face. He runs into Fox.
"Hey Bear! What's with that paper?"
"It's a Death List."
"Oh no! What does it do?"
"I kill everyone who's on it."
"Oh no! Am I on it?"
Bear checks.
"Yes you are."
Fox starts crying.
"Can I at least say goodbye to my family?"
"Yes, sure."
Fox goes home, says goodbye to his family, and the next day he is dead. Bear continues walking around and runs into Wolf.
"Hey Bear! What's that?"
"It's a Death List. I kill everyone who's on it."
"Am I on it?"
Bear checks.
"Yes you are."
Wolf starts crying.
"Oh no! Let me at least have a last meal!"
Wolf has a last meal, and then Bear kills him. He continues wandering around, and runs into Nyuszika.
"Hey Bear, what's up? What's with that paper?"
"It's a Death List."
"What does it do?"
"I kill everyone who's name is on it."
"Oh! Am I on it?"
Bear checks.
"Yes, you are."
"Drat. Can you please take my name off the list?"

And thus concludes the joke.
Apart from being absolutely groan-worthy, the joke is kind of brilliant for a number of reasons. One of them being that it is actually a classic Trickster trope in disguise: Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, starts out his career in the Chinese epic Journey to the West by descending into the Underworld and crossing his own name off the list of beings who are supposed to die, thus rendering himself immortal. Talk about winning on a technicality.
The second reason I like this joke is because this was one of the educational-motivational jokes my parents used to encourage me to try for things that might seem unattainable. The joke kind of has that message: "At least ask before you give up!" You get the idea.