Friday, July 26, 2013

What Hungarian students (are supposed to) read in school

But not many of them really ever do. Looking at the list, it is not at all surprising.

Short note on Literature education in Hungary: it's chronological. That means, if you go to a six-year high school like me (starting the chronology in 7th grade), you start with the oldies.

For general interest, here is a (probably not complete) list of what my generation had for mandatory curriculum reading:

The Odyssey (I was the only one in the class who actually read it)
The Kalevala (ditto, although this was not mandatory reading, we just talked about it for a month)
The underworld sequence of the epic of Gilgamesh
Sophocles: King Oedipus, Antigone
Various Roman poets (although not the Metamorphoses, sadly)
The poetry of Francois Villon (love him to bits, but not many poems were child friendly at the time)
Dante's Inferno (but not the other two parts)
Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet
Moliere: Tartuffe
Goethe: Faust (book one)
Dekameron (selected tales, obviously, although they couldn't completely fool us)
Pushkin: Eugene Onegin (perfectly calibrated for teen angst)
Victor Hugo: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (unabridged)
Balzac: Le Pére Goriot
Stendhal: The Red and the Black
Chekhov: The Seagull
Henrik Ibsen: The Wild Duck
Hemingway: The old man and the sea
Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (I actually enjoyed the heck out of this one)
Dostoyevky: Crime and Punishment
Tolstoy: The death of Ivan Ilyich
E.T.A. Hoffmann: The Golden Pot (and they tried to tell us the guy was not on drugs...)
Thomas Mann: Mario and the Magician

Naturally these are just the international literature readings, we also have additional books by Hungarian authors.

Are you smarter than a Hungarian high school graduate?... :D

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wine and sparkly things - stayin' classy

Hungarians like to claim that our national drink, next to pálinka, is wine mixed with soda water, also known as fröccs. Depending on the ratio of wine-to-soda the fröccs has different names, and it would probably take a long, long list to mention them all. Lucky for those of you with smart phones, yes, there is an app for it. There are different types based on personal preference, cultural traditions, geographical regions, and a bunch of other things.

And talking about mixing wine...

It is not an all-Hungarian invention (exists in other countries), but as far as I know, every American friend I have mentioned it to looked thoroughly disgusted and scandalized by the idea, so I guess it counts as a novelty for some people out there.
You know the alcoholic beverages that you can get cheap and in big quantities in classy red plastic cups at college parties? According to the information I have gathered strictly through word of mouth, in the US of A this mostly means (cheap) beer. Well, if you go to a college party in Hungary, it would either be fröccs, or... red wine mixed with coke.

(For those of you ready to get a heart attack, yeah, we don't do this with the good wine).

This signature college drink, equal parts coke and wine, has a number of names in common parlance:

VBK (Vörösboros kóla, Coke with Red Wine)
Vadász (Hunter)
and about a million others.

Other incredibly classy college drinks include beer mixed with coke (Diesel), beer mixed with orange soda (blergh), vodka mixed with champagne (for rich peeps), and pretty much any kind of alcohol mixed with any kind of sparkly beverage for maximum inebriation effect.

I swear I was going to blog about naming customs in Hungary, but I need to postpone that till I am done with some other important work. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Whistling Angels

The urban legend goes around and around saying that "according to linguistic research" Hungarian is the best language to cuss in. Ain't that just ***** sweet.
The legend goes on to tell us that this very important title has been bestowed upon us based on the high diversity of curse words and their unique combinations. Then again, speaking from experience, the number might have been boosted by the fact that we consider words that are seemingly innocent, alone or in context, as cursing.
Let's take the Whistling Angels as an example.

The curse goes like this:

"Azt a rézfán fütyülő rézangyalát!"

In mirror trantslation:

"That copper angel whistling in a copper tree!"

(Or, in an alternative version, sitting in a willow tree. Dealer's choice.)

(Yeah. It sounds strange to me too, now that I see it written down.)

I have really no explanation as to what makes an angel whistling in a tree particularly hostile or blasphemous. Maybe angels are not supposed to whistle? Any why are they made of copper? And why are they sitting in a tree? And why has no one ever made a statue out of this?

And you thought the Weeping Angels were mysterious.