Monday, December 21, 2015

MopDog Monday: Hungarian Star Wars

Okay, so this is something that has been going around on Hungarian social media for about a week now. Since everything is about Star Wars this week, I thought I might as well post it here. It's untranslatable, but oh well.

So, the pictures are the glorious result of the art of one Marton Ádám Marton (click for his FB page). He decided to create some Star Wars fan art with a Hungarian twist. The art style is a copy of a very famous, classic Hungarian cartoon series titled Hungarian Folktales that aired between 1977 and 2011. It is probably the most well known and most beloved of our classic cartoon tradition, and the art style is recognizable to pretty much everyone. If you want to watch some of the folktales, click here. Some of them even have English subtitles.

What MAM did, brilliantly, was taking scenes from New Hope, and drawing them in the style of Hungarian Folktales. Observe:

(Original image here)

(Original image here)
The caption reads "Why are you rebelling?" but in an untranslatable archaic Hungarian dialect that you mostly hear in folktales.

And my absolute favorite:
(Original image here)
Caption reads: "Let the puli win!"

Even Hungarians know that Han shot first:
(Original image here)

Go to his FB page and share the love. Show your friends how culturally enlightened you are.

Bonus for nerds
Here are some useful Star Wars phrases in Hungarian that you can show off at a nerd party:

Réges-rég, egy messzi-messzi galaxisban (A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away)

Az Erő legyen veled (May the Force be with you)

Én vagyok az apád (I am your father)

Hagyjuk nyerni a pulit (Let the puli win)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

MopDog Advent: Hungarian Christmas carols IV.

Last weekend before Christmas! That means, this is my last MopDog Advent post for the year. You can find the previous ones here!

Here is a popular wintertime children's song - I use it sometimes when I tell winter stories. It is a poem written by famous and beloved children's poet Gazdag Erzsi.

Snow is falling

Snow is falling, snow is falling,
It's a dream from a children's tale,
Santa is blowing frost
Sitting on a tree branch

The little rabbit is shivering
Curled up on the ground
She does not mind if snow falls
As long as the hunter doesn't come

A small wren hides
Up on a tree branch
and chirps happily
"There will be sunshine again in the summer!"

Monday, December 14, 2015

MopDog Monday: How to spot witches with this 1 easy trick

There is a saying in Hungary: "Lassan készül, mint a Luca széke" (Takes a long time to make, like Luca's chair). Since its origin is directly related to the Christmas season - namely, December 13th, which was yesterday - I thought it would be worth a post.

December 13th is St. Lucy's feast day. All over Europe, there are various customs connected to Lucy (or Lucia), light, and demons and witchcraft (because that's how Catholics roll). In Hungary, specifically, Luca's day is a very important point of Advent.

On Luca's feast day, a craftsman might begin making a special chair. It is made of 13 pieces, and it has to be completed over the course of 13 days. It is made of 9 or 13 types of wood, including oak, linden, ash, beech, cheery, hornbeam, larch, blackthorn, juniper, sycamore, pear, European cornel, fir, locust, Austrian oak, and rosewood (or, obviously, some combination of these). It is not allowed to put any nails in the chair; it has to be held together with wooden pegs instead. The chair is relatively small, and either circular with 3 legs, or rectangular with four legs.

Once Luca's chair was completed (on Christmas day), the craftsman was supposed to take it to Midnight Mass (or to the crossroads at midnight). It was believed that if they stood on it, they could see witches for what they truly were - having horns, antlers, feathers, etc. Once the person noted who the witches were, he had to pick up the chair and run for his life (obviously). One way to slow down the witches that were no doubt chasing him, he had to throw poppy seeds over his shoulder - witches are obligated to stop and count them. Once safely home, the chair had to be burnt to ash.

Some people still hold this custom - more out of tradition than actual belief. After all, someone yelling "I KNEW IT!" during Christmas mass goes over so well every time...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

MopDog Advent: Hungarian Christmas carols III.

Over the course of Advent, I am posting some Hungarian Christmas music every Sunday. You can find the previous posts here!

Okay, so this one is not a folk tune, but it is one of my childhood favorites (we had it on cassette tape!)
It was originally a poem written by one of our most famous poets, József Attila (1905-1937).
A music group named Kormorán put it to music for their Christmas album in 1985.

And this one even has an official English translation! I am copying it from this site.

Kings of Bethlehem (English)

Little Jesus, God bless Thee, God bless Thee,
Royal kings we are all three.
Above us shone a blazing star,
on foot we’ve come from very far.
A little lamb so surely said
that Jesus Christ lay here in bed.
My name is King Melchior.
Help me, help me, my dear Lord.

Good day to you, Son of God, Son of God,

Silly old priests we are not.
News of your birth has travelled far,
King of the poor we’ve heard you are.
Hence our little visitation,
heaven’s kingdom’s our salvation.
My name’s Jasper and I think
I’m a kind of worldly king.

Greetings to you, Saviour, Saviour,

Our land is much sunnier.
All our sausage we have eaten,
our fine boots look weatherbeaten,
six handfuls of gold we have got,
also incense in a big pot.
King Balthazar, yes, that’s me:
The Saracen of the three.

Flushes-blushes sweet Mary, sweet Mary,

little mother she’s happy.
Casting down her eyes she peers
at her Jesus through her tears;
hear the shepherds’ music-playing,
feeding time bears no delaying.

"Kindly three kings make your bow,

I must bid you farewell now."
1976, Hundred Hungarian Poems, Albion Editions, Manchester

(Note: In the last verse, the Hungarian language is more direct: instead of 'feeding time bears no delaying' it actually says 'it is time to breastfeed [the baby]' which I always thought was very cute - Mary kicking everyone out because it is boobs time)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Look at this cool thing!

Look at this! It is a trailer for a 3D animated movie summarizing Hungarian history from the beginnings until the 20th century.
Looks pretty spiffy.

Monday, December 7, 2015

MopDog Monday: Flood of blood, crying orphans, fratricide: The Hungarian national anthem

Well, as long as there is a prize for "Most Depressing National Anthem," we have totally got it.
Everybody is good at something, right?...
Well, Hungarians are world champions at self pity.
We even wrote a national anthem about it.

The creator of Prezi (who is Hungarian) made a very controversial statement this week: He claimed that it was about time for Hungary to get a new, more optimistic national anthem. Of course he immediately ended up under a dogpile of logical, cool-headed, educational Internet debate (as you do) and was not at all screamed at and called a traitor to the Motherland. 

Without weighing in on whether or not a national anthem should be changed on account of being pessimistic, I just wanted to post the lyrics of our current Hungarian anthem here, and let you decide what you think about it (and the statement above). 


("From the stormy centuries of the Hungarian nation")
Written by Kölcsey Ferenc, 1823; adopted as the official national anthem in 1844.
English lyrics based on the literal translation available on Wikipedia, tweaked by me.

O God, bless the Hungarian
With joy and with bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a year of joy
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

You brought our ancestors up
Over the Carpathians' holy peaks
By You was won a beautiful homeland
For Bendeguz's blood(line)
And wherever flow the waters of
The Tisza and the Danube
The heroic offspring of Árpád
Rose up and flourished. 

For us on the plains of the Kuns
You made the ripe wheat ripple
In the vineyards of Tokaj
You dripped sweet nectar
Our flag you often planted
On the wild Turk's battlements
And under Mátyás' grave army moaned
Vienna's "proud fort."

Ah, but for our sins
Anger flared up in Your bosom
And You struck with Your lightning
From Your thundering clouds
Now the plundering Mongols' arrows
You swarmed over us
Then the Turks' slave yoke
We took upon our shoulders.

How often came from the mouths
Of Osman's barbarian nation
Over the bones of our defeated army
A victory song!
How often did your own son attack
My homeland, upon your breast,
And you became because of your own sons
Your own sons' funeral urn!

The fugitive hid, and after him
The sword reached into the cave
Looking everywhere he could not find
His home in his homeland
Climbs the mountain, descends the valley
Sadness and despair his companions
Sea of blood beneath his feet
Ocean of flame above.

Castle stood, now a heap of stones
Happiness and joy have fled,
Groans of death, weeping
Now sound in their place.
And Ah! Freedom does not bloom
From the blood of the dead,
Torturous slavery's tears fall
From the burning eyes of the orphans!

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a joyful year
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

Okay, foreigners, fess up: On a scale of ramen dinner to The Little Match Girl, how depressing do you find our anthem?
And now, listen to the music.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

MopDog Advent: Hungarian Christmas carols II.

Oh look, it's already MopDog Advent again! Here is another traditional Hungarian Christmas carol for you:

(You are probably aware by now that our Christmas songs are indeed very much religious. No Santa in sight, he got done with Hungary on December 6th. We are on the priority list.)

Shepherds, shepherds

Shepherds (shepherds) with joy
Are hurrying to Jesus in Bethlehem
They greet the baby
Who came to deliver all men

The chorus of angels is calling us too
All faithful hearts should hear it
We all bless the baby Jesus
And like the faithful shepherds we praise him

Welcome, little Jesus, our hope
Who delivered us today
Brought the time of true faith
And opened up your Holy Father's Heaven

Praise and faith to the Father
And the Son who was born for us
And to the comforting Holy Spirit
And the One God in the Holy Trinity

Monday, November 30, 2015

MopDog Monday: A hatful of whut now?!

Watch my hands closely, this is going to get complicated.

When someone goes off to take an exam, present a performance, or otherwise do something challenging, you often hear Hungarians say "Egy kalappal!" as a wish for good luck. This phrase, however, does not literally means "Good luck!" It means "A hatful for you!"

A hatful of what, exactly?

Superstition holds that wishing "good luck" is... actually bad luck. Which is why people tend to say "break a leg" or something similar instead, in order not to jinx anything. So, in the case of ventures that need some extra luck, things work in reverse: Wishing something bad for you (like a shattered femur) is actually supposed to bring about something good (like a passed Anatomy exam).

In addition, it is a common superstition that encountering feces in some form (stepping in dog poop or being pooped on by a bird) on your way to some important event actually means good luck. (I always wondered where this came from - it seems like people were trying really hard to put a silver lining on things. "Hey, you'll walk into your job interview with pigeon shit on your shoulder, but at least you have a better chance that they'll hire you?")

(No one said superstitions are supposed to make sense)

So, putting two and two together, Hungarians, when they want to show their support in your endeavor, will wish you...

... a hatful of shit.


And if they want to be extra funny, as well as supportive, they will even go beyond that. Which is why some Hungarians will wave you along on your epic quest, yelling after you somewhat cryptically:

"The yearly yield of entire China!"


Good luck out there, everyone. May the hat be with you.

(Side note: Ironically, "a hatful of shit," when used in Hungarian in its entirety to describe something, simply means that said thing is, well... crap. Gotta admire language.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

MopDog Advent: Hungarian Christmas carols

In this new (and totally not retroactively posted) series, I will be posting a Hungarian Christmas song every Sunday until... well, Christmas.

This first one is probably also the most well known. It is THE Christmas song.

Here is something you need to know about Hungarian Christmas: Traditionally, the Christmas tree is part of the magic. It appears miraculously, brought by the Angels, together with the presents, on Christmas Eve. Kids usually leave the house during the 24th, and the parents put up the tree in a hurried frenzy. When I was little, I would return in the evening (usually from the grandparents' house) and the living room door would be closed; then there would be the sound of bells from inside, and the door would open, and the radio would start playing this song, and I would see the tree for the first time.
(And then I was not allowed to touch the presents until the song ended. It's a loooong song.)

As far as Christmas magic goes, this is definitely the song that goes with it.

The Angel from Heaven

The Angel came down from Heaven to you, shepherds (shepherds)
For you to go in a hurry to Bethlehem, and see (and see)
The Son of God, who was born in a manger (in a manger)
Will be your Savior, it is true (it is true)
Beside him is his mother, Mary (Mary)
Her holy son lies among the beasts and rests in a manger 

Monday, November 23, 2015

MopDog Monday: Liza, the Fox Fairy

I finally got to watch one of this year's Hungarian movie sensations: Liza, the Fox Fairy. Hungary historically tends to be a lot better at animation than at live action (at least in my opinion), but this one was definitely a very fun film to watch.

Here is the trailer, with English subtitles:

Yup, this movie is weirrrrrd. It was intended to be. It takes place in an imaginary 70s Budapest (one that is not blocked off from the West). Liza, the main character, is a nurse to the widow of the Japanese ambassador - therefore, the entire setting is a strange, surreal mix of American culture, Hungarian retro, and Japanese pop. The story is a sort of dark comedy: Liza just turned 30 years old, and she wants to find the love of her life - but sadly, men keep dying around her in all kinds of mysterious (and hilarious) accidents. Liza is convinced that she is a kitsune and she is cursed to bring death to every man who desires her (she gets the idea from a Japanese museum brochure). In the meantime, the police is on her tail (pun intended), trying to figure out if she is a serial killer, or just a very unlucky girl.

The film is strange, funny, colorful, lovable, and has a soundtrack that will burrow into your brain forever (a mix of Japanese pop and Finnish country music). If you can rustle it up with English subtitles, I definitely recommend watching it.

Here, have some more earworms:

Monday, November 16, 2015

MopDog Monday: How to "can't even" in Hungarian

"Can't even" is such a widespread phrase in English (especially in the USA) - and so often parodied or critiqued - that lately I have been wondering what the Hungarian equivalent would be.

First, I had to find an approximate definition for what "can't even" means. Here are the two that I managed to rustle up:

"I can't even [deal with this right now]" (in a good or in a bad way)
"I can't even [find anything to say to this]"

With those in mind, here are some of the Hungarian options:

Nem kapok szikrát
Literally: "I can't get a spark"

Megáll az ész és körbenéz/ácsorog
Literally: "The mind [intellect] stops and looks around/stands around"
(More often it is just "the mind stops," the rest is for emphasis or elaboration)

Pofám leszakad
Literally: "My face [mug] falls down."
(It means something is outrageous, unbelievable, or ridiculous)


Agyam leszakad
Literally: "My brain falls down."
(Same thing)
(By the way, "leszakad" is more violent than "falling" - it could be explained as something breaking and crumbling, or being torn down to the ground)

Agyam eldobom
Literally: "I'm trowing my brain away."
(Means I'm going crazy, I can't believe this, I can't even)

Eszem-faszom megáll (NSFW)
Literally: "My mind and my dick stop."
(Fun fact: This is how they translated "unbelievable" in The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and it became iconic)

Monday, November 9, 2015

MopDog Monday: Animals speaking Hungarian

This is an incredibly fun game to play with speakers of different languages. Since Hungarian animal sounds are generally not well known, here is a handy list to show off your linguistic prowess next time the party game comes up.

So, what do animals say in Hungarian?

Dogs: Vau vau

Cats: Miaú

Cows: Múúú

Hens: Kot-kot-kotkodács

Roosters: Kukurikú

Ducks: Háp háp

Pigs: Röf röf röf

Frogs: Brekeke

Horses: Nyihaha

Sheep: Beee

Goats: Mek mek mek

Cuckoos: Kakukk kakukk

Magpies: Csörr csörr (or cserr cserr, depending on dialect)

(Warning: Sounds are not written phonetically. Pronounce them at your own risk)

Did I forget someone?...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

American Horror Story follows in the footsteps of Hungarian folklore

Another creepy thing we did before it was cool.

I have been watching the new season of American Horror Story (Hotel), and couldn't help but notice a trope that was eerily familiar... And right after that, I realized how weird it is to say out loud to my friends that a lady furiously scrubbing bloodied bed sheets "reminds me of high school."

Context. Is everything.

There is a trope in the tradition of Hungarian folk ballads known as "the woman who murdered her husband" (yeah, we are a cheerful bunch). The most recognizable image of these stories is the guilty woman trying to scrub the blood out of her sheets. In some versions she had killed her husband herself; in others, her lover did. In either case, she is noticed by other people, who ask her where the blood came from. She lies (claiming she accidentally soiled it with chicken blood), but eventually gets arrested and tired for murder.

The most famous iteration of this story is called Ágnes asszony (Mistress Ágnes), and it is a literary ballad written by poet Arany János in 1853. We learn about it in great detail in high school Literature classes, and pretty much everyone is familiar with at least the opening verse, describing the woman washing bloody sheets. In this version, she is allowed to go free at the end of the trial, mostly because the judges realize she has already gone mad. She goes back to the stream to keep washing the sheets day and night until they are left in tatters.

You can read the full English translation of the ballad here.

Maybe we should start a Hungarian Horror Story series.
Maybe that will be my A to Z theme next year.

Monday, November 2, 2015

MopDog Monday: Day of the Dead and Hungarian cemeteries

Every year, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, Hungarian social media is flooded by angry memes and images protesting against "foreign traditions." The gist: Halloween, as it is known in the US and the UK, is not a traditional holiday in Hungary.
What we do have, however, is All Saints' Day (November 1st), and the Day of the Dead (November 2nd).

The downside: No trick-or-treating, or costumes and parties (we do those in February during Carnival)

The upside: Solemn family occasions of remembering the dead. We go to the cemeteries, and light candles on all the family graves. Cemeteries around Hungary look eerily beautiful this time of the year, and as a child, I always loved lighting the candles and sticking them to the headstones. This is also how I learned about my ancestors, who they were, and how we are related. It was a regular occasion of passing on the family stories.

In order to understand better, you need to know what Hungarian cemeteries are like. When I first arrived to the USA, I was very surprised at cemeteries: The headstones were small, they barely had any information on them (sometimes just a last name), and there were no flowers or candles in sight, unless the grave was fresh. It was strange to me, because I grew up with grandparents who made it their almost-daily routine to make a trip to the cemetery, bring fresh seasonal flowers from the garden to all the family graves, pick out the weeds, light candles, and have a chat with other people who were there doing the same thing (we call this my grandmother's Analog Facebook). I often accompanied them when I was little, and I played in the cemetery, reading headstones, lighting candles, and looking at the decorations all around. In addition to my own great-grandparents, grand-uncles and other relations, I also often took candles and flowers to the grave of the priest that had baptized me, as well as the grave of a little girl whose story was written on the headstone. Cemeteries, much like churches and pubs, are traditionally a social setting, and a place of active remembrance.

Every year we get more and more Halloween parties popping up in Hungary, with scary costumes, fake blood, and candy. I personally don't mind at all; I think it is a fun holiday (and I love chocolate). At the same time, I also agree that we have traditions that should be kept, and I am glad that I grew up with them.

Light a candle. Remember.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: 5 Hungarian themed Halloween costumes

(Doing Hungarian Halloween early this week, to make better use of this list)

Want to be scary and flaunt your knowledge of Hungarian culture at the same time? Here are 5 quick-and-easy costume ideas from stories I have mentioned earlier on the blog:

Princess in a Shroud
How: Put on a princess costume. Wrap yourself in a shroud. Smear some fake blood on your hands and face.
Why: Because of this creepy Hungarian fairy tale.
The problem: Indistinguishable from generic, non-Hungarian zombie princesses.

The Walled-in Wife
How: Put on a medieval-looking dress. Make a fake wall out of cardboard. Carry it around. Make wailing noises.
Why: Because of one of our most popular ballads.
The problem: It is kind of difficult to carry a wall around all night.

Iron-nosed Witch
How: Put on a witch costume (the hag kind, not the smexy kind). Make a long fake nose and paint it with metallic paint. Gravitate towards magnetic objects.
Why: Because she is the most well-known witch figure in Hungarian folklore. "Iron-nosed witch" is how we say "hag."
The problem: If you use too much paint, people might mistake you for a Mad Max cosplay.

How: Dress up as the Devil.
Why: For some reason Americans seem to find the idea of the Krampus novel and intriguing. For us, he's just the person who didn't get to play Santa this year. Usually because she is a girl.
The problem: People might mistake you for a Sexy Devil. Also, you are slightly out of season.

Pipás Pista
How: Dress up in 19th century male clothing. Carry a pipe and a length of rope around. Watch out for other girls at the party and make sure they don't get harassed.
Why: Because Jack the Ripper is so overdone. Also, we want Mr. Tarantino to pick up on the idea, and every little bit helps.
The problem: People might mistake you for Brienne of Tarth.
(Image from a theater production based on the historical story)

Probably no one will get any of these at first glance, but they will provide a great conversation starter. Also, you get to be a hipster about your knowledge of obscure Hungarian culture.

Just... for the love of everything that's holy, please don't be Elisabeth Báthory.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

BREAKING: Hungarian contestant on The Voice!

People living in large countries will never understand how incredibly exciting it is to see your own country mentioned on the news abroad. Or, in this case, have a contestant on an American show.

Király Viktor was born in New York to Hungarian parents and returned to Hungary with them in 1999; he has already won a Hungarian talent show called Megasztár in 2008. Ever since then he has been a well known name in Hungarian pop culture, along with his sister Király Linda, who is also a singer.
And now he is on American TV.

In the upcoming season of The Voice, Viktor made a strong start; he had all 4 judges turning around at the blind auditions:

And then he also did great in the battle round:

And finally, while he lost in the last knockout round, he has been saved (Stolen) by Gwen Stefani, and thus will compete in the upcoming live episodes of the show (hopefully for several weeks)!

Now here is the thing:

I have never watched a single episode of The Voice in my life. I have only the vaguest idea of how it works. I am also not very invested in Király Viktor or his music; back in 2008 he was not even one of my favorite contestants.
As long as he is on an American show, singing as amazingly as he does, you bet all of our country will claim him as our own and root for him every single week. One thing about Hungarians: We love to claim everyone who is popular or successful and even remotely Hungarian, regardless of their reasons for leaving the county. That's just how tiny countries work.

God knows we need some good publicity.

Monday, October 26, 2015

MopDog Monday: From tree to toothpick

I like jokes that are applicable to certain life situations. Like Aggressive Piglet and the Lawnmower. Or Little Rabbit and the Death List.

Or this one:

An old székely man is sitting outside his house, working on carving a large tree trunk. A boy passes by, sees him work, and stops.
"Good day, uncle. What is that going to be?"
"A new beam for the roof."
The boy walks away. Some time later, on his way home, he sees that the man is still working, and the piece of wood is somewhat smaller now.
"Good evening! What is that going to be?"
"A new axle for the cart."
The boy walks on. The next morning he passes by again, and sees the old man whittling away on a smaller piece of wood.
"Good morning, uncle! What is that going to be?"
"A new leg for the kitchen table."
Boy goes by. On his way home he checks in again.
"Good evening! What is that going to be?"
"A new wooden spoon."
The next time the boy is surprised to see the old man still sitting outside, whittling away.
"Good day, uncle! What is that going to be?"
"A toothpick, my son. If I don't **** it up again."

We have all been there.

Székely jokes are a distinct genre within Hungarian joke-lore. They usually depict székely people as stoic, patient, and blessed with ingenuity and a quiet sense of humor. I will probably post more of them later on.
I wanted to post this one, not only because it is fun, but also because a very similar story exists in a folktale format as well, known as "The Blue Coat." Anyone who has done crafting at some point knows this feeling - "I can still make use of this somehow..." In fact, among those of us who know the joke, the punchline has become a saying on its own, usually invoked when working on a particularly complicated project.

Apply generously.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: Someone turn this into a horror movie

I never thought about how disturbing this story is until I re-told it to non-Hungarian friends. And now that I did, I want someone to make it into a horror movie.

The story is called Kis Gömböc; the term itself refers to one of the many foods you get out of a pig slaughter. It is, essentially, all kinds of odds and ends stuffed inside the pig's bladder. Kinda like haggis, except more icky.

Story goes that a family slaughtered a pig (that always happens in the winter), used up all parts of it, and towards the end of winter, only the kis gömböc remained. It hung in the attic in the cool and dark, and one day the mother sent her youngest daughter up to fetch it so they could eat.

And instead, the gömböc ate the daughter.

Second daughter gets sent up; never returns. Third daughter follows; doesn't come down. Same thing happens to mother and father, and by this time the gömböc is so large it falls down, rolls down the stairs and out of the house, and starts devouring people. Eventually, after quite a few casualties, it happens to eat up a swineherd who just happened to have a knife, and he cuts the gömböc open from the inside, and lets everybody out.

Now, this is a story that exists in a few variations; in some of them, the culprit is a doll of some sort (it is generally seen as a silly children's story). But I think a dead pig's bladder filled with bodies rolling down the street is pretty much the stuff of nightmares.

In Hungary, the pig slaughter slaughters you.


Monday, October 19, 2015

MopDog Monday: MORE useful and unique Hungarian sayings

Because you can never have enough elaborately ethnic ways of expressing certain feelings about other people.

Csalánra pisilt
Literally means: "Peed on nettles."
Figuratively means: Angry.
(Although the nettles probably have more reason to be angry)

Zabszem van a fenekében
Literally means: "There is a grain of oat in his/her butt."
Figuratively means: Can't sit still / Is in a hurry.

Forgolódik, mint a tojó galamb
Literally means: "Keeps turning around like a pigeon laying eggs."
Figuratively means: Can't stand still / Is being impatient.

Szív, mint a torkosborz
Literally means: "Sucks like a wolverine."
Figuratively means: Is in a very sucky situation.
(No, this is NOT folk commentary on the quality of X-men movies)

Kóvályog, mint gólyafos a levegőben
Literally means: "Meanders, like stork diarrhea in the air."
Figuratively means: [... nope, I don't believe any explanation can make this mental image any better.]

Go forth, an exercise linguistic diversity!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: You thought vampires were scary

Ever had sleep paralysis? That terrifying feeling when you feel awake and aware, and yet can't move? Did you feel it was hard to breathe, as if someone was sitting on your chest?

Congratulations, you have a lidérc.
Call the Winchesters.

The lidérc is one of the most commonly known creatures of Hungarian folk belief. It can actually mean quite a few things:

1. Will-o'-the-Wisps (we call them lidérc lights)
2. Handsome men or women that seduce mortals and then make them sick or dead - sometimes by drinking their blood while they are asleep (lidérc lovers)
3. A chicken from the egg of a black hen, hatched under the armpit of a man (who has to sit still for 6 weeks) - it can bring wealth for its master, but it has to be kept constantly fed and occupied, otherwise it feeds on its owner. (lidérc chicken)
4. A creature that sits on your chest, sometimes drinks your blood, and makes you ill.

Four wonderful options, obviously.

A lidérc sitting on the chest of a sleeping person (and sometimes drinking their blood, or sucking on their nipples until they swell up) (you're welcome, have fun sleeping in a bra) causes a lidércnyomás - literally, lidérc pressure. Not to mention other kinds of pressure, like having to deal with swollen nipples. Brrr.
Lidércnyomás or lidérc dream (lidérces álom) also happens to be our term for nightmares.

The good news: There are ways to get rid of a lidérc.

1. If you are one of those idiots people that made one (from an egg), you simply have to give it an impossible task and work it to death. The most popular is "bring me a bundle of sand with a rope." Another classic is "bring me water in this sieve," but be careful with that - some lidérc have figured out that ice qualifies as water. Don't try to beat a demon at technicality.

2. First aid: If a person has a lidérc on their chest, you might try to swat it into a jar with slow hand movements from head to toe. Here is one more thing you can use mason jars for, Pinterest.

3. You can keep them from coming into the house in a couple of ways - mostly with incense or birch twigs, or by magical binding.


Be safe, people. Friends don't let friends make a devil chicken under their armpits. 
Add a black hen to your Halloween decorations.

Monday, October 12, 2015

MopDog Monday: Capture the Hungarian flag!

So, this is one of the things I totally thought was a universal pastime, and then I talked about it in America and people stared at me with blank faces. So I am guessing it is not.

The game is called Számháború (Number War)

If you want to name a game that a large number of people can play out in the open for long periods of time, this is that game. We have all played it at one point or another, waaay before laser tag and paintball ever came along. The upside is that it barely requires any supplies (and definitely no guns, fake or otherwise), which makes it very child-friendly.
(It also exhausts the little critters thoroughly, which parents appreciate)

Step 1: Recruit people, and find a place to play. The more objects (trees, rocks, structures) in the area, the better.

Step 2: Divide people into two groups. Mark them somehow (red shirts vs blue shirts, etc.)

Step 3: Everyone gets a headband with a (4 or 5 digit) number on it. Make sure everyone remembers their OWN number correctly. Also make sure the teams don't put on their numbers until they are well away from each other.

Step 4: If you want, you can play it capture-the-flag style and have both teams hide a flag somewhere. Or you can just play it as "last man standing."

Step 5: Set the teams loose in the area. The goal is to pick off the opposing team's players by reading their number out loud. If you hear your number yelled, you are dead/out.

The fun of the game mostly comes from techniques of moving without revealing the number on your forehead. It is not allowed to cover it, or put your hand/arm over it - but taking cover in other ways is fair game. People have their own techniques of doing this:

Some lean their foreheads against trees while the enemy passes
others put their face on the ground and progress inchworm-style,
sneak in tall grass,
or try to run in a straight line while vigorously shaking their head,
or put their foreheads together and try to run that way.

As you can see from these examples, the game mostly results in hilarity, and a lot of yelling; it also tends to come to stalemates when no one is willing to move while the others are around. Like so:

Or like this:

Google the Hungarian name for more images.
Try it. It's fun.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hungarian Halloween: We had Xenomorphs before it was cool

Welcome to my new Friday series through the end of October: Hungarian Halloween!
Hungary doesn't traditionally celebrate Halloween; our time to dress up, party, and run around drunk is farsang, which happens at the end of winter (think Mardi Gras). And yet, we have a lot of scary creatures and monsters going to waste without a spooky holiday, so I might as well share them for my Halloween-prone friends.
Here we go.

You have met the Owl With the Copper Dick.
You have met the Aggressive Piglet.
And now, for something infinitely worse.
(Warning: Graphic content)

When I was little and I drank too much too fast (water or lemonade, not alcohol, obviously), my mother would tell me "stop it, you'll grow a frog in your stomach."
For the longest time I wrote this off as just one of those things parents say, along with "don't slouch" and "say 'nice to meet you!'" But recently, doing some research into the darker corners of Hungarian folklore, I found out that this is not only a hungarikum (a typically Hungarian thing), but also one of the most terrifying pieces of folklore I have ever seen.

Introducing the Water Calf.

As adorable as that sounds, nobody seems to be sure what this creature is. Some studies equate it with real animals such as salamanders, certain types of newts, tadpoles, giant sturgeons, leeches, or even worms. Other sources clearly treat it as a magical, mythical creature. Whatever the case, the function is always the same:
If you drink from still freshwater (slow rivers, lakes, ponds, puddles), you might swallow a water calf; if it is not lured out in time, it will grow large in your stomach, until it bursts (or, in other versions, chews or burrows itself out).

In some descriptions, the water calf is a red-bellied lizard; in others, it is some kind of a hairy part-pig-part-calf creature that squeals. Sometimes it is just a large frog, or multiple frogs, that come out through the mouth and other orifices.

Good news: In order to avoid a reenactment of Alien, the water calf can be lured out peacefully by holding warm milk to the patient's mouth.

All of these things make sense in the context of the history of sanitation: It is not safe to drink still water for many reasons. The water calf serves as an appropriately dire warning against getting yourself poisoned or getting parasites from drinking from a puddle.
This is your PSA, people. Water calf. Not even once.

Monday, September 28, 2015

MopDog Monday: Schadenfreude, káröröm

And you thought the Germans were the only people who had a word specifically for being happy that someone else's life sucks.
Hungarians live on that stuff, yo.

The term for schadenfreude in Hungarian is "káröröm" - it is a mirror translation, literally "harm-joy." But taking thing one step further, as usual, Hungarians usually encase this term in a near little aphorism:

"Legszebb öröm a káröröm"
Literally: "Káröröm is the best kind of joy."

And in case you were confused about the sinister implications of this little snippet, here is an even loner, oft-used form that explains why:

"Legszebb öröm a káröröm, mert nincsen benne irigység."
Literally: "Káröröm is the best kind of joy, because there is no envy in it."


And because by now all of you are probably singing the song in your heads, here it is. You're welcome.

Monday, September 21, 2015

MopDog Monday: Don't laugh

After all the pop culture, here is some children's folklore from Hungary.

Laughing games are games where the goal is to make the players laugh. This can happen in a number of ways; one of the most interesting of them is with a series of questions-and answers, some of which may rhyme. Kids used to learn these, and one of them, who was the caller, asked them all, and the ones that didn't laugh won (became "angels" or "queens" etc.). There are many variations of the game; I just wanted to leave the line of questions-answers here. Busy Monday.

What did you eat today?
Bread with salt.
What did you drink today?
Cold water.
What do you stand on?
What do you float on?
A leaf.
What's in your mouth?
A blue pebble.
Look at the sky!
I won't look.
Spit on the ground!
I won't spit.
Spin around three times, don't laugh!

Go try it with someone, see if they laugh.

Monday, September 14, 2015

MopDog Monday: Hungary vs Hollywood

Following in the vein of Hungarian dub voices for famous actors, here is a lineup of Hungarian translations for famous movie and TV show titles - gone wrong.

Ever thought that movie titles are just mirror-translated into other languages?
Think again. The Hungarian movie industry seems to have a flare for randomly changing titles, even when there is no good reason to.
Some of the more famous examples:

English title: Blade Runner (1982)
Hungarian title: A szárnyas fejvadász
Literally means: The Winged Headhunter
For the longest time I didn't even realize those two were the same movie.

English title: Alien (1979)
Hungarian title: A nyolcadik utas: a Halál
Literally means: The eighth passenger: Death
Spoilers much?

English title: The Blind Side (2009)
Hungarian title: A szív bajnokai
Literally means: Champions of the heart
We like emotional titles, we do.

English title: Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Hungarian title: Mielőtt meghaltam
Literally means: Before I died

English title: Kick-Ass (2010)
Hungarian title: Ha/ver
Literally means: Uh... "haver" means "buddy;" cut up like that, it means something like "when he beats you"
So, essentially every time someone says "Kick-Ass" in the movie, they are just saying "buddy."

English title: Gilmore Girls (2000-2007)
Hungarian title: Szívek szállodája
Literally means: The Hotel of Hearts

English title: Ender's Game (2013)
Hungarian title: Végjáték
Literally means: End Game
Someone didn't realize Ender was a name.

English title: Tangled (2010)
Hungarian title: Aranyhaj és a nagy gubanc  
Literally means: Goldenhair and the big tangle
And thus Hungarians negated Disney's efforts to make the movie more appealing to boys.
Also, "Goldenhair," because "Rapunzel" is not recognizable enough.

English title: Frozen (2013)
Hungarian title: Jégvarázs
Literally means: Ice Magic
Technically... not wrong.

English title: Arrow (2012-)
Hungarian title: A zöld íjász
Literally means: The green archer
Actually makes more sense than the original name?

English title: Game of Thrones (2011-)
Hungarian title: Trónok Harca
Literally means: Battle of Thrones
They just killed the metaphor dead. Like, Jon Snow dead.

English title: Ant-Man (2015)
Hungarian title: A Hangya
Literally means: The Ant
Scott said it was a stupid name anyway.

English title: Californication (2007-2014)
Hungarian title: Kaliforgia
Literally means: Califorgy
Not bad?

English title: The Reckoning (2002)
Hungarian title: Ördögi színjáték - A pap, a várúr, és a boszorkány
Literally means: Infernal comedy - The priest, the nobleman, and the witch
One of my favorite movies, but they really did go all out with this title...

And the winner is...

English title: Breaking Bad (2008-2013)
Hungarian title: Totál szívás
Literally means: Complete suckitude
This one almost incited a riot among Hungarian TV junkies. It makes the show sound like a comedy, solely to have a pun in the title: "szívás" can refer to something that sucks, or smoking weed. Yep.

What is YOUR favorite movie title? Would you like to see it Hungarified?

Monday, August 24, 2015

MopDog Monday: American Weeks in a Hungarian McDonald's

Still on the topic of fast food, and the pictures I took this summer: I was lucky enough to be in my country when McDonald's announced their American Weeks.
(I ignorantly have been assuming all this time that McDonald's WAS American Weeks...)
The question lingers: How do you make the Golden Arches MORE American?
(While at the same time also making it Hungarian-friendly)?



Second: McChicken BBQ (BBQ is a very American thing in our eyes)

Third: Crunchy Atlanta Burger (PUT THE FRIES INSIDE THE BURGER) (also BACON)

Fourth: Las Vegas BBQ (MORE BBQ) (I don't even know how to spell the full word)

Fifth: Beverly Hills Cheese Bites (filled with ketchup) and Chicago Potato Chips (no footnote to explain what makes them Chicago, I feel lost now)
(Chips are also not a side that you normally get in Hungary)

at the same time

These are Túró Rudi (cottage-cheese-and-chocolate) flavored flurries. I have been over the cult status of Túró Rudi before.

This whole thing made me feel incredibly American and incredibly Hungarian ALL AT THE SAME TIME.
Good job, Meki.

Monday, August 17, 2015

MopDog Monday: Nostalgia lane 2: Non-Hungarian cartoons Hungarian kids grew up with

So, a while back, I did a post on non-Hungarian cartoons that I grew up with as a 90's kid in Hungary - mostly to introduce my American friends to what children's TV used to look like in my corner of the 90's world. I chose the "non-Hungarian" theme because I am still thinking about doing all the Hungarian cartoons for A to Z at some point (maybe next year). But of course one post could not cover all the nostalgia I have, so I finally got around to making  a second batch.
Theme of the day: Cartoons with repetitive music that will slowly drive the parents mad.
(Again, links point to YouTube videos)

Kisvakond (The Little Mole) (Czech)
The Little Mole (Krtek) is one of the national symbols of Czech culture. No, really. You know you see Smurfs everywhere when you go to Belgium? Well, Prague for example is full of Krtek. My little sister is a devout worshipper of the critter. There is barely any talk in most episodes (except for the most famous one, Little Mole's Trousers, in which Krtek gets help from various animals to go through the process of turning flax into trousers)(this is how most kids my generation learned the principles of clothmaking, and some of us can still recite it: The flax grew, the frog soaked it, the sun dried it, the stork broke it, the hedgehog stripped it, the spiders spun it, the ants wove it, the crab cut it, and the warbler sewed it. Ta-da!). Some episodes are more confusing than others: My favorite is the one where we learn how babies are made via the love story of two bunnies, and the brutally graphic scene of Mama Bunny giving birth. You're welcome.

Barbapapa (French)
This cartoon is about an adorable family of shape-shifting blobs: Barbapapa, Barbamama, and all the little Barbas with their different colors and personalities. What sticks the most about it is the opening song which you will never get out of your head. Neither will your parents.
(I absolutely loved this as a kid)

Jamie and the Magic Torch (British)
Possibly one of the most psychedelic kids' shows I've every seen, in the grand tradition of Alice in Wonderland. Jamie, and his Old English Sheepdog Wordsworth (because who else) (in Hungarian he's called Sajó) go on nightly adventures with the help of a magic torch into Cuckoo Land. It is one of those strange shows that have narration instead of solely dialoge, which is just one of the many things that weirded me out about it. On the plus side: This cartoon is still the single best reference point for explaining people what kind of a dog I have. "So, what breed?" "A bobtail" "What's that?" "Sajó, from Jamie and the Magic Torch" "OOOOH!"

Varázsceruza (Magic Pencil) (Polish)
And while we are on the topic of magic objects, here is another children's classic, this time from our good friends the Polish people. This series tells stories about a boy who gets into various kinds of trouble, and solves them by using a magic pencil (given to him by a tiny dwarf that randomly pops into existence) - whatever he draws with it comes to life. The discussion on why he chooses to draw certain objects but not others is a constant pastime among kids watching the show. Also, why he never just draws a bunch of money for himself or something.
Once again, no voices, and music that you will never get out of your head. But it made all of us kinds want to experiment with drawing things that might come to life.

Lolka és Bolka (Lolek and Bolek, mostly distributed in English as Jym and Jam) (Polish)
Another no-talking Polish cartoon series kids could not get enough of (I feel like the Polish have found the ultimate secret to easy international distribution - no words to translate at all). The show deals with the - sometimes magical - adventures of two kids who are friends and possibly brothers (I was never quite clear on that), underscored by the obligatory cheerful repetitive music. They have kind of a love-hate relationship and the older one bullies the little one sometimes.
They are probably brothers.
(You remember that one line from Supernatural where Dean Winchester says "There are two things that I know for certain, one: Bert and Ernie are gay"? Well, the Hungarian dubs for Supernatural translated that as "Lolka and Bolka are gay" - since no one knows Bert and Ernie in Hungary -, effectively making all of us nineties kids twitch around the eyes a little.)
(Maybe I'll make a separate post about strangely replaced pop culture references in Hungarian dubs...)

I feel like there are still more cartoons to share. I'll make a third installment in this series at some point.

Monday, August 10, 2015

MopDog Monday: Meanwhile in Hungary...

When I see signs like THIS at my doctor's office, I realize that I will never convince foreigners all Hungarians are not vampires...

(The sign says "Dracula Therapy - A Revolutionary way of re-generatin your skin")

Come to Hungary and stay young forever, people!

Monday, August 3, 2015

MopDog Monday: Our KFC is better than your KFC

It is always the most fun part of the semester when I reveal to American students that fast food chains serve different menus depending on the country they are in.

The first time I was in the USA, and I suggested we should eat at KFC, I was completely baffled by the confused and disgusted looks from my American friends. The conversation went something like this:

"Are you sure?..."
"... You know what KFC is, right? Kentucky Fried Chicken?"
"... Yeees?"
"You have that in Hungary?"
"... And you like that stuff?!"
"... I do. Especially the salad wraps..."
*blink, blink*

So, in order to prove that I am not making it up, here is what a KFC menu looks like in my home town in Hungary:

They has Asian Weeks until last week. With dumplings and teriyaki chicken wraps. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Share a kiss with whut now?!

If you are familiar with Coca Cola's #KissHappiness and #ShareaKiss campaign, you probably know that it is an endless source of hilarious memes, as well as a great mess in all grocery stores (since it makes people dig around to find specific names, and spill bottles everywhere).
Well, the campaign has now hit Hungary:

Fail No. 1: It is impossible to translate
Since Hungarian language changes the form of the subject of a sentence, instead of just putting names/words on the bottles, they would have to put their subject forms, and that's not fun for anyone. (Example: Instead of "Csenge" which is my name, the bottle would say "Csengével"). So now the slogan in Hungarian says: "A kiss for you too, [...]" It sounds awkward.

Fail No. 2: People tried to be creative
After five minutes of browsing bottles in the store, I have come across the following options for people to share a kiss with:

Little Brother (right) (Lannister much?)
Ex (stay out of my personal life, Coke)
Friend with benefits (left) (my mom paid for this one with my father's card)
Mr. Trainer (isn't that a conflict of interest?)
Spori (I have no clue what this means, it's not a name and not even a word)
Stranger (now that's just creepy)

Another trip to the store yielded more results. They are (from left to right):
Miss No Filter (in English, because it doesn't exist in Hungarian)
Bébibogyó (Babyberry - it's a pet name thing)
Gólkirály (Goal king - it's a soccer thing)
Bro (Bro)
Exem (my ex)
Flúgos (Idiot)
Kommentbajnok (comment champion - the guys in Marketing know the Internet!!)

On the upside, we already have a meme version of the poster that says "I have kissed Viktor"
Because our glorious leader needs to be on every wall.

Monday, July 27, 2015

MopDog Monday: Southern Hungarian Historical Confusion

I am back from a storytelling conference in Greece, so I finally have time to continue posting MopDog Monday. Thank you for your patience!

Those who followed my blog during this year's A to Z probably got the idea that a lot of medieval Hungarian history has to do with the Turkish wars. There are still many places in the country that carry the signs of Ottoman occupation: We have mosques, Turkish era baths, minarets, and of course tales and legends. This is especially true in Southern Hungary. Recently I took a trip with my family to those parts (my mother's side of the family is from there), and visited some places that were too great not to mention. Especially because, although it was a weekend, we barely saw any tourists around.
So, in case you ever get the chance to come to Hungary, and you want to see things outside of Budapest, here are my top 3 choices for the Southwest:

A large and very beautiful city, proud of its cultural events. The most well-known attraction is the mosque of Pasha Quasim, commonly referred to in Hungarian as the Djami. It is beautifully restored. Pécs also has one of our UNESCO World Heritage sites: The early Christian cemetery, filled with Roman era Christian mausoleums, with wall paintings, all encompassed within one brand new museum building.

A castle that saw a lot of fighting over the centuries, and has been restored to its full glory recently. It is well worth a visit; the view from the walls is amazing, there are great exhibitions inside, a Gothic chapel, and there is even a rose garden that belonged to a famous lady in the era of the Turkish wars. At the bottom of the hill below the castle, there is another mosque, still in use by the local Bosnian community, and restored and furnished with the help of the Turkish government after spending a couple of centuries as a barn.

An important site in Hungarian history: Our most famous Baroque epic is written about the siege of Sziget in 1566. It was a swamp castle during the Turkish wars. The Hungarian defenders fought to the very last, and then broke out of the inner castle in a heroic last stand, and all perished in the fight (dear Peter Jackson, please take note). Incidentally, the Turkish sultan also died during the siege in his tent; the two great military leaders, facing off to the death, never got to meet on the battlefield, but they both died on it. There is now a monument commemorating both of them, and the castle is being restored with a park, a walkway, a museum, and the mosque that the Turks built inside. It is very peaceful now, and the surrounding town is nice too.

It is interesting to visit these places and reflect on history. A lot of our history and folklore has to do with the fight to the death against the Ottoman Empire; and yet, in the distance of centuries, now we get to admire Turkish culture, marvel at their architecture and art, and respect their side of the story as well.