Monday, May 11, 2015

MopDog Monday: Hungarians give animals strange names

Ever wonder what animals are called in other languages? Sure, the basic lineup is usually among the first word pop quizzes you get in a language class, but what do they really mean?
You'll never know how strange some nations (*cough*Hungary*cough*) name some animals until you try to translate the words in a very, very literal sense.
Like I just did.

Hungarian name: Farkas
Literally means: The one with a tail
Comment: Yes, we were very specific back in the day.

Hungarian name: Szarvas
Literally means: The one with horns
Comment: Yes, that one.
(Note: According to popular theory these two were totem animals back in the day, hence you were not allowed to say their real names out loud. Sadly, since people kept to the rules, we have no clue what the real names were.)

Hungarian name: Büdösborz
Literally means: Stinky badger
Comment: Hey, it's fairly accurate for an animal that doesn't live on our continent.

Hungarian name: Mosómedve
Literally means: Washing bear
Comment: They do wash their food! Proof: Here is a gif of a raccoon trying to wash cotton candy.
Some of my American friends are really amused when I tell them we have raccoon at the zoo back home.

Hungarian name: Jegesmedve
Literally means: Icy bear
Comment: We're not wrong

Hungarian name: Meztelen csiga
Literally means: Naked snail
Comment: Oh myyy.
Hungarian name: Tengerimalac
Literally means: Sea piglet (or, alternately, maize piglet)
Comment: If it snorts, it's a pig

Hungarian name: Katica(bogár)
Literally means: Katie(bug)
Comment: We have a song about the Turks torturing ladybugs (more about messed up Hungarian children's rhymes later)

Hungarian name: Torkosborz
Literally means: Glutton badger
Comment: They translated the Wolverine movie as "Farkas"

Hungarian name: Őszapóka
Literally means: Little autumn grandfather
Comment: *Cuteness overload* (it's a long-tailed tit, by the way)
(Note: It has been pointed out to me that it could also be "little grey-haired grandfather," which is indeed the same word, I guess my brain just never understood it that way.)

Hungarian name: Tobzoska
Literally means: Little pine cone
Comment: Squeee!!!

Hungarian name: Kacsacsőrű emlős
Literally means: Duck-billed mammal
Comment: Again, we are not wrong. Just not very imaginative. What, the animal itself is not strange enough for ya?!

And finally, the most amazing animal on the face of the planet:

Hungarian name: Kis páncélos egér
Literally means: Little armored mouse
Comment: This one is a tie, since in English it's called a Pink Fairy Armadillo.

Which one's your favorite? Which one can you pronounce?


  1. Well, I can pronounce Farkas, but are you telling me you have no skunks? Did not know that. As for raccoons in the zoo, that is a hoot. Last year they tore up a duck's nest next to my front porch and I nearly cried over the destroyed eggs. Love to trap and send them to your zoo.

    1. That was my favorite exhibit when I was a kid. You could give them vegetables and they would run and wash them.

  2. Yes, very literal! That's one odd armadillo. My daughter wouldn't appreciate a song about torturing ladybirds, I don't think.

    1. Yeah, I'm posting that for the Blood, Boobs and Carnage Blogfest...

  3. we learned at the university, that wolf and deer have been so sacred in the ancient hungarian religion/tradition, that their name became taboo. we know the wolf's original name (toporgyán), but the deer was so 'holy', none knows it's name. likewise the bear 'medve, comes from the russian 'the one that eats honey'. love.p

    1. Ah!!!! That's great. I studied Russian and ah, that makes sense now.

  4. Those translations are cute and funny. Also, the raccoon gif. XDXD!

  5. Awesome! Though I question naming something "you know, the one with the tail," presumably anyone who speaks Hungarian knows what you're talking about.

    Most languages have words (even English - especially English) that sound dumb when translated literally to other languages. I just realized the word for "kale" in French literally translates to "fuzzy green cabbage."

    Which, as you said many times above, is not wrong.

    I'm not going to try to pronounce any of them. I'll just make a fool of myself.

  6. That little pine cone really does look like a pine cone. I've never seen anything like that. We used to be visited by racoons when we lived in Michigan. They were much bigger than I had visioned them. The duck-billed one must be the one we call a duck-billed platypus, which does fit. ice bear = polar bear, same difference as they say.

    Finding Eliza

  7. Ha! This was great! Ok, totally unrelated, who is the blogger who had the Russian theme vacation pictures during the A to Z challenge? I started looking backwards through your posts, but got tired. Thx if you know off the top of your head. Sea piglet is sooo cute.

  8. Most of these make pretty good sense. Stinky badger...yup. I'd say so. They aren't nice and they do make quite a stink. Sea piglet? Well...we say guinea pig, so I guess we all think the squeaking is similar to that of a pig's. Though I think sea piglet sounds much cuter. Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

  9. I probably can't pronounce any of them, but I love them all! Little autumn grandfather and stinky badger--how cute are those names?

    The Hungarians showed some imagination after all. ;)

  10. "Raccoon" in Swedish also means "washing bear"! (tvättbjörn). My favorite is sea piglet! :D

    Swedish words are very similar in that some are extremely literal and or unimaginative, but not all. We have "green things" (vegetables -- grönsaker), and "play things" (toys -- leksaker). My favorite odd-ball is for strawberry, which literally translates to something like "earthen old man" (jordgubb). And lastly, my personal favorite, is for one's behind, which translates to "the hams" (skinkorna) haha!

    1. Well, we're right with you on green things (zöldség - "greenness") and toys. :D I love the strawberry, though!

  11. Hi aTH - wonderful names for some very strange beasties ... actually they are lovely - the armour plated pink mouse ... that grandfather .. language is so wonderful ... cheers Hilary

  12. This was very interesting. Its fun to figure out the languages. I just stopped by your other blog and left a comment...on my way through with the A to Z Road trip

  13. Those names are adorable! Names for people in Japan are very much like this, literally translated. "Ichiro" = First Son, etc. "Sakura" = Cherry Blossom, "Yukiko" = Snow Child. It'd sort of be like naming your kid First One, Peaches, or Autumn Leaves.

    I loved your commentary!! :D

    Alex Hurst, A Fantasy Author in Kyoto

  14. I've been a Magyarphile for 20 years now, and particularly love Hungarian names, so I think I could pronounce most of them properly. As a cavy-lover, my favorite is naturally the guinea pig. It's a cute name for a cute animal.

  15. yeah um the one with the tail? kinda cute.