Monday, June 29, 2015

MopDog Monday: Hungarian stars

No, not the singing and dancing kind. I wanted to make a post about Hungarian constellations. Most cultures have their own ideas about the stars; here are some of ours:

1. The Milky Way
When we don't simply call it Tejút (Which literally means Milky Way), it has some pretty fun names. Hadak Útja (Way of the Warriors) has an old story attached to it about long-dead warriors returning to help their people in the hour of need. They also call it Drunk Man's Road and sometimes say there is a bend in it because Jesus Christ walked around a drunkard who wanted to pick a fight with Him (in other versions, Jesus himself was drunk). Our Fairy Queen is commemorated in Tündér Ilona vászna (Tündér Ilona's linen) and Tündérek Útja (Fairy Road).
My personal favorite, however, is milk-related: Baby Jesus drank too much breast milk, and threw it up. Because who has not had a baby incident that involved barfing?

2. The Big Dipper
Commonly known as Göncölszekér, Göncöl's cart. Göncöl in some stories was a táltos (shaman, wise man) who helped people in various ways, until his cart broke, and no one was willing to help him out. He moved to the sky after that.
In other versions St. Peter used the cart to go and steal straw. He spilled some of the stolen goods on the way home - that became the Milky Way.

3. Cassiopeia
The Tavern. Hence all the drunk people up there.

4. Sirius
One of the most well-known ones, this one is usually a girl. Some call it Sánta Kata (Limping Kate), Limping Girl, or Orphan Girl.

5. Pleiades
We call them Fiastyúk (a hen with chicks). I always thought it was cute, although not very poetic.

6. Cepheus
One of the stars (Alderamin) in this constellation is commonly referred to as Nyüveskutya (mangy dog). This has to take the cake in "least poetic star names." I mean, who looked at the sky and came up with that?!

7. Berenice's hair
This less well known constellation was named in Hungarian after the Tatar invasion (Tatárdúlás). Because we like to project depressing things up onto the sky, apparently.

8. Polaris
The North Star. Sometimes called Boldogasszony motollája. Boldogasszony is what we call the Virgin Mary, but it is possible she was some kind of a mother goddess even before Christianity. Motolla is a traditional spinning tool. The idea probably came from how the sky seems to spin around this star.

9. Aldebaran
Sometimes called Boszorkány szeme (the witch's eye) and sometimes Bujdosók lámpása (lantern of exiles).

10. The Sun
Sometimes traditionally (and probably jokingly) called Szőlőérlelő csillag (grape-ripening star), Ruhaszárító csillag (star that dries the clothes). Technically, they were not wrong!

Monday, June 22, 2015

MopDog Monday: Our pea soup is not like your pea soup

I tried to explain Hungarian pea soup to my boyfriend today and I failed. Thus, I shall write a blog post about it.

When I Google "pea soup" in English, I get this:
Frankly, I don't even know what this is supposed to be.

When I Google "pea soup" in Hungarian, this is what comes up:
This is what God intended pea soup to look like. 

Ours is also known as "sugar pea soup" and it includes a lot of sugar (how did this not take off in America?). First you caramelize sugar in a pot, and then pour water in it, and add peas and carrots and scallions and other vegetables to your taste. Then, when it has all cooked through, you add parsley and salt and other spices you like.

Then comes the squishy part.

You mix melted butter and eggs in a mug, and add flour until the dough sticks together, but still moves around in the mug with ease. Then you take a spoon and cut smaller pieces out of the dough as you are slowly pouring it over the soup. The pieces fall into the soup and cook in a few minutes into squishy, cloud-shaped little floaty pieces. They add substance to the soup, and they taste delicious. They also have a Hungarian name (vajgaluska) which is best translated as "soft buttery squishy pieces that float in pea soup."

You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MopDog Monday: Hello, tourist

Belated post for MopDog Monday, because my weekend was kind of hectic. Until I can upload something more substantial, here are two songs for your entertainment:

1. Hello Tourist by Emil Rulez
For those of you who plan on visiting Hungary this summer, or other summers in the future. It is a parody song of tour guides, sung in glorious Hunglish, with a very catchy tune. (Subtitles included)

2. Hello Mr. Foreigner! - by Apa Zenél (Explicit language warning)
A musical satire reaction to the previously discussed anti-immigration signs. Also in Hunglish, subtitles included.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Update on the Great Blue Signs: Two Tailed Dog to the rescue!

I wrote about Hungary's sudden infestation of government-sponsored anti-immigration hate signs earlier this week. The things that happened since are so spectacular, and so typically Hungarian, that I can't not share an update.
So here is what's gone down so far:

1. People defacing all the signs in multiple shifts around the clock.
We are nothing if not creative. Immediately after the first Blue Signs went up, the good people of the Internet created an interactive map where you can pin them if you see them, and then mark if they have been defaced/ torn down yet, or they are still waiting to be defaced/torn down - for those who want to take on these noble missions themselves.

Defacing signs is a creative art in itself. Tearing down the sign is easiest, but by far not the most entertaining. Real artists block letters out to change the meaning of the signs. 
Here are some gems:

Out of "If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our culture":
"Hungary needs culture"
"If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our ass."
"Hungary, you dog."
"You WILL come to Hungary."
"Our tour is going to Hungary."

Out of "If you come to Hungary, you can't take Hungarians' jobs":
"You can't eat Hungarians' livers"

Out of "If you come to Hungary, you have to keep our laws":
"Hungary screws you up."
"If you come to Hungary, you will have to screw someone up."

In at least one case, a sign close to a school was defaced by a happy gang of teachers and students together.

2. People getting arrested for defacing the signs
Of course the merry whirlwind of tearing down hate could not go unpunished. It turns out the government had policemen watching the signs in civilian clothing, which is a great use of police power if I have ever seen any. Some people got arrested for defacing signs. 
On the upside, this was enough to get an article in The Guardian.

3. Two Tailed Dog to the rescue!
We have gotten to a new breaking point: Mock political parties are doing actual political work. The country's leading satire party, the infamous Two Tailed Dog, started a crowdfunding campaign to purchase anti-hate signs to be put up all over the country. And Hungary rallied for the cause: We threw 18 million forints (app. 65.000 dollars) at them in a single day. That is enough for about 300 signs. This happened yesterday. Money is still flowing in.
They are also crowdsourcing what should be on the signs. Some of the top contestants so far:
"Welcome to Hungary!" (in English)
"We are sorry for our prime minister." (in Enlish)
"A kingdom with one language and one custom is weak and fragile..." (a quote from out first king St. Stephen)
And my personal favorite:

4. The government accusing the Two Tailed Dog 
"Civilian Forums" (proven to be government sponsored and instigated) released a statement accusing the TTD of taking dirty foreign political money for their campaign, since the good people of Hungary would never donate to such an unpatriotic cause.
Two Tailed Dog answered with their own statement: "We address the CÖF (Civil Cooperation Forum) to address us in a shorter manner, because it was too long and we didn't read."

All Hail the Two Tailed Dog! Next elections I'm voting the shit out of them.

Monday, June 8, 2015

MopDog Monday: What does Duck Tales have to do with the Hungarian prime minister?

I think this one might successfully compete in a "most Hungarian pop culture reference" contest. And it is also specific to my generation - some Hungarian '90s kids realness.
Recently, since the meme machine has been in full swing over various political events (see example in previous post), one can come across a recurring curse on the Interwebs, one specifically applied to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and doesn't make much sense to foreigners, even if translated.

"Hogy szakadna meg miattad a Kacsamesék!"

Which loosely translates into:

"May they pause Duck Tales because of you!"

Well, here is the story:

It was December 12th, 1993. I was 7 years old. It was a Sunday afternoon, which meant one thing, and one thing only: Sunday Afternoon Disney on TV. I, together with probably all other children of my generation in the country, was sitting in front of the television set in my grandparents' living room, glued to the cartoon screen while the adults were drinking afternoon coffee.

And then, suddenly, the screen went black.

Right in the middle of the Duck Tales episode, all sound disappeared, and instead white text flashed on the screen:

József Antall has passed away.

For a seven year old, this meant exactly nothing - the mood was immediately riotous, everyone wanted Duck Tales back, and we could not give a flying duck about who passed where and why. Meanwhile, the adults who rushed into the room when they heard us whining stood in silent contemplation.

József Antall was the first freely elected Prime Minister of Hungary in 1990, when we became a democratic country.

My generation remembers the day as "the day they cut Duck Tales," and now it is a part of our memories of being children around a significant turning point in our country's history. We didn't learn the real meaning of it until later, obviously. Some still harbor hurt feelings that we never got to see the end of the episode.

Well, this is it in a nutshell. Probably the most elaborate, culture- and generation-specific, prime minister - tailored way the Hungarian Internet could come up with to say "GTFO."

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Meanwhile in Hungary: Explaining the mystery of the Great Blue Signs

MopDog doesn't usually do politics, but this one might need some explanation.
If you have Hungarian friends on social media, you might have seen a series of blue images with white text on them, shared with great fervor and a lot of exclamation marks.
Here is what's going on:
The Hungarian government has recently embarked on a campaign against "economical immigration." In order to fire the masses up against immigrants that "take our jobs and ruin our culture" they paid 300 million Forints (app. a million dollars) for a billboard campaign that sends three distinct messages all over Budapest:


(It also says "Government Information" as well as "National Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism")



The fact that all the signs are in Hungarian, but they talk to supposed fresh-off-the-boat immigrants, has been the focus of several critiques. Also, an immediate flood of memes followed, with Photoshopped signs reading "If you come to Hungary, we apologize," "If you come to Hungary, you can't take Hungarians' community service," and "If you come to Hungary, say hi to my mom, I'm already living in London."

The rest of the commenting I'll just leave up to the good people of the Internet.

Friday, June 5, 2015

"Drinks like a whut?...": 5 familiar things Hungarians say differently

Continuing our tour into Hungarian linguistic weirdness, I gathered some things that Hungarians say just a little bit different than how they are said in English. In concept, I mean. Obviously, the pronunciation is vastly different...

1. It's all Chinese to me
I always wondered how people speaking English pinpointed Greek as the most confusing language. For Hungarians (claimed to speak one of the most difficult languages in the world), the epitome of confusion is Chinese. Go figure.
(Maybe it's about the writing. But still.)

2. Inventing Spanish wax
When someone comes up with an idea that already exists, they "re-invent the wheel." In Hungary, if someone is proud of such an achievement (or just overly boasting in general), we say "they think they invented the Spanish wax." Apparently wax was so common and so often used by everyone at one point that it could substitute the wheel in the ridiculousness of the claim.

3. Waiting for Prince Blonde
You have no idea how many fairy tale parodies and adaptations become untranslatable because of this. We don't have the concept of "Prince Charming" - we usually call them "the blond prince" (and even that not usually in fairy tales). Case in point: We were very lucky the prince in Shrek was actually blonde. They translated him as "Blonde."
(Hey, still makes more sense than the Spanish "el príncipe azul"! ;) )

4. Drinks like a pelican
One of the ways you can describe someone who drinks a lot is to compare them... not to fish, as in English, but to a pelican. We usually use a word of Turkish origin, "gödény" for it, even though in common speech almost everyone calls the birds "pelikán."
(I feel like there is an SCA joke in there somewhere)

5. Searching for money
A famous Hungarian writer, Jókai Mór (1825-1904), muses in one of his books about the words different cultures apply to making money. Case in point: In English, you either make money, or you earn it (both speak volumes about culture). In Hungarian, you "search" for money on the job. Funny, no one ever guarantees you'll find any...

Coming up on MopDog Monday: What does the Prime Minister of Hungary have to do with Duck Tales?...

Monday, June 1, 2015

MopDog Monday: Saint Lawrence did WHAT with a watermelon?!

Today, at the start of the (hopefully) warm summer days, the MopDog presents to you yet another mental image that cannot be unseen... or rather, in this case, untasted.

Watermelons are a popular summer snack in Hungary, and they are sold in large quantities both in shops and in roadside booths (boothes? boothsies?... whatever). In villages you can still sometimes see cars packed to the brim with watermelons, a microphone hooked up to the speakers, windows rolled down, and the seller yelling "WATERMELONS!!!" at full blast, usually during the afternoon siesta time, while driving down the street.

Buying watermelons is somewhat of an art form. I was taught to knock on them, and listen for a deep, echoing sound, to make sure the melon is ripe but not too watery. They also have to have a yellow "belly," and they have to be really, really large, with nice stripes on them. Before the EU it was also allowed to ask the seller to poke a hole in it for a taste, but obviously it was not in the seller's best interest.

Watermelons are grown on fields, and stealing them had probably been a popular pastime through the ages. There is a joke I have heard from multiple sources about the nameless farmer who wanted to keep thieves away by putting up a sign that said "ONE OF THESE WATERMELONS IS POISONED." He returned the very next day, and found the sign crossed out and a correction scribbled on: "TWO OF THESE WATERMELONS ARE POISONED."

Okay okay, we are getting to St. Lawrence. This very popular saint in the Catholic canon has his feast day on August 10th. This, incidentally, is also around the time people have noticed watermelons start going watery (duh) and tasteless, and they are not as sweet and fresh as they are earlier in the summer. Hence the folk wisdom was born:

"St. Lawrence pees in the watermelons."

Bon appétit.