Monday, February 1, 2016

MopDog Monday: R.I.P., Professor Piton - and other Hungarian name changes

Translations are sometimes more than just putting the text of the book into another language. For various reasons, it is very common practice to turn names, places, and other proper nouns into new inventions when a text is translated. Sometimes the reasons are related to cultural differences, while in other cases, they are purely artistic.

With the recent, much mourned passing of Alan Rickman, beloved actor who portrayed (among many other iconic roles) Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, my Facebook feed acutely reminded me that English- and Hungarian-speaking friends had different names for the same character. Inspired by this, I decided to give you some examples of what names we know famous characters by.
Here we go.
(Not including names that are just literal translations of the original)

Harry Potter
The Harry Potter books are famous for their high quality Hungarian translation, and the linguistic genius of its translators who decided (for better or worse) to play around with names.

Hogwarts = Roxfort
Gryffindor = Griffendél
Slytherin = Mardekár (no one is sure about this one, although 'mar' is the verb we use for snake bites)
Ravenclaw = Hollóhát (literally translates into 'raven's back')
Hufflepuff = Hugrabug ('ugrabugrál' is a verb used for jumping/bouncing around)
Severus Snape = Perselus Piton
Minerva McGonagall = Minerva McGalagony ('galagonya' is our word for hawthorne)
Pomona Sprout = Pomona Bimba ('bimbó' means 'bud')
Peeves = Hóborc ('hóbortos' translates into 'quirky' or 'whimsical')

Lord of the Rings
Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck = Borbak Trufiádok, "Trufa" (name turned around because Hungarians put family names first; 'trufa' is an archaic word for joke or prank)
Rivendell = Völgyzugoly (literal translation from the Elvish name)

Wolverine = Farkas (Wolf) (the Hungarian word for 'wolverine' is 'rozsomák,' which sounds silly to Hungarian ears, but the newer comic translations are using it more often now)
Storm = Ciklon (Cyclone)
Nightcrawler = Árnyék (Shadow) (there was really no good Hungarian word for this one)
Hawkeye = Sasszem (Eagle-eye)

Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Duck Tales) = Tiki, Niki, Viki (yes, they sound like girl names to us too)
Pom, Flora, and Alexander (Babar) = Palika, Flóra, Adorján
J.R. Ewing (Dallas) = Jockey Ewing (one of the most famous examples of an English name being changed to something easier for us to pronounce)
Sue Ellen Ewing (Dallas) = Samantha Ewing (same thing, also, Sue Ellen to us sounds like someone is advertising something 'against termites')
Gargamel (Smurfs) = Hókuszpók
Azrael (Smurfs) = Sziamiaú
Cera (Land Before Time) = Kistülök (Littlehorn)
Petri (Land Before Time) = Röpcsi ('Flighty'?...)
Sleeping Beauty = Csipkerózsika (Little Briar Rose) (never understood as a kid why Disney gave her another name)
Hansel and Gretel = Jancsi és Juliska (not in the movie, though, as much as I wanted to see Jeremy Renner yelling JULISKAAA at the top of his lungs)

There are many other examples as well, but let's just leave it at that for now. Does any of them surprise you?


  1. These are all great. I especially love the Merry Brandybuck one.

    Literary translations fascinate me. I've always loved that the French titles of the Twilight series are Fascination, Temptation, Hesitation, and Revelation, which are way cooler. There are also a few weird footnotes to explain American concepts to French readers, like why their high schools have metal detectors. I feel like a better translator could have worked around this, but I love that the whoever did it felt it imperative to keep that (very minor) reference in the story.

  2. That's interesting. I always like reading about translations and the words used and how similar or dissimilar they are to the English version.

  3. Love these. There's a character in Skyrim named Farkas. I had no idea it means "wolf" in Hungarian, but it definitely fits. Pretty cool.

  4. I like this post, keep posting!

    If you ever need a Hungarian translator, you can contact me.