Monday, March 28, 2016

MopDog Monday: The Folk Art of Asking Consent

Today is the last MopDog Monday before the start of the A to Z Challenge! That means it has been a whole year since I began this blog series. And Hungary has given no sign of running out of weirdness any time soon. Fun.

Today, incidentally, is also Easter Monday - the infamous Hungarian holiday which involves dousing women in water and getting rewarded for it. I have already blogged about this traditional fertility-inducing wet t-shirt contest in detail, so today, I'm going to talk a little bit about sprinkling poems.

As I have said before, today is the day when boys and young men go around, knocking on doors, and sprinkling women with water or perfume to keep the fresh. Part of the ritual is the locsolóvers (sprinkling poem), a little rhyme asking for the women's permission (CONSENT IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE).

Traditionally, the most commonly known ones go thus:

Zöld erdőben jártam, 
Kék ibolyát láttam,
El akart hervadni,
Szabad-e locsolni?

I walked in the green woods,
I saw a blue violet,
It was about to wither,
May I sprinkle?

Jó reggelt, jó reggelt,
Kedves liliomszál,
Megöntözlek rózsavízzel,
Hogy ne hervadozzál.

Good morning, good morning,
Dear lily flower,
I'll sprinkle you with rose water
So you don't wither.

And some retro humor:

Zúg a traktor, szánt az eke,
Elvtársné, locsolhatok-e?

The tractor is booming, the the plow is plowing,
Lady Comrade, may I sprinkle?

(I am terrible at translating rhymes, so I didn't even try)

These things are a sort of folk art in Hungary. They are so popular that dozens of websites collect and categorize them; a good sprinkling poem can instantly get you in the good graces of women. In the age of the Internet, even if there is no one around to sprinkle you, people will message you the poems (and maybe the photo of a bucket of water) on Easter Monday.

Meanwhile, some sprinkling poems seem to solely exist for the entertainment of men - some sound like a ransom note, while the "political sprinkling poem," for example, references current events, and the "crude" variety takes "sprinkling" at its.... uhhh, original sense.

Zöld erdőben jártam,
Barna medvét láttam,
Szedte az egrest,
Ide az ötezrest!

I walked in the green woods,
I saw a brown bear,
It was eating gooseberries,
Give me that 5000 bill!

(5000Ft is roughly $18. Per girl. You do the math.)
(I have actually heard this one used during sprinkling.)

Zöld erdőben jártam, 
Orbán Vikort láttam
Király akart lenni,
Szabad-e locsolni?

I walked in the green woods,
Saw Viktor Orbán,
He wanted to be king,
May I sprinkle?

(The best way to explain our prime minister is to say that he is what happens if Trump gets into power)

And finally another domestic classic:

Zöld a moha, zöld a páfrány, 
Meglocsollak házi sárkány!

Moss is green, ferns are green,
I'll sprinkle you, house dragon!

("House dragon" is the term people use for tyrannical wives... or sometimes wives in general. Ironically, of course.)

Happy Easter, everyone!

Monday, March 21, 2016

The A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal!

Back in January I polled people on this blog (and on social media), asking them what MopDog theme they would most like to read during A to Z. And the public has spoken. They have spoken for the theme that I was secretly hoping for anyway, so, now that all the stars have aligned, and with no further ado...


My 2016 MopDog A to Z theme is:


One of Hungary's internationally acclaimed claims to fame is animation. It has a long tradition in the country, and we are darn good at it (well, our animators are. I'm just basking). Hungarian animators worked on such successes as The Secret of Kells, the Mr. Bean animated series, or the Oscar-nominated short film Maestro. At the 1984 Olympiad of Animation in Los Angeles, 2 of the 50 champions and 4 of the 32 finalists were Hungarian. 
(You can find a very detailed History of Hungarian Animation here)

And what is even more important (for the MopDog): Hungarian cartoons are imaginative, funny, crazy, and definitely not very well known in the rest of the world.
This April, I aim to change that. After all, international pop culture simply cannot exist any longer without things like:

... a talking dog in an inflatable spaceship
... an owl doctor who occasionally makes heroin
... a chocoholic flightless bird
... a lab-created Snow White
... gangster rats who are ex-ballet dancers. 
... or this thing:

Here is what's going to happen:

Every day, I will introduce you to a Hungarian animated movie, cartoon series, or puppet/claymation/stopmotion show. The posts will begin with a short pitch-tagline (written by me), tell you what the shows is about, include some pictures and video links, and in the few cases where an English subbed/dubbed version exists, a link to that as well. 
Sadly, most of our classic animated gems have never been circulated in English. This A to Z theme is my attempt at putting the cry out to the Universe: These things are FUN, and I want to gift them to my foreigner friends, so if someone could pick them up for international distribution, that would be great, thank you, and have all my money.

In the meantime, I will supplement the posts with some quotable moments from each cartoon - for all the hipsters out there who wish to throw obscure Eastern European animation references into their everyday conversations. 
You are welcome.

See you on April 1st!

(Also, check out my other theme at The Multicolored Diary today: It's about storytelling, representation, and diversity!)

Monday, March 14, 2016

MopDog Monday: How to get sick in Hungary

Today, we talk about folk medicine.
No, I am not talking about ancient wisdom handed down to our ungrateful generation by our wise and close-to-nature ancestors on how to cure nasty diseases (although my great-great-grandmother, who was a midwife, swore that vernix kept her skin smooth and wrinkle-free).

I am talking about things people tell you not to do, OR ELSE.

For instance:

UTI (Urinary Tract Infections)
Known in Hungarian as: Felfázás (literally: "catching a cold from below")
Exactly what it sounds like: People will tell you that if you walk around barefoot on cold ground, or sit on a cold surface, you will get a UTI. Every time my mother or grandmothers saw me doing any of these things, they reminded me of this looming danger by calling "Felfázol!!" ("you'll catch a cold [from below]!"). It is a very common phrase to hear from Hungarian parents.
(Surprise: Turns out, it is actually possible that cold feet can trigger UTI in women who had it before)

by Andrea Dezso
Known in Hungarian as: Agyhártyagyulladás (literally: "brain membrane inflammation") (go ahead, try to pronounce it)
Traditionally, parents/grandparents will tell you that if you go outside with your hair wet, you'll get meningitis. In fact, family story claims that one of my great-aunts died this way. It is believed even today so much that when my first American hairdresser asked me (very kindly) if I wanted my hair dried or not, I stared at her in horror. Did she expect me to go outside with my hair wet? Was she trying to kill me?!

Cold hands
My grandmother, who is Swabian and probably was raised in the grand old tradition of scaring children straight shitless into behaving, also used to tell me a story about a little girl who wouldn't wear gloves in the winter and her hands shook so badly she couldn't hold a pencil ever again.

This entire post, by the way, was triggered by a #FolkloreThursday post with the image above, by Hungarian artist Andrea Dezso, who had an entire series of embroidery works with things her mother believed. It's pretty entertaining, take a look.

Monday, March 7, 2016

MopDog Monday: A language within a language

This is something that allegedly only Hungarian language is capable of.
(As if Hungarian language needed anything extra to mindf*** non-English speakers...)

Eszperente (a play on Esperanto) is a language-within-a-language: It means someone making coherent sentences with only one vowel (e) in them. Since Hungarian as a language contains an overabundance of words that only contain e, it is actually possible to have long conversations, or create long monologues, without using any other vowel in the entire thing.

(This is especially funny because Hungarian language also happens to have an overabundance of vowels: a, á, e, é, i, í, o, ó, ö, ő, u, ú, ü, ű - it's not like we are limited to "e")

It is a form of a language game for people to try to converse in eszperente - whoever trips into another vowel first loses the game.

The blog Daily Magyar even took the game one step further:

And in case you are curious how this actually sounds, here is an entire rap song in eszperente:

Try it in your own language. See of it works.