Wednesday, October 14, 2009

YIKES... discovering the literal translation

I am taking this opportunity to take a break from the epic thriller known as "The Chungarian Mouse Wars" (brought to you only in some strange version of Hungarian) to reflect on some of my latest strange and mysterious discoveries within the Hungarian language.

(besides the mouse has gone into hiding so there is nothing to write about that.)

I have peacefully lived within the shrunken borders of the lovely and illustrious nation of Hungary now for a total of 7 years. This should render me fluent in the language, but as my blogs all to eloquently demonstrate, I am not.

I have as of late stumbled upon some truly troubling aspects of the language which revolve around how the Hungarian people choose to express themselves. These nuances are often lost in translation as translations are rarely literal transformations from one word in one language to another, but instead are conceptual.

Let me illustrate my point with 3 examples:

1. I have for years known the Hungarian word for "@" used in email addresses to be "kukac". In my American brain, I translated it "at" as we would speak it in English email address. But recently I had the all too rude awakening of discovering what I was actually saying is "maggot".

That's right. All Hungarian email addresses are full of maggots!!!!!!! I am

I was horrified.

2. For years I knew that the word for bra in Hungarian was "melltarto." And I did not give much thought to it. "Bra" in English is such a subtle, sensitive, unassuming word. You say it in public with creating unwanted word pictures.

No so in Hungarian. I heard Andi and Niki speaking about their "tolltarto" (pen holder) and then it hit me. When I say "bra" in Hungarian, I am actually saying "BREASTHOLDER". Well, that leaves little to the imagination now, doesn't it? We might as well resort to the Jr. High Boys locker room and resurrect the old phrase: "Over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder."

3. Finally and most recently I discovered that the Hungarians have a colorful word for "cohabitation". You would never know it as anyone translating for you would just say "cohabitation," which sounds almost clinical. The Hungarian term "vadhazassag" literally translates: WILD Marriage. That puts an interesting spin on it.

However, I don't know if this is a good word for it as I know a number of legally married folks whose marriage could be classified as WILD!

Who knows how many more of these words exist and I may even use them and never understand what colorful, all-to-descriptive, things I am saying!

Feel free to horrify me and expand my horizens with examples of such ....


Lidia said...

:))) enjoy your discovery!:))

Gigi said...

aaah this totally cracks me if you are a visual type Hungarian language can be real fun. btw kukac makes sense doesn't it?

Nick and Rosemary said...

Távol legyen tőlem, hogy vadkapcsolatban lennék, viszont szeretném, hogy a mi házasságunk WILD legyen!

.arpi.horvat-kavai. said...

while reading this out loud to andi (and nina) we were laughing out loud. after i finished reading it, nina kept repeating: hol a trudy néni melltartója? hol a trudy néni melltartója?

languages are awesome. if you get into trying to understand idioms, you get ever more surprised.

if you get a chance, read the book "language instinct" by steven pinker. it is the best book on cognitive linguistics, and although it is a college textbook, it is an easy reader.

.arpi.horvat-kavai. said...

oh, i just thought of two more interesting items for your list:

1. excursion - the hungarian word is "kirándulás" which literally means jerking out [into nature].

2. explain - the hungarian word is "magyaráz" which literally means to hungarianize.

Trudy Chun said...

Yeah, I remember when I learned magyarazni (to explain). I found it rather ironic. Magyarazni (literally to Hungarianize) should mean to encrypt, to make uncomprehendable!

Gigi said...

:) just wondering whether new blog entry is on the way...

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