Tag Archives: language

Holnap és hónap Nagy iX

Holnap és hónap Nagy iX

What did the orange say to the apple at bedtime?
Sweet dreams.
Maybe it could work as a joke. Perhaps it should be a sour cherry talking to a normal cherry, or even the other way around for a piss-take. Am I making any sense?
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Fábry: Ferihegy! Ki a Feri és hol van a hegy?
It was the first Hungarian joke I got and while Fábry may have his detractors, he remains for me the bridge to Hungarian humor. Again, I imagine, many Hungarians clambering to assure me that this is not the quintessence of Hungarian wit and while I’m sure it’s not, as a foreigner getting a joke in the target language (however basic and unsophisticated…yawn) is the greater achievement. And listen maybe I am a paraszt in the Hungarian derogatory sense. Yokel, slack-jaw, redneck…you choose. I don’t quite get the Little Aggressive Pig jokes. I’m merely of the opinion that that tool is a twat and he reminds too much of somebody unpleasant. Maybe this is the point… Maybe I’m still in the dark.
Anyway, why I brought up the original orange and apple “joke” was because years ago after drinking cider with my brother-in-common-law, I later texted him Szép alma-kat. He got it, and I had achieved a result, an originally coined joke in the target language. As for Fábry, feck* that bunkó ember 😁.
Now, trying the joke in Hungarian I might have said:
Mit mondott a narancs az almának a lefekvés ideje előtt (Google translate helped me)?
Szép almákat.
If you are Hungarian and you’re not laughing, you’re humourless, or worse you’re racist! (Didn’t say I was going to box fair now, did I?😁)
Conclusion: As a teacher, going the road of teaching jokes is dark and dangerous and only few of your charges will ever understand, or worse, pretend to.
As a student, be prepared for the fact that your joke is only funny to other target language as a foreign language learners. The native may be forever left flummoxed. Don’t try to over-explain it. That just leads to embarrassment, or worse, anger and murderous rage. Well, hopefully that last part is an example of exaggeration.
Conclusion on the conclusion: As a teacher stick to the slapstick and if people insist on its base essence remind them of the comic genius of Charlie Chaplin, and be prepared to throw them an Andy Kauffman curveball (or Andy’s equivalent in your native tongue).
And remember, teach like you want to not like you have to.

Holnap és hónap squared

Holnap és hónap squared

Holnap és hónap squaredl
We could all ascribe word play to any nuance of the language we so wished but in so doing we may risk being misunderstood, or worse being arrogant enough to think we should have been understood. For learners of a foreign language, the vaguely familiar becomes something of a beacon and so it is understandable that we begin to see a logic, a connection, where in reality there isn’t. For example, tomorrow isn’t a toast to Morrow and yet poetic and archaic, morrow still means tomorrow, therefore at least there is an idea to it having meaning, ie making sense. But there are no divisive women in Mérnök, even If to an outsider it’s all just a matter of time: time in this case being the length of time given to the vowel sound Ö , not Ő. Same thing isn’t it. It’s just another funny looking O. Blah, blah, blah. It is, get over it! (Oh, don’t you just hate it when foreigners try to tell you what’s what concerning your own language, well, the language you learnt to speak first, your mother tongue, even if you were snatched from your mother’s arms at birth and raised solely by your father. Many cans of worms could be opened up here, but really, who in their right mind would even want to bother!)
When I think of csizma, rather when I hear it, I’m immediately drawn to the notion of a request for cheese as directed at one’s mother. Then when I playfully rehash it as sajtanya, I get queer looks or prolonged groans. It really isn’t funny, they’re saying, but maybe I don’t want it to be funny. Maybe I was trying to be creative with the language in a way a native never thinks to do. Of course, a Hungarian who knows no English is very much entitled to tilt the head from side to side in incomprehension, but one would at least like the more proficient speakers to accept the foreigners’ input. “We would never say that” Who’s that WE? I have a Hungarian poet friend who probably would, and probably has. Maybe WE is restricted to terribly unimaginative people, or maybe that’s just my way of getting people to come over to my side. Insulting people for their beliefs in the hope of changing their minds, or at least silencing them, is all the rage these days. “Deplorables, I tell ya. Deplorables!”

Holnap és hónap a harmadik

Holnap és hónap a harmadik

Seeing then that words are oft times mispronounced, misheard, misunderstood, or mistaken for other words, even among natives of the mother tongue, is it any wonder then that foreigners to the tongue arrive at unforeseeable difficulties and, more appropriately, adapt to its nuances, perhaps even adopting some of the idiosyncrasies associated with other learners of the language. There’s safety in numbers so they say.
Has this ever been truly hammered out in diplomacy? Have studies been undertaken to the degree that there is no possibility that some trade deals have collapsed not because of stubbornness or foolhardiness but rather because of mere misinterpretation? Not just that old claptrappery of lost in translation but rather just lost, full stop. For want of a word the kingdom was lost.
But now that’s another thing: where we see the division is not always where it should be, even if it makes sense. King-dom is clear even if in these nomenclatural times the UQ would be more appropriate , or is that already so 20th century! The United Gender-non-specific-dom? Too much even in these effervescent times? Yet it’s the words that can be broken up differently and still contain meaning; these are the ones that can lead to new perspectives the point of view of the native speakers. Others hold the same sound in the target language but often with quite different definitions.

© The Hairy Teacher, March, 2018

Holnap és hónap kettő

Holnap és hónap kettő

So if you’re to look at words with the foreign eye you might be tempted to see some familiarity, even order. As a child learning to spell, the word together was always broken up into the sum of its parts, to-get-her, and though I never did find out if anyone ever did get her, or for that matter why she needed to be got, it helped me to remember. But in the world of foreign languages sometimes the familiar can have unforeseen, dare I say, deadly consequences. Now if you get to feeling a tad sheepish because you said you’re pregnant instead of embarrassed (the Spanish word embarazada means pregnant), it mightn’t amount to anything more than a knowing giggle, but perhaps you’re trying to flex your health food savvy in France and think that asking if the relevant food contains preservatives is a good idea, just remember that the French word Préservatif means something ever so slightly different.
As for together, I later learnt that the root is more to do with to gather, which makes perfect sense if you consider the full meaning of both words. That still doesn’t help me with spelling and therefore she will forever more be bound to the pursuit, inextricably linked to the getter in the equation.

The pub

It might not be somewhere over the rainbow
But it is somewhere out there…
Hidden from view but not ear,
A band of friends, perhaps conspirators?
They laugh beyond the cheery tune on the radio.
In here…
In here in this other room, the desolate one, where the desperate sit perched at the bar or in the darker corners,
typing on phones, reading newspapers, or staring into the half distance, finding the floor sometimes a good repose…
In here heads turn expectantly but nothing ever happens, only the songs on the radio are any indication of a better world out there –
Wherein resides “Daddy Cool”.
Even as the door opens a mumble is all that’s heard…
The aging barmaid streaming out,
Perhaps this rat has jumped the ship
And yet the open door promises change

And then…
“Itt a Babus” and the chatter begins.
The barfly awakens, the barmaid questions, another familiar enters…
And then the door closes.
Who is the desperate one now?
Alone in the phone-screen glow.

Tina Turner’s

The night before my birthday, my fortieth, and I hit Tina Turner’s…it used to be called Anya’s but that half-Greek fantasy set sail down towards the ninth district, somewhere around Mester utca, a long time ago. The soap I bought, a dried up reminder of a notion I once had.
The whole place is infested with memory and even my darkest hour, not worth mentioning, being part of the fabric of this place provokes a Dichotomy, an idea of improvement based upon a previous moral digression, thoroughly equated therefore by its having occurred within the confines of this place.
It was always an awkward place, often ruled by boredom, fatigue, drunkeness, and paranoia. It, however, served well as a last resort. It never closes, you see,”… and that has made all the difference…”
I sometimes long for this place in the blur that is pre- fatherhood memory, but in truth, a moment like this, actually living the memories, is the closest anybody can get to all things past. Sometimes it’s worth coming back for the trip – the reality of what was left behind, suitably soft, a drawing smudged to suit a tolerable indifference.
The corner in one of the upstairs booths, was my workbench of occasion, though never to the extent of B City and the Soproni place, now Cheerio – then nameless (at least to me), and yet Tina’s, ahem…Anya’s (like the stalwart calling Snickers Marathon), provided some of the material for my future. Here dreams were shattered, rebuilt, born yet before, and after. Time bent here… as these words may take me back, they may in time propel me forward, or at least be read again in a time not yet recorded. For now I just create them in the hope that someone, maybe even me, can read them in a future!

It is, quite!

It is, quite!



It’s quite possible that I see things differently to everybody else,
that I see danger at the corner cos it there resides.

That I see cheaters, schemers,, dreamers, in the words of rhetoric,
that I cannot believe in anything – but myself.
It’s quite possible that I see everything just like everybody else
but we’ve been lied to long enough so as to not even believe ourselves.
And in comparison where common ground is found
we are often made suspicious, even made to doubt-
for we must all be different and-
then be judged as though we’re not?





Dye see yer one?

You mean…( outlining a chest size)

Yep. She’s wearing those like they were just new…

Or like a man with his wish for a day!

Whatever, her top seems beleagured…

As does her lap…

As is my soul…

Soul my hole!

No, not hole, but you’re getting hot.

I know, and bothered…

Under the collar!

Good God!


Well he did make those…

And those are just sinful.

God, the ole devil:)


And women too

Of course

Horses for courses

One in the hand

Making mountains out of mole hills…

Mountains out of mountains…




The fury fighting back

The fury fighting back

That the light would have faded but chose not to,

that it could have danced the shadow(s) down a different road;

Instead it chose to serve a whim, a purely infintesimal,

but for a change the pin begot the stack.

Alive among the riddles of the mind,

the answers seething, wreathing without grip.

Slowly falling further into a sense of mute hostility,

the words they’d shout meaning nothing but their sounds.

Not through gagging did the final silence fall,

but by shouting at it all till all n’ all.

The subterfuge had dissipated amongst the cracks,

the anger and the fury fighting back.


A letter to any listener

A letter to any listener

Hi there

How are you? How’s tricks? How’s the family, or not? How now brown cow! Any news? Well, apart from the usual nonsense…

[Blah blah blah]

Anyway, as for the teaching regulations I seem to have avoided their web for another while and am still in the white as far as invoicing goes but it’s becoming more and more difficult. If the companies are spooked then rather than jump through the legal hoops they’ll just jump ship. As far back as 2011 there was a change in the law which meant that companies to whom I issued invoices had to cover my health insurance payments. A funny thing about it was that in some cases this seemed not to be true, while others, believing the initial rumours, wanted instead to pay me in black. Two years on the companies that stayed with me have had no trouble so whatever shadow had passed over in those dark ’11s had dissipated…only to loom much larger as of Sept 1st this year…when, indeed, the law stated much more specifically that people of my disposition, the idiots-for-honesty, were most definitely dis-entitled to issue invoices with the trademark “nyelvoktatás” code. Instead in a frantic scramble for legitimacy another existing code was sought out and came in the guise of “egyéb oktatás”. That there is a clear distinction between the two is obvious in the way of spelling, and may even be supported semantically, but to say that what I actually do has gone from being “language” teaching to “other” rings of something sinister. I see myself in a coutroom some time down the line pleading innocence in the light of allegations of some newly contrived perversion as distinguished by an ever-enlightening-ruling-elite (the word government ringing too much of communist ideologies by that time). That my case will hinge on the ominous term “other education” will certainly be my downfall and as I am dragged away by my oppressors I will rage loudly and invoke the honest Hungarians now resident in Slovakia (and other Trianon treated regions) who at once in a darker past woke one morning to find themselves strangers in a strange land, and note that in my own demise I may take heart that I am not alone. A man made criminal, a man made foreigner, in my case to the profession that I once purported to be be qualified to do.

For now I do bid you adieu.

Martin of the Magyars


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