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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some common Hungarian idioms?
Boglárka: And how are they used?
Michael: At HungarianPod101.com, we hear these questions often. Imagine the following situation: Karen Lee hears an idiom she's not familiar with. She asks her Hungarian friend, Gabriella Gulyas:
Karen Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy 'tűkön ülök?'
Karen Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy 'tűkön ülök?'
Gulyás Gabriella: Azt jelenti, hogy 'izgatott vagyok.'
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Karen Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy 'tűkön ülök?'
Michael: "What does 'I am sitting on needles' mean?"
Gulyás Gabriella: Azt jelenti, hogy 'izgatott vagyok.'
Michael: "It means 'I am excited.'"

Lesson focus

Michael: The topic of this lesson is Hungarian idioms or
Boglárka: magyar idiómák
Michael: Idioms are well-known phrases that represent meanings that are not evident from looking at the words themselves. A good example for this is the English 'a piece of cake,' meaning that something is very easy to do. We usually use idioms to emphasize a message we want to give to the listener.
Hungarians can be very creative and it certainly shows in their use of idiomatic language. Learning and using idioms will help you to use Hungarian more freely and express your feelings in a more accurate way.
To help you, we created a list of ten very common idioms, with a short description of what they mean. Try to repeat the words after the native speaker. You'll find that the meanings of some of the expressions are actually quite familiar in English. To start off, here's an easy one:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] A szerelem vak. [SLOWLY] A szerelem vak.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: "Love is blind"—meaning that, when you're in love with someone, you might be unable to see their faults—even in Hungary! You can use this idiom in the same way as the English version. The next one is:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Majd ha piros hó esik! [SLOWLY] Majd ha piros hó esik!
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: which means: "When red snow falls!" This colorful and well-known idiom is similar to the English "when pigs fly." Since it's impossible for red snow to fall, the meaning is that whatever is being spoken about is unlikely to ever happen. It's a classic example of adynaton—a form of hyperbole in which a statement is so extreme that it's impossible. Just about every language has their own version of "When red snow falls!"
How about this one:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Ha lúd, legyen kövér. [SLOWLY] Ha lúd, legyen kövér.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: meaning "If it's a goose, it should be fat." The message here is that whatever a person is going to do, they should do it to the fullest. I like that! Don't you? Next up is:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Miért itatod az egereket? [SLOWLY] Miért itatod az egereket?
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: which means "Why are you giving drinks to the mice?" This is a pretty cute expression. It's something that is typically said to children to ask why they are crying. The idea is that the mice are going to drink their tears!
Another creative Hungarian idiom is:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Annyit ér, mint halottnak a csók. [SLOWLY] Annyit ér, mint halottnak a csók.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: "It's worth as much as a kiss is to a dead person." You can use this phrase to say that something is simply not worth the effort and won't be appreciated.
I think you'll enjoy the next idiom, as it's quite cheeky:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Apád nem volt üveges! [SLOWLY] Apád nem volt üveges!
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: "Your dad wasn't a glassmaker!" Can you guess what that one means? Well, think of when someone's standing in front of you and blocking your view—at a show, for instance. This phrase tells them they're not made of glass and you cannot see through them! This could come across as an insult; therefore, we recommend using it either among your friends or in a playful tone.
And now, here's a Hungarian idiom that could be useful in a work setting, or when you want to get out of doing something:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Ez nem az én asztalom. [SLOWLY] Ez nem az én asztalom.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: Literally, "This is not my table." This means that something is not your area of expertise. You would say this when you're not qualified or knowledgeable about something, and therefore it's not your responsibility.
Our next idiom is:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Eső után köpönyeg. [SLOWLY] Eső után köpönyeg.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: "After the rain comes the raincoat." Think of the English expression 'Hindsight is 20/20,' and you'll know just what this one means. It refers to those times when a good idea or a solution only occurs after the fact—just like wearing a raincoat once it's stopped raining!
Here's one we would all do well to remember:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Aki kíváncsi, hamar megöregszik. [SLOWLY] Aki kíváncsi, hamar megöregszik.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: And this means "If you're too curious, you'll get old quickly." Does the warning not to be too curious sound familiar? Well, in English, we say 'curiosity killed the cat' to convey the same cautionary meaning—but I think the Hungarian idiom is pretty spot-on.
And now our last idiom for this lesson:
Boglárka: [NORMAL] Most ugrik a majom a vízbe. [SLOWLY] Most ugrik a majom a vízbe.
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: "The monkey jumps into the water now"—meaning now we will see what happens. In Hungarian, it's used when you want to say 'this is the moment of truth.' For example, you've been working on an invention for ages and you're about to switch it on!
[Recall 1]
Michael: Now, let's take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Karen Lee says,
Boglárka as Karen Lee: Mit jelent az, hogy 'tűkön ülök?'
Michael: She is asking what the idiom "I'm sitting on needles" means. It doesn't make much sense, right? Well, think of how a child can't sit still when they're excited about something, and then it makes perfect sense! Hungarians use this idiom to express excitement about something they're really looking forward to. However, this has a negative meaning too. You can use it also when you are anxious about something—for example, you are waiting for your exam results or your friend doesn't show up on time.
It's kind of similar to the English expression 'to be on tenterhooks,' which means waiting nervously for something to happen—often with agonizing impatience!
So, now you can understand why, in our second part of the dialogue, Gabriella Gulyas answers Karen Lee:
Gulyás Gabriella: Azt jelenti, hogy 'izgatott vagyok.'
(pause 4 seconds)
Michael: "It means 'I am excited.'"
Michael: In this lesson, you learned that idioms are non-literal phrases that are used to emphasize your statement. You also learned a number of useful Hungarian idioms and how they can be used in everyday life.
Michael: The Hungarian language is rich with idiomatic expressions, and many parallel English ones with the same or very similar lexical structure and idiomatic meaning. This just goes to show that some wisdom is universal!


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We're here to answer them!
Boglárka: Viszontlátásra!
Michael: See you soon!