I guess I could be offended..

by Eszter Hargittai on May 9, 2007

.. but actually I find this pretty funny:

Funny ad

(From yesterday’s Bay area NYTimes.)



Shelby 05.09.07 at 8:17 pm

Aw, don’t leave us hanging, Eszter. How DO you say “big whoop” in Hungarian? Inquiring minds that distrust babelfish want to know.


Pipe 05.09.07 at 8:46 pm

Wait. Cingular doesn’t work in Minneapolis? HAVE I BEEN TALKING TO VOICES IN MY HEAD ALL THIS TIME??!!


CJColucci 05.09.07 at 9:04 pm

And how do you pronounce the new French President’s name?


Joel Turnipseed 05.09.07 at 9:57 pm

Frankly, I’m a little offended: I never say “big whoop.” Besides, I’m perfectly happy with T-Mobile… not only did they amp up their signal (I can now talk in my basement), but they dropped Jan Ullrich.


BillCinSD 05.09.07 at 10:54 pm

nagy kiáltás, which retranslates as mickle cry, with mickle being an archaic version of great or large


eszter 05.09.07 at 11:52 pm

Folks, this is not about voice coverage, it’s about data coverage.

I’m not up-to-date enough on Hungarian slang to know today’s hip version of big whoop, I’m afraid, so I’ll have to pass.

Regarding Sárközy, s is like sh, á is like the o in loud (but don’t extend it into the u:), &ouml is like u in lunch and the y at the end is like i in hip. But the French don’t pronounce it as such so I’m not sure this is particularly helpful.:) (Well, I’m not sure it’s helpful in any case.)


Joel Turnipseed 05.10.07 at 12:26 am

Ah yes: but in Minneapolis, as of this summer, you won’t need Cingular: http://www.startribune.com/154/story/1164471.html


novakant 05.10.07 at 8:36 am

Thanks Eszter, lol. Hungarian is one scary language: I remember trying to order a big mac and fries at a Budapest McDonald’s in 1991. Everything was in Magyar and I tried my best to describe what I wanted with hands and feet to the girl behind the counter, to no avail. The jeunesse doree (back then it seemed to be quite a luxury to go to McDonald’s there, everybody was really well dressed) in the line behind me started grumbling or mocking me, but thankfully I didn’t understand any of this either. Finally she had the good sense to wave over the manager, who to my surprise turned out to be an englishman and took my order speaking with a perfect received pronunciation accent. Quite surreal, all that.


Dr. Minorka 05.10.07 at 10:00 am

What does it mean “big whoop” in American slang? Just an ecstatic cry, or something else?


Alex 05.10.07 at 10:34 am

Stupid advert anyway. Cingular roaming in Szolnok on whoever’s network probably wouldn’t be 3G, but Sprint-Nextel customers won’t make it to Canada without packing another device.


mollymooly 05.10.07 at 11:32 am

I had some difficulty working out how I would say “Big Whoop” in English.


Grand Moff Texan 05.10.07 at 2:01 pm

What does it mean “big whoop” in American slang? Just an ecstatic cry, or something else?

It’s a sarcastic expression, conveying what a non-event something is.

In this context, it means “well, that’s great for Szolnok, but what good does that do me here?” where here= the US.


KCinDC 05.10.07 at 3:38 pm

Michael O’Hare has a post about “Sarkozy” at the Reality-Based Community. I think he’s taking standards that might reasonably apply to immigrants and unreasonably trying to apply them to descendants of immigrants.


eszter 05.10.07 at 4:19 pm

Thanks, KC, that’s an interesting post. I think his point about a name being pronounced the way the person pronounces it is a reasonable approach. I wouldn’t want to impose the Hungarian pronounciation on Sarkozy’s name if he didn’t use it himself. However, if he does then it seems only fair for others to do so as well.


KCinDC 05.10.07 at 4:39 pm

Oh, I agree with you, Eszter, but that wasn’t my understanding of what O’Hare was saying. He quotes someone else saying “Sarkozy’s real name is whatever he calls himself”, but he doesn’t seem to fully embrace that himself.

I was the person who e-mailed him about German names, saying that no one pronounced Einstein, Kissinger, or Schwarzegger as they would be in German (or even with a reasonable adaptation of the German pronunciation to the American tongue), but as far as I know those people weren’t bothered by it. And they, unlike Sarkozy, were immigrants.

But the basic point is that it’s irrelevant how the name is pronounced in Hungarian. What’s relevant is how Sarkozy himself pronounces it.

The question is a bit complicated, though, since presumably there needs to be some allowance for dialectal variation at least. If I know someone from England named Mark, I as an American am not going to pronounce his name in a nonrhotic way (something I might hear as more like “Mock”) even if that is the way he pronounces it. And it’s not completely based on the existence of names that apply to more than one person, since if he were named “Splark” I’d still pronounce the “r”.


Eszter 05.10.07 at 8:33 pm

Agreed, KC. I don’t even pronounce my name in the completely original Hungarian when I’m speaking to people in English, because I figure it would get them confused. I figure I get a better approximation of the original if I at least go with the English r, second e, etc (and that’s just my first name). I completely understand.


KCinDC 05.10.07 at 9:48 pm

Basically you’re translating your first name, which seems like a common option, especially when the two versions of the name aren’t that far apart in sound. Unfortunately, some of us have untranslatable names, which can even, like “Keith”, contain sounds that are completely foreign to lots of languages. Whether to use /t/, /f/, or /s/ as the closest approximation to the sound at the end is a quandary.

I had a Spanish teacher who persisted in reading “Keith” as if it were a Spanish word, so it came out something like “Kate”. But when I tried getting her to read “Quiz” as a Spanish word with a Castilian accent, she ended up reading that as if it were English. I guess I should have just been Carlos.


Eszter 05.11.07 at 12:45 am

In that sense I’m also “translating” my last name. But it’s as close as I can get it to the original based on people’s limitations. That is, it’s what I heard spoken back to me over the years and eventually gave up saying it in Hungarian so we could move on after just one or two mentions.

My brother is Balázs, which is hard no matter what. I think it definitely rivals Keith, although I see that would be a tough one as well.


KCinDC 05.11.07 at 3:09 am

I guess, except that there is a common American first name Esther to be a translation. It’s like a Russian named Aleksandr going by Alexander in the US, or a Frenchwoman named Stéphanie going by Stephanie, or even an Israeli named Binyamin going by Benjamin — unless your Eszter has nothing to do with the biblical name.

But maybe Mariska Hargitay has become well known enough that her last name can count as a translation. Then again, I don’t know how she pronounces her name, and I see from IMDB that she’s sometimes had to spell her first name “Marishka” to get a reasonable pronunciation.


dave heasman 05.11.07 at 10:52 am

Just a quickie, but “mickle being an archaic version of great or large” is backwards I think. “Many a mickle makes a muckle”. Although if a “muckle” was something like a galaxy-size object it might be right.


Stuart 05.11.07 at 1:40 pm

Well if we are to believe some random source on the internet, mickle and muckle (well okay its the OED, or claims to be at least) are the same word and both mean a large amount, and that the saying ‘many a mickle makes a muckle’ is a misquotation that has lead to the mistaken impression to some that a mickle is a small amount.


eszter 05.11.07 at 3:05 pm

KC, I don’t pronounce my name the way people pronounce Mariska Hargitay’s last name. Yes, she has certainly put the name on the map for some Americans, which is helpful. And I guess it doesn’t get pronounced often enough (yet?) for people to have learned the “wrong” version so it hasn’t really interfered in how people react to my name. The difference is in the ending. I pronounce the “ai” as in “tie”. I’ve heard the “ay” in her name pronounced like the vowels in “hey”. For the record, the ai and the ay would be pronounced exactly the same in Hungarian. “y” doesn’t exist as such except to indicate “i” from olden times. (Letters like gy and ly do have a y, but there, y is not a freestanding letter.)

I’ve never heard Mariska H. pronounce it though so I don’t know how she does it.

And yes, it’s the same Eszter as everywhere else. (I never got the th in English, it’s not as though it’s pronounced with a th.)


zsofi 05.11.07 at 7:14 pm

Hi Eszter,
I’m here via Kispad:)Just want to say hello!Szia!Zsófi

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