You are a man. You are not a woman. It is imperative that you know this.

11/19/2012 · 53 comments

in Adrian, I'm A Terrible Person, My Family Is Strikingly Odd., What Is Wrong With Me

The scariest dreams one can have are where you’re stuck in a dangerous situation and no one can help you. There are so many people around you, so many familiar faces of people you love and admire–and they can’t hear you. They don’t help. They don’t see you, listen, respond, or attempt to assist you in your distress in any way. You’re alone. You’re helpless. Speechless–and there’s nothing you can do about it.

That’s exactly what it feels like to be at Adrian’s family functions.

Adrian’s family immigrated from Hungary and speak mostly Hungarian at home. I, being from anywhere but Hungary, do not speak the language. The first three years of hanging around with in-laws and friends has been me washing dishes alone, swigging Hungarian moonshine and just knowing that everyone is talking bad about me because I can’t understand.

I have attempted to learn several times.

Attempt 1, Marriage Year 0:

Adrian’s uncle flew in from a city with more than a reasonable amount of K’s in its name, and trying to be kind to a new family member, I learned how to say, “It’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry, but I don’t speak much Hungarian.” When he finally came in and greeted me, I slammed that shit out like I was a goddamn CIA translator.

When he started to laugh so hard that he couldn’t breathe, I realized I might not have said it correctly. Adrian, watching from the couch, corralled his laughter long enough to tell me that the word for ‘speak’ is very close to the word for ‘grandmother,’ and that it screwed with the sentence structure–a lot.

I had, unprompted and with way too much enthusiasm, loudly declared to his uncle that, “It’s nice to meet you. I’m sorry, but I hate to speak to your grandmother very well.”

To be fair, I really don’t enjoy it that much. She’s also dead, which makes things harder.

Attempt 2, Marriage Year 1:

My Mother-in-law kindly purchased me a Hungarian picture dictionary, meant for children and adults like me who need colorful pictures to assist in basic language journeys. It was a great book and much appreciated; indeed it helped me memorize a large number of words in Hungarian.

It did not, however, teach me Hungarian sentence structure; which is exceedingly, absurdly difficult to learn. Whenever someone attempted to speak to me in Hungarian, I would stitch together a motley assortment of words that kind-of fit as an answer, which led to the following interactions–so close, and yet so far.

Do you have any pets?
Yes. Delicious cat.

What do you do for a living?
Laugh sleep.

What is your husband’s name?

Where are you from?

Would you like some more soup?
No distended baby.

I am truly a master of words.

Attempt 3, Marriage Year 2:

At a huge Easter gathering, in a very crowded kitchen, I offered homemade peach cobbler to an Aunt who speaks no English. Apparently the word ‘Peach’ with an American Southern Accent sounds exactly like the word ‘Pussy’ in Hungarian.

This particular aunt did not want a piece of my pussy cobbler.

Attempt 4, Marriage Year 3: Current Attempt

I am back on the wagon and determined that I will, once and for all, learn to speak proper Hungarian. I understand Spanish, I was once able to read and understand Japanese–why should this be so difficult? I logged on to the greatest website ever to learn a language (not sponsored, just fucking great), and began my lessons.

The first thing I learned how to say in grammatically correct Hungarian is, “You are not a man. You are a woman.” Gender identification and confusion is apparently a larger problem than I realized in Hungary.

This explains so much about Adrian’s family.

Ever had an instance where you were wildly misunderstood, or misunderstood someone else? Ever learned a new language (or tried) and miserably failed?

Favorite Comment From The Last Post:
From Jen: “Either way, Jeremy Renner’s man-flesh will be mine…oh yes, it will be mine.” 
Mayor Gia November 19, 2012 at 6:59 am

Haa! Good for you for continuing to try. I would have stopped after attempt 1. This is what google translate is for.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:40 am

I would agree, if Google translate didn’t regularly insult people accidentally while translating Hungarian.

Allison November 19, 2012 at 7:25 am

My friend, when trying to convey in Spanish he was embarrassed, told the entire conservative group of Catholics we were with he was pregnant.

Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:41 am

And lo the Lord said, “preguntas.”

Misty November 19, 2012 at 7:36 am

Well, to be fair, maybe that Aunt just isn’t a fan of cobbler in general, regardless of what type of fruit is used.

Tried to learn Italian for a pending trip overseas. Failed miserably. Have not tried to learn anything since. Yep, that’s right. I’m the ugly American.
Misty recently posted..Trust Me, I’m a Ninja

Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:42 am

You know what? Fuck learning languages for short periods of time. If you can say Hello, Goodbye, Thanks, and Bathroom? then you are done.

Jaclyn November 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

My (soon-to-be ex) husband is from Peru and most of his family doesn’t speak English. It’s especially frustrating because he’s an asshole and would always sit around chatting with him family, blatantly ignoring me and not trying to involve me in the conversation at all, and because, when I would try to learn, and asked him what something meant, he would always respond with “THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO LEARN SPANISH”. Yeah. I wish I was joking. He refused to tell me the translation for a word because I didn’t know the translation for a word. In retrospect, it’s a perfect metaphor for what a douche bag he is.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:44 am

Fuck that shit. Adrian will straight up translate if someone’s a dick to me. Douchebag.

Rachel November 19, 2012 at 9:32 am

My boyfriend is hispanic, and the majority of his family speaks Spanish(except for him and his siblings, which makes no sense). I took 3 years of Spanish in high school, and while not perfectly fluent, I understand it very well (better than my boyfriend, that’s for sure). I listened to his family talk about me and things they didn’t want me to know in Spanish for 2 years before I finally said anything about being able to speak it. The looks on their faces was worth listening to them talk shit for 2 years. White girl win.

Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:51 am


I plan on not telling anyone in Adrian’s family how much I speak until many years from now. SNEAKY BITCHES.

Janene November 19, 2012 at 10:00 am

My Dad immigrated to Canada from Poland in the 1950s. Growing up, we’d travel down to my paternal grandmother’s house, where the conversation would inevitably have English and Polish intermixed as Babcha (my grandmother) would try to converse and not know the English words, necessitating my Dad to remember the language he only spoke at her house.

My favourite memory of this time happened when I was 16. Babcha looked at me, turned to my Dad, and asked a question. He then looked at me, and turned back to her and replied. All of this was in Polish, right with me standing there.

Immediately after this interchange, In English, I then asked Dad, “What did Babcha want?”

He replied, “She wanted to know if you had a boyfriend. I said, ‘No’.”

I looked at her and said, “No.”

On a plus note, after that, I asked Dad to teach me a few phrases. The classic, “Kiss my ass” is a favourite of mine to utter. According to a coworker, my Polish isn’t great, but she can understand what I’m trying to say…..

Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:52 am

There’s nothing more fun than cursing in an obscure language. No one gets it, but YOU KNOW.

Monica November 19, 2012 at 10:47 am

My mother spoke fluent Italian but refused to teach me because she used it to say shit she didn’t want the kids to know. Now I can only call people whores and tell them I love their pasta, but really, what more do I need?
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:53 am

Nothing. You are complete.

starle November 19, 2012 at 11:37 am

Yes. “she looks like she has been ridden hard and put away wet” and “double fisting!” are things you should never, ever say in the UK.

Noa November 21, 2012 at 12:54 am

Are those things you should ever say, for any reason, in any country?

Abby November 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

Just communicate through interpretive dance. That’s what I do, and everyone in my (dysfunctional) family speaks English. People leave me alone. Go figure!
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:23 am

Thanksgiving will be so much more fun this way.

Jen November 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

When we were in Japan three years ago I attempted to ask where my hotel was and may have agreed to perform a public act of bukkake on a pigeon.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:23 am

May have or eagerly did?

Dana the Biped November 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I had the other problem. My paternal family is Frisian, and one year I took an online course in Fryske, so I could learn something other than cuss words. (Useful and colorful as those are.) Anyway, I finally learned that my grandpa had been calling me a “lazy asshole” for years.

Ah, the holidays. I love them so.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:24 am

Well, I’m dumb.


Molly Dugger Brennan November 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

With my Southern accent, offering anyone peach pie or peach cobbler has gotten me into trouble here in the States much less abroad. Not to mention offering people ice for their drinks. You are trying to learn a difficult language Noa, and that speaks volumes about your love. Or masochism. Learn the phrase “I have a sword” and see if that helps.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:24 am


Who the hell gets all butthurt about ice?

Winopants November 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

My ex’s family was from Argentina. I was comfortable with your average “Telemundo” Spanish but quickly found out I had to relearn just about everything. The slang, accent, event some of the grammar they use is different.
Anyways. I’d be there at dinner gatherings, following along with some good story someone was telling. They’d get to the punchline, speed up and completely lose me. The table would burst out laughing and I’d be sitting with a uncomfortable smile plastered on my face.
It only took, hmm, 4 years or so before I could understand those damn jokes.
Winopants recently posted..Leo, Buckets of Drool, and Other Alter Egos

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:25 am

Once I learned the word for cat, I kept hearing it in weird, out of place conversations, and then Adrian explained to me that in Hungary, “Putting the cat out” meant it’s time to fuck.


Jess November 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Spring Break in high school was house-building in Tijuana. The last night there always included a trip down La Avenida Revolución (aka swap-meet mecca). My friend Paul took Japanese in high school, but had learned some key Spanish phrases, and would continue to butcher them. He kept asking the venders “Cuanto Cuesto?” at which point I would yell at him to stop, because he wasn’t asking “how much does this cost?” but “how much do I cost?”

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:29 am

When I was teaching, we had a guy who thought he was muy bueno at Espanol. When we had a student who did well but also spoke no English once, he just shouted, “QUESO!” at them. I heard the parents say, “I hope no one corrects him. It’s too funny to watch him shout CHEESE when Julio does a good kick.”

JRose November 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I dated a boy in high school who was from Panama. His mother’s accent was very thick and I could never understand what the hell she was saying. One evening, we were cornered in the living room on the way to his bedroom (cause I was kinda slutty like that), and I had no idea, as usual, what she was saying… so I just smiled and nodded and replied “Uh-huh…” at which point he leaned down to me and said patiently, “She’s asking what time you have to be home.”
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:29 am

Uh-huh is still the correct answer…says the girl who when asked what kind of beans she wanted today in Chipotle, answered, “YES,” because I didn’t hear them.

Front Desk Ninja November 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I’m not dead. Please tell me you remember me.

Try learning ASL.
The number of times I have accidentally talked about fucking someone, trying to mate something to an inanimate object, or had to describe the shape of a flashlight which my classmates then assumed was my dildo have now hit the triple digits.
I’m only in my first semester of this program.

It’s all in the facial expressions, Noa. Fake it til you make it.
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starle November 19, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Front Desk Ninja! I have missed you!

Duuuuude. I am fluent in ASL. Then I moved to the UK. Not only is there an English version, but a Scots version as well!

even simple ASL alphabet letters mean horrible /obscene /murderous things. I learned this the hard way. DO NOT ATTEMPT to sign to anyone in the UK!
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:31 am

I am dumb, and have wondered if every country has their own Sign Language. Now I know, and now I am afraid to use my hands in another country.

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:31 am

Welcome back. Welcome Back Welcome Back Welcome BACK.

You have been missed.

I tried once. I got to “G” and flipped myself off.

Kianwi November 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I, for one, cannot believe that the aunt did not want any of your pussy cobbler!

I used to live in Honduras, and I lived in a decent-sized town in a valley. I had a good grasp of the language and was able to even translate for visitors. When I would head up into the mountains, though? They could not understand a word I said. Speaking in Spanish, I would tell a moutain person something, and then they would look at one of my Honduran coworkers and ask, “what did she say?” My coworker would repeat what I said verbatim, and then the mountain person would nod their head and say, “ah.” I always wanted to scream, “but that’s what I said!!!”
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:33 am

Right? What a peach.

To be fair, I had a similar experience in Scotland where, though we were speaking the same language, I had to have a Ticket Agent write down what she was asking me because I could not, for the life of me, understand her.

downloadable08 November 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm

My favorite language barrier issues occurred a trip I took to volunteer in Romanian orphanages in high school. There were a few basic ones with village girls my age–I told them they had brothers and sisters instead of asking, and they wanted to know if I was a boy’s friend.

But my favorite had to be the one that happened with our translators after lunch one day. One of them came back into the room and rambled a question off in rapid Romanian. Florentina, the sweetest, kindest woman in the room, responded with a cheery, “Fuck you!” As we all gaped at her, she clarified, “‘Fac yo!’ ‘Fac yo!’ He was asking about the dishes. I said, ‘I’ll do it!'”

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:35 am

OH MAN. Half of Adrian’s family also speaks Romanian. More than once has that phrase thrown me off.

nadine November 20, 2012 at 7:46 am

My boyfriend is bilingual but only speaks spanish when he’s ordering a burrito at a real mexican restaurant or when he’s trying to show the guy who owns the Cuban restaurant that he’s not all gringo. I don’t know any spanish and don’t have a need to, but I made up a song about everyone being a pendejo so I think that’ll do.

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:37 am

Adrian does that with German. He’ll only go to this one deli because they speak German and he wants to go back and forth with them to feel impressive.

To be fair, I don’t speak German, so hey.

Abby November 20, 2012 at 8:41 am

Oh, the joys of foreign language. I thought I’d do something fun like learn sign language. Yeah…all that gets me is a bunch of deaf (and therefore twice as loud) yelling people aiming their rage at me because I sign too slow. I do not envy you’re dealing with a foreign language on such a personal level. I do not envy at all.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:38 am

WHOA. I suddenly have a rage against Deaf persons because that is not the way to bust a language barrier–to shout because someone is trying. Dicks.

Leauxra November 20, 2012 at 10:53 am

It turns out that if an American and a Scot go to London, the guy at the Burger King will not understand either one of you, no matter how slowly or loudly you speak. or drunkenly. I JUST WANTED SOME DAMN FRIES.
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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:41 am


I got hit on by a Scot while I was there, and he was so tough to understand I thought he was trying to sell me something. When I said that to him, he calmly responded, “I am. My cock.”

And I couldn’t stop laughing. Fucker bought me a beer just for the setup to that joke.

Julia November 20, 2012 at 11:00 am

I was studying abroad in Moscow when my student group accidentally left me behind at our dorm. I knew that they were going to Novodevichy Cemetery, so I went downstairs to ask directions from our dorm mother (who spoke no English). Unfortunately, on the way downstairs, I completely forgot the name Novodevichy or the word for cemetery. My request for directions was becoming more and more bizarre, as I tried to describe a place where there where famous people under the ground, and she was looking at me like I was mentally unstable. My final attempt was to ask directions for where people go after they die. She looked at me for a moment, put her hand over mine, and said “Devushki, do you need a church?”

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:42 am



Jay November 20, 2012 at 11:36 am

You’re a bigger man (woman? You are not a man, you are a woman) than I am. I lived in Hungary for the best part of a year and have Hungarian friends and family and all I can say to this day is “I want a cigarette” (I don’t smoke) and “I am stealing all of your swans”. This is not a language you are guaranteed to learn even if you are Hungarian…

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:43 am

I, weirdly, can imagine why those phrases are useful.

I’m so fucked.

Valerie November 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I once tried to learn sign language. The only thing that stuck was flipping people off.


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Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:44 am

I can say bullshit, and that’s about it.

Jennie November 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I lived in Turkey for six years. A few weeks after arriving, I was tired of aping my order to the cute boy at the bakery, so I practised asking for a loaf of bread all the way down the alley. I got there, and said my piece, and he looked confused and embarrassed. I tried again, louder, “Taze erkek istiyorum, lutfen.” “EKMEK?” he clarified. Hmm… yes. So what is erkek? I checked my Turkish English dictionary… and discovered I had been saying “I want a fresh boy, please.” The bakery owner should have lined up his sons.

Noa November 21, 2012 at 1:45 am

I see nothing wrong with this.

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