To the editors:
I read in your Friday, April 17 issue, Marianna Beck's article on Herr Professor Reinhold Aman and the Scholarship of Swearing.
Being a Hungarian by birth, I am--according to the Herr Professor--a member of that group which, and I quote him: "ranks as the world's most foulmouthed people . . ."
In my 68 years, I never had the pleasure of talking to every single Hungarian, or listening to them, so I really don't know how much is the truth, and how much is fascist, neo-Nazi exaggeration in his statement.
Perhaps he is right. Perhaps we Hungarians are the most foul-mouthed group of people in the world, but please believe me, the quotation he brings up as being a Hungarian cussing expression on page 27, is absolutely not Hungarian.
If anyone does, I do know Hungarian cussing, and if the Herr Professor is willing to engage in conversation with somebody from a lower race (Germans, members of the Herrenvolk, considered Hungarians, just like Russians and Jews, members of a "lower race"), I will gladly cuss him out in my native Hungarian. He could tape-record, analyze, translate, savor and interpret my cussing, which could last 30 minutes if it is short, two hours if it is long, without a word being repeated.
After I read what he thinks is a "Yiddish epithet . . . a close second to the Hungarian," I understood why the university denied him tenure. The poor professor has no judgment at all. He cannot sense a tongue-in-cheek joke, and he cannot make the differentiation between cussing and joking.
Marianna Beck replies:
I passed your letter on to Dr. Aman. Here's what he has to say:
About 45 years ago, my grandfather--a ship captain who often traveled down the Danube through your fatherland to the Black Sea--told me the Hungarian recipe for omelet: "First you steal two eggs . . ." In 1953, Czech friends told me their proverb: "Don't trust a Hungarian unless he has a third eye in his forehead." Despite these warnings, some of my best friends are Hungarians, and I trust them. But I don't trust a Hungarian named Louis. Laszlo, yes; Bela, yes; Sandor, yes. But Louis--no way!
I've been told that you are a big man at the famed Bakery (smart name for a restaurant). I'm afraid that you have been lollygagging too long with the Chicago elegantsia and thus have lost touch of the real Hungarian tongue. A trip back to Budapest, listening to the fights of farmers and laborers, would help.
Anyway, far from being a fascist and neo-nazi, as you implied--if I were, would I spend six hours on the Orient Express cooped up with 200 Hungarian truck drivers, as I was a few years ago?--I simply stated the fact that those Hungarians who do swear use a goosebump-inducing mixture of scatology and blasphemy that fogs up my glasses. Only their Eastern neighbors come close, the Romanians, some of whom have sent me curses to prove that they are even more foulmouthed than the Hungarians--and proud of it.
But: Can one really top such a Hungarian malediction as this one, told to me by a truck driver: "May the rusty cock of Jesus stab out your eyes!"?
The Hungarian curse printed in the Reader is genuine. Some years ago I told it to a famous Hungarian professor in Chicago, who then translated it back into his language and chuckled approvingly.
Of course I'd be willing to engage in conversation with somebody from a "lower race"; I used to do that for nearly a decade with university chairpersons, deans, and chancellors (and they weren't even Hungarians). Why do so many people coming from east of Vienna have such an inferiority complex? Trust me, dear old "Louis," you're as good as we regular people. Well, almost. In any case, I'm sorry for having to disappoint you, but I'm neither a sour Kraut nor do I belong to the Herrenvolk. I'm just a kind Bavarian peasant at heart and still pray every night for the return of my beloved King Ludwig.
Which brings me to the Austro-German royalty, to whom you should be grateful. As you well know, if they had not brought some Kultur to your barbarian Finno-Ugric ancestors, you, too, would still be squatting in a cave along the Danube and buggering every sheep in Buda and Pest.
As to your invitation to tape you cussing me out in allegedly genuine Hungarian, I'm game. I'll come to Chicago; you'll whip me up some decent Szegediner goulash, then blast away. However, claiming that you can cuss for two hours without repeating a word is plain goat gonads, dear "Louis": except in church, no male adult Hungarian can speak five minutes without repeatedly uttering the standard Lofasz a seggedbe! ("A horse's cock up your ass!").
Your last paragraph shows, alas, why you sling goulash and I sling words. Nobody claimed that the humorous Yiddish curse ("May you inherit a mansion with a thousand rooms, and each room with a thousand beds--and may cholera throw you from bed to bed to bed!") is a close second or in any way related to the shocking Hungarian ("O God, stop slapping me in my face with your cock all covered with shit from fucking Jesus!"). The Yiddish is an example of a "hyperbolic allo-malo-petition," whereas the Hungarian is a "scatologico-blasphemous verbal ejaculation." One cannot, and I did not, compare the Yiddish orange with the Hungarian horseapple. Your serious deficiency in reading comprehension would make you an excellent member on any cacademic gestapo tenure committee.
Regardless of your unjust ad hominem attacks, dear "Louis," I'm extending my upper-race but friendly hand across the state line. PS: Should you reject my conciliatory gesture, kindly go sprinkle some paprika on your puszta pecker and stick it in the pressure cooker until it blows your balls clear across the room. Nothing personal, to be sure.