Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Different Values

One of the things that I like about trying to learn foreign languages is the insights it gives you into different national preoccupations. For a perfect example consider the Hungarian version, which I only learnt today, of the English phrase "streets paved with gold". It is, apparently, "kolbászból van a kerítés". 

"Kolbász", as many probably know - similar words denote the same thing in various Slavic languages - means sausage. "-ból" is the suffix meaning "out of" and "kerités" means fence. In other words, Hungarians see sausage as the most valuable thing in life and imagine a really wonderful place as one with fences made from salamis.

This actually seems a very wise way of looking at things, since, when you think about it - (you cannot eat it and it only has value because an unquestioning collective agreement has grown up that insists it is) - gold is useless. Sausage on the other hand can be enjoyed at any time, plucked from a park railing or the enclosure round a cow paddock, tasty in all weathers, portable without being messy, remarkably long-lasting, really an all-round, ever-welcome thing.

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