Strange Hungarian Proverbs

One of the most fantastic things about learning a new language, or a new culture, is encountering its proverbs. Proverbs give you a way into the heads of native speakers: it highlights the sometimes very strange ways of thinking they have - and sometimes, it's just plain funny. Proverbs are so familiar to native speakers that they do not recognize them strange, even is they sound rather twisted to someone who hears them for the first time! Here are a couple of gems from Hungarian proverbs to give you a taste of the rather peculiar Hungarian thought process.

Illik, mint szamárra a bársony nyereg.

It fits like a velvet saddle fits a donkey. - Something is not suited for the occassion or the person.

Közös lónak túros a háta.

A shared horse has puss on its back. - People don't take very good care of shared property.

Egy seggel két lovat ülni nehéz.

It's hard to ride two horses with one ass. - You can't do multiple things well at the same time.

Kenyérre lehet kenni.

You can spread him/her on bread. - He or she is very kind.

Apád nem volt üveges!

You dad was not a glazier! - You are not invisible and you are blocking my sight.

Szegény embert még az ág is húzza.

Even the branches pull on a poor man. - Additional bad things befall one who is already in a bad situation.

Még a kákán is csomót keres.

He/she is looking for a knot on a bulrush. - Someone who is never satisfied and looks for something to criticize all the time.

Szégyen a futás, de hasznos.

Running is a shame, but useful sometimes.

Vén kecske is megnyalja a sót.

An old goat licks the salt, too. - Being old doesn't mean people don't enjoy things.

Belejött, mint kiskutya az ugatásba.

He got into it like a puppy into barking. - Someone gets really good at something with a bit of practice.

Több nap, mint kolbász. 

More days than sausages. - Be mindful of your resources, try to economize.

Fejétől büdösödik a hal.

Fish stinks from its head. - It's the leader's fault if an enterprise goes south.

Szegény ember vízzel főz.

Poor man cooks with water. - In bad situations, make us of what you have.

Egy fecske nem csinál nyarat.

One swallow doesn't make summer. - One person is not enough to bring changes.

Sok kicsi sokra megy.

A lot of small parts can do a lot.

Nem eszik olyan forrón a kását.

They don't eat scalding porridge. - Don't rush into it, the situation is not that bad.

Vakok között félszemű a király.

A one-eyed man is king among the blind. - Everything depends on the circumstances.

Jobb ma egy veréb, mint holnap egy túzok.

Better a sparrow today, than a bustard tomorrow. - Focus on what you have at the moment, and don't expect something better to come along in the future.

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