Modern Hungarian Newspeak

Two days ago the internet news site vs.hu got hold of a 13-page list of words that are deemed unsuitable for use by the management of the Ministry of Human Resources. The list covers all the fields this mammoth ministry is responsible for, from education to culture and health as well as religious and family matters. The initial response was hilarity, but those people who found this list funny may have forgotten about George Orwell’s Newspeak in 1984, the purpose of which was “to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever.” The main purpose of this list was to banish concepts by eliminating the words that refer to them.

Obviously, the political leaders of Hungary are not bothered by the striking resemblance between their list and the notorious Newspeak of Orwell. Actually, I would be surprised if Zoltán Balog, head of the ministry, ever read the book. He is old enough to have received his education during the Kádár regime, when Orwell’s works were on the list of forbidden books.

Since we are talking about language, specifically about semantics, on occasion I will have a difficult time explaining the subtle or not so subtle differences between the original word for a concept and its suggested replacement. Let’s start with the easy ones. “Tuition” does not exist. There is no suggested alternative. Employees of the ministry are simply supposed to repeat: Hungary has “tuition-free higher education.” Of course, this is an outright lie. About half of the university and college students pay a steep tuition fee. Or, here is another easy task: “reform” is out. In its place they suggest “structural reconstruction, “fine tuning,” or simply “implementations.” The word “szegény” (poor) is a word this regime does not want to see anywhere. “Poor settlement” is out, and instead ministry employees are supposed to say “underdeveloped settlement.” And now we come to a concept change that will be difficult to explain. A “poor person” is no longer poor but needy (rászorult). Why “rászorult” is better than “szegény” I’m not quite sure. Perhaps because “szegény” indicates a level of permanence whereas a needy person’s situation might be temporary? Instead of “szegénység” (poverty) there is another suggestion besides “rászorultság” (in need)–“nélkülözés,” which literally means something like going without; the dictionary definition is privation, indigence, need. Instead of saying “to decrease poverty,” from here on we should talk about “societal convergence.”

The word “segregated” is to be avoided by all means possible, although we know that most Gypsy children attend segregated schools and that most Roma live in villages which for all practical purposes are segregated. To get rid of this word/concept was too great a task for the wordsmiths of Balog’s staff. The best they could come up with was “peripheral,” as in “peripheral settlement,” or even better “kiszorult,” which means superseded, driven out, supplanted. What these words have to do with “segregation” or “segregated” is beyond me.

Interestingly enough, the word “work” (munka) is not a favorite of the regime despite its claim to be building a society based on work. “Voluntary work” becomes “voluntary activity.” Well, perhaps work must always be something you are paid to do, but then what about the work women do in the home? Do they no longer have to work, just be active? The word for domestic violence, which in Hungarian is family (családi) violence, is out. Instead, they are to talk about violence among people who know each other (kapcsolati erőszak). A “sokgyermekes család” (a family with many children) should be called “többgyermekes család” (a family with more children), I guess because there can never be too many children in a family.

Instead of “Kulturkampf” we ought to use “discussion of values.” Why “idősödés” is better than “öregedés” I wouldn’t know. Both mean “aging.” “Equal opportunity” seems to be a dirty word too. The government is offering only an “opportunity for equality” (esélyteremtés). Some will presumably have more of an opportunity than others. “Equality” in general is troublesome in their eyes. “Equality of the sexes” is frowned upon. One should say “societal equality of women and men” or “more harmonic cooperation between women and men.” For these politicians the ideal is still a woman who stays at home and looks after her husband and children. Sexual differences for them override any abstract notion of equality.

Instead of “people” in the sense of “Hungarian people,” we should always talk about the Hungarian nation (nemzet). Instead of “society” (társadalom) we should use “community” (közösség). The difference between these two concepts is obvious. A community is tied together by a special fellowship and identity while members of a society are not so linked. Perhaps this is a more explicit way of banishing people who are not like-minded from the community or, at best, relegating them to the periphery.

Let me mention a few real oddities. One is the word “vak,” which should be used instead of “világtalan.” I don’t know what will happen to the saying: “Vak vezet világtalant,” meaning “blind leads blind.” We also learned that “stadium” is a word to avoid. Instead it should be called a “sports complex” or “sportcsarnok used for many functions.” Oh, yes, let’s stop calling the nation’s attention to the fact that the prime minister of the country has been spending taxpayer money, a lot of it, on football stadiums.

Perhaps the most surprising suggestion is to avoid the word “Jew, Jewish” (zsidó). The ministry suggests that we go back about a hundred years when, as I mentioned in one of my comments on the 1910 Hungarian census this morning, the followers of Judaism were described as “izrealiták.” This is an old-fashioned and nowadays never used word. It denotes only religion, not ethnicity. There are few practicing Jews in Hungary, so I assume the rest of the Jewish community has just lost its identity.

szegeny

There are so many Hungarian literary allusions to poverty and poor people in both concrete and figurative terms that bloggers couldn’t help making fun of the suggestion to rid the language of the word ” szegény.” Yes, perhaps if we banish the words for “poor” and “poverty” all those poor people, all four million of them who live in “underdeveloped settlements” and attend “peripheral schools,” will simply disappear. And, by the way, Hungary will no longer have a Roma “minority” (kisebbség). It will have a “Roma nationality” (Roma nemzetiség), which I don’t think will make their situation any better. For example, they will no longer get “compensation” (kártérítés), as in the case of the victims of the serial murders, but will receive only “mitigation of damages” (kárenyhítés).

I think other ministries should get on board. Just think of all the words that could be eliminated–words like corruption and lying on the one hand and democracy and free speech on the other.

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limlom
Guest

NB The English title of the “Emberi Erőforrások Minisztériuma” was bizarrely renamed “Ministry of Human Capacities” a few months back.

steve397
Guest

We must not be surprised at anything anymore. Just sit back and wait for the next idiocy.

xio
Guest

OT

Did anyone read the article on 444 about Eduard Snowden and the new film about his life, Citizen Four? They consider the film one of the most important in the last 15 years and probably Snowden the biggest contermporary Hero of Humanity.

http://444.hu/2015/02/21/ha-valaki-az-elnyomas-leghatekonyabb-fegyveretol-probal-megvedeni-akkor-szamit-hogy-miert-csinalja/

The article also blasts Obama whose statements cannot be believed and “not credible at all” regarding the Snowden relevations.

“Minden hibájával együtt a Citizenfour az elmúlt 15 év egyik legfontosabb filmje, Snowden pedig nagy szolgálatot tett a nyugati társadalomnak, hogy rámutatott: milyen iszonyú veszélyes dolgokat művel titokban az állam.”

It seems that it even attacks the United States directly, calling us actions “extremely dangerous” (iszonyú veszélyes).

Needless to say, this was not what I expected from 444. Are they becoming enemies of America?

Member

I think 444 is against the political institutions, not against the USA. They are kind with the “Occupy” movement. The main goal is to make economical and political decisions on more of a horizontal then vertical scale.

Member
The Anti-American feeling is strongly cultivated in Hungary now and it is not new. It is not surprising to see criticism on any forum and the Obama administration foreign policy is easy to criticize. One has to regard, thought, and it is not to diminish or degrade Hungary as a small and insignificant country on the World Stage (regardless of how much useless troubles the viktor generate) but simple fact. An elephant can go the wrong way, but an ant will not make him/her change the direction. It is more likely, that in the process of trying to direct the elephant, the ant will be in a way and gets stepped on, perhaps even accidentally. The US has more important businesses elsewhere, than dealing with the viktor and his gang, which is the responsibility of the EU and not the USA. I don’t think we want to even razzle the little dictator now. This way, he can feel mighty strong and important and a winner against the US, feels, that his corruption and illegal business activities are safe and the CIA does not have enough info on him and his gang. His friend and partner in crimes and corruption, Putin… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Criticizing the American president or American foreign policy is not anti-American. Americans do it all the time, too. It’s perfectly normal. It’s part of democracy.
In this specific case, a whole lot of Americans are unhappy with Obama- including many people who traditionally support the Democrats.
Plenty of Americans think Snowden is a hero. What 444 has written could be published in English in the US or Britain, and nobody would be bothered by it. Many Republicans would love it. Many Democrats would agree with it.
I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but it seems a sad sign of the mentality of a lot of people in Hungary that you could imagine that criticism of the American president means that 444 are “becoming enemies of America.”
American patriots criticize their government to anybody willing to listen – the foreign press, included. That’s not unpatriotic — far from it: being open and honest with criticism at all times and with all people is the only way to improve things, and shows deep love for America and a desire for it to improve.

Member

I think as many issues the look t the western and eastern societies, or criticizing them became a very polarized issue in Hungary. We have to accept that that criticism and comments are not necessary an attack. When I am in Hungary around some national holiday and I see people with “kokarda”, right away it springs to mind that the person must be an extreme right supporter (even worts when it is not around national holidays).
It is truly sad.Hungarian people or those who follow Hungarian politics closely became conditioned to look at every criticism or differing opinions as some form of a attack. We (Hungarians) should take back to celebrate our flags, to be able to express opinions without being labelled. Unfortunately until the extreme-right runs free, and Fidesz rides on the wave of nationalism, fear and hate We will have a long road to go.

Guest

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”
(Act II, Scene II, Romeo and Juliet)

And so goes for those words too, which might, in some quarters, be considered in need of deodorizing.

They will however continue to stink regardless of any new moniker they might be given.

Anodyne renaming words perceived as carrying negative connotations in a way that would actually stick could only be made to work in closed totalitarian systems like Orwell’s Ingsoc, Soviet Communism or German Nazism.

In relatively (still) open systems like that in Hungary, the perpetrators conniving to brainwash the population in this manner will unlikely to achieve much more ultimately, than exposing themselves to justified and merciless ridicule.

Johannes
Guest
The list of suitable words of the Ministry of Human Resources of Hungary is similar to the media directives regularly issued by Chinese Government authorities , covering words that the media are not allowed to use. To do so would be a crime under Chinese Law. Even for media to reveal that a directive exist, is a crime punishable by law (severely). The only difference would be that the Hungarian list is targeting officials, it seems, not the media, but that is maybe a matter of time, as Mr. Orban wants Hungary to be an illiberal democracy. It also shows that it costs a lot of money to keep an illiberal democracy strong, as you need people to draft, review, expand and update the list of “unsuitable” words as well as a substantial number of informers and other state employees (police, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens and alike) to reliably enforce the list (including the internet). Evan Osnos discusses the Chinese media directives and how people and media in China deal with it in his recent book “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China.” An unauthorised list of the directives issues by the Chinese Government (sort… Read more »
Member

This is completely in line with the earlier law which forbade the naming of public buildings, streets etc. after persons who had participated in supporting dictatorial regimes (also here: http://hungarianspectrum.org/2013/04/26/looking-backward-historical-complexity-and-political-simplification/ ) and forced the Hungarian Academy of Sciences to produce a no-no-list of undesired names. As we know, in practice only those people who had in some way cooperated with Communists (or whose name had been used by them), starting with György Lukács, were blacklisted, while Bishop Prohászka whose rabid Anti-Semitism had prepared ground for the Holocaust was briefly declared innocent.

There is now a new debate on this, in connection with a school in Szeged named after Endre Ságvári who was not only an underground anti-Fascist resistance fighter killed by Hungarian gendarmes in 1944 but also a Communist of Jewish descent. After a Jobbik MP recently took up the question again, the secretary of state Bence Rétvári (KDNP) determined that the name of Ságvári must be replaced, as it was already classified as “not recommended” in the Academy list. Many former students resent the name change, as for them “Ságvári” is already a concept and part of their personal history and identity. (See http://index.hu/belfold/2015/02/22/je_suis_sagvari/ .)

Guest

I would have thought this to be a bad joke – but to be real, unbelievable!
I remember a “similar” (of course not really similar, rather containing “dirty words” like “insest” (sic!), gay, etc …) list that was defined by the Pakistani government – words forbidden in texting on your phone …

I really don’t know what to say – hope this goes viral internationally!

ambator
Guest

This whole thing started with the naming of the “new” Orban system the System of National Cooperation. That was already double speak, but nobody protested. The leader of the LMP party calls it the System of National Cynicism.
But it worked! Did it not?
Now they have the time and leisure to refine and extend it. And extend it they will.

Webber
Guest

The silliest thing on that list is surely the insistence that people use “alacsony összegű nyugellátásban részesülő” in place of “kisnyugdíjas”
It’s been obvious for years that they wanted people to use the word “gyermek” (for child) instead of the more common “gyerek,” but I never would have guessed that they’d actually require their people to avoid “gyerek.”
A question for native Hungarian speakers – am I the only one who misses the word “kormány” (government)? For some reason, a couple of years ago Fidesz people started using “kormányzat,” and I’ve noticed opposition people on t.v. and radio starting to use it too, though I can’t see the advantage — it’s just longer.
List here, for those who haven’t seen it:
http://lattilad.org/f/fp-content/images/emmiszotar.pdf

Webber
Guest

🙂 And these are the same people who rail on talk shows in Hungary about how horrible leftist “P.C.” speech is!!!!

HunUsa
Guest

Critical failures: Orban and Obama.

They approached life from two different angles without a balanced inclusiveness.

Then, they sold us out to their rich allies.

They failed the ordinary majority of their nations.

Until now, we could not shatter their ruling positions.

Webber
Guest

Just one critical difference among many: Obama’s time in office is coming to an end because of term limits.

Member

May I ask who the “rich allies” Obama are?

István
Guest
At least the Hungarian government drew some type of conclusions about preferable offical words, let me explain how it is done here in the USA by presidential administrations both republican and demorcat. It’s done by research organizations and focus groups. They test various words for the political reaction on the part of various social and racial groups here in the US. Then presentations by government officals use tested preferable words in both formal presentations and in media interviews as much as is possible. By the way the word “poor” is avoided by most politicians here, one replacement phrase is “struggling families.” The word poor, became negative after President Johnson’s “war on poverty” was ideologically destroyed by Republicans as creating helplessness and dependency. I agree with those who indicated that Snowden is seen by part of the U.S. population as something of a hero, hence the popularity of the film. I think he is a tragic figure, who had very little formal education and was effectively a high school graduate hacker hired by the NSA. Politically he is incrediably naive, hence we find him today hiding in Putin’s Russia which is anything but a transparent society when it comes spying and… Read more »
Guest

I would endorse the whole list of forbidden words if they would include just one more word: Trianon.

Guest

Maybe someone here or in the Hungarian free media ( what’s left of it) will produce a translation of this list of forbidden words and compare it to Orwell’s Newspeak directly – that might be fun!
And I’d like to recommend again the underrated brilliant novel from 1975 by Lawrence Sanders “The Tomorrow File” – many readers compare it to 1984.
http://www.amazon.com/The-Tomorrow-File-Lawrence-Sanders/dp/0425081796

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
Guest

The police are not willing to investigate Rogan & Co’s real estate deals:

http://444.hu/2015/02/22/a-rendorseg-megszuntette-a-nyomozast-a-belvarosi-ingatlanugyekben/

Xavi
Guest

Fideszniks say Fidesz still has a stable 2/3 majority. The opposition didn’t stand a chance. Fidesz owns Veszprém and if the opposition is unable to win here than Tapolca is completely hopeless for the leftists, let alone Vas, Zala or Bács-Kiskun counties.

This is what I’m hearing at this moment.

Webber
Guest

Xavi – Your Fidesznik acquaintances must be nervous, because Veszprém has been so solidly pro-Fidesz in the past. If the opposition were to win in Veszprém, that would not only end the 2/3 majority in parliament, but could have implications for Fidesz’s standing in the entire country.
There’s no telling yet, but at the moment it looks like the opposition candidate might very well win in Veszprém. He has a lead in the preliminary data coming in.
I should note that the opposition candidate can’t be considered leftist by any measure. He’s an independent, affiliated with no party, whose views are (mostly) well to the right.

Xavi
Guest

Fideszniks may lose they admit it now, that is when they answer.

Fidesz’ 2/3s are only 1/3 now it seems.

Webber
Guest

The Great Eye has turned to Veszprém.

Guest

The SPIEGEL reports on Orbán’s idea how to make sure that Veszprém votes correctly:
He promised the city a swim stadium for 4 billion HUF …
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/veszprem-nachwahl-entscheidet-ueber-mehrheit-von-viktor-orban-a-1019878.html
But stadium is on the list of forbidden words – so how do we call this now?

Webber
Guest

It would be a “sport facility” in English, I believe (Hun govt. – please feel free to use that as the official translation in your English communiques)
That promise of a “sport facility” is a bit of a mistake. Veszprém already has a “sport facility” for “water activities.” (copyright also waived), so the promise isn’t terribly attractive. NOW, if they had promised to build another “sport facility” for something like football… well, that might be a different matter! You can never have enough football facilities.

Penelope
Guest

Tibor Navracsics thinks it’s totally OK to call the police to check upon journalists (to check their identity documents and talk to them whether they are doing something illegal or not) as Fidesz’ campaign people did when Népszabadsag was trying to ask questions.

His excellency, the respected and well-regarded Mr. Navracsics is at present an EU Commissioner.

http://nol.hu/belfold/navracsics-szerint-rendben-van-rendoroket-hivni-az-ujsagirokra-1517681

Webber
Guest

With just over 52% of the vote counted, the preliminary official data is:
Zoltán Kész, independent 42,62%
Lajos Némedi, Fidesz-KDNP 33.5%
Andrea Varga-Damm, Jobbik 14.46%
Ferenc Gertsmár, LMP 4.38% (this data surprises me – I expected less than 3%)
Ferenc Bősze, independent 2.8%

That’s a solid lead for the opposition candidate, and if he keeps it he will win. Everything can still change, of course.

Webber
Guest

Now it’s nearly 61% of the vote counted, and the opposition’s lead has grown a bit.

Webber
Guest

72.82% of the vote counted, and the opposition’s lead is still solid.

Webber
Guest

80% counted:
Kész (opposition candidate) 43.1%
Némedi (Fidesz candidate) 33.69%

tappanch
Guest
Webber
Guest

84.7% counted and the lead is still solid.

tappanch
Guest

Fidesz lost Veszprem today.

tappanch
Guest

92.4% counted

tappanch
Guest

In the same district,
April 2014: Fidesz 47%, Left 28%, Jobbik: 16%, LMP 6%
February 2015: Fidesz 33%, Left: 43%, Jobbik: 14%, LMP: 5%

nemo
Guest

Fidesz remained extremely strong in villages such as Hárskút, Lókút, Tés etc., but apparently in the more urban precincts Fidesz lost big time.

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