My Precious

A seven-volume dictionary, A Magyar Nyelv Értelmező Szótára, just arrived from Hungary. 23 pounds, 1.4 ounces, 7362 pages.

I decided to test-drive it on a sentence from Ida, the book I used in my Translation Exercise #1: “Egy pohos úr a Kávékirályban göcögve nevette.” Neither “pohos” nor “göcög” is in my iPad dictionary, but my big Hungarian-English dictionary defines “pohos” as “pot/big-bellied, paunchy”. Even my best dictionary didn’t have “göcög”, but Googling turned up an 1897 dictionary which defined it as “magába fojtva nevet”, and my iPad dictionary does have “fojt”, which it defines as “choke, stifle, suffocate”, and “magába fojtja érzelmeit”, “repress/supress one’s feelings, bottle up one’s feelings”, so I was fairly comfortable concluding that “göcögve nevette” could be translated as “stifled laughter”.

The new dictionary basically agrees on “pohos”, with the note that the word is “kissé rosszalló v. gúny” (slightly derogatory or derisive). For “göcög”, though, the definition is “(kisgyermek, kövér ember) jóízűen kacag, hogy a teste is rázkodik; döcög (5)”, with the sentence I quoted from Ida used as an example. This is exactly the opposite of what I thought it meant: “(small children, obese person) laugh heartily, so the body also shakes”. To be safe, I also looked up the fifth definition of “döcög”, which reads in part “teste rázkodik a nevetéstől”, “the body shaking from laughter”, and also “el-elfulladva, szakadozottan beszél”, which basically means that you’re laughing so hard you can’t speak or breathe.

Presumably, the definition which led me astray should have been interpreted as “laughing so hard you choke” (i.e., can’t breathe). The more complete definition is harder to misinterpret, so I think I can safely conclude that this purchase was well worth the money.

Oh, and the translation of that sentence, in context:

A stout gentleman in the Coffee King laughed heartily, his enormous belly rippling:

“The devil to these newspaper writers!” he said, throwing down the paper. “What great villains!”

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