Dragam, Kedvesem, Aranyoskam, Edesem.

From Translation as Transhumance by French translator Mireille Gansel, translated from Traduire comme Transhumer by Ros Schwartz, partly quoted in this blog post by Stuart of Winstonsdad (“the home of translated fiction”):

To my delight, the section of the letter my father was reading was about me. He initially translated a word used by his brother or one of his sisters as “beloved,” stumbled over the next word and repeated this — actually rather ordinary — adjective once, stumbled again, and then repeated it a second time. That triggered something in me. I dared to interrupt him. I asked: “But in Hungarian, is it the same word?” He replied evasively: “It means the same thing!” Undeterred, I pressed him: “But what are the words in Hungarian?” Then, one by one, he enumerated, almost with embarrassment, or at least with a certain reticence, as though there were something immodest about it, the four magic words which I have never forgotten: drágám, kedvesem, aranyoskám, édesem. Fascinated, I relentlessly pestered him, begging him to translate for me what each word meant. Drágám, my darling; kedvesem, my beloved; and two other words whose sensual literalness I would never forget: aranyoskám, my little golden girl; édesem, my sweet. That evening I discovered that words, like trees, had roots whose magic my father had revealed to me […]

Thanks, Trevor!


  1. You can see the vowol harmono operating in the ending, though it’s unclear to me why it’s long ám after back vowels, short -em after front vowels.

  2. If I understand correctly, if a word ends in a short vowel, it becomes long when a suffix is added; thus, Buda, -> Budán, Pest -> Pesten (“in Buda”, “in Pest”).

  3. This calls for another Kato Lomb quote:

    The reason why I think Czech doesn’t have a pleasant effect on the ears is because it has word-initial stress: i.e., it is always the first syllable of a word that raps your eardrum. This may be the reason why Hungarian is not considered nice either.
    “What do you call your darling?” an Italian soldier in World War I asked his Hungarian comrade.
    “I call her galambom [my dove],” he replied.
    “Ding-dong, galambom,” the Italian wondered. “But it’s a peal of bells, not an endearment!”

  4. David Eddyshaw says:

    That is just ictism.

  5. I think I have already talked about the aural boringness of (not understood) fixed-stress languages, with special reference to Polish and Finnish.

  6. Ick!

  7. And draga can’t fail to recall Sofia Rotaru singing Melancolie.

  8. David Eddyshaw says:

    To my shame, this is the first I have heard of this lady … according to Wikipedia, “born … to a family of brigadiers and wine-growers”, a Meritorious Artist of the Ukrainian SSR, People’s Artist of Ukraine, People’s Artist of Moldavian SSR, Laureate of the Young Communist League Prize, Hero of Moldova, and Cavalier of the Republican Order of Moldova.

    Polyglot and sometime nun … and performer of her own motorcycle stunts.

  9. David Eddyshaw says:


    “You are Emilia Marty, and I claim my five hundred dollars!”

  10. ITYM Elina Makropulos.

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    No, I meant Ellian MacGregor.

  12. Eli Nelson says:

    Hmm, I actually like the initial stress of Hungarian, at least theoretically (I haven’t had the chance to listen to running speech in the language that much). To me, the Italian pattern of having a stressed penult with either a following geminate consonant or a long vowel sounds more unpleasant (I know Italian has words with stressed antepenult also, but I assume we’re speaking of the (stereo)typical stress patterns of a language). The pronunciation of “galambom” on Forvo sounds better to me than the pronunciation of “colOMba” or “picciOne” in Italian. Of course, these kind of opinions are quite subjective.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    Hungarian is syllable-timed enough that I couldn’t find the word boundaries if I didn’t already know that they’re marked by the stress. What I find striking is that it’s the only language known to sci… uh, me that is even less melodious than German. There’s two-pitch Hungarian and three-pitch Hungarian. Two-pitch Hungarian has uniform high pitch for stressed syllables and uniform low pitch for unstressed syllables, which can form long chains in this agglutinative language; that’s it. Three-pitch Hungarian adds a third height for the main stress of a sentence/phrase/utterance or something.

    (Many pitch movements that it would be odd to omit from ordinary conversations in English or French count as singing in German and are simply not done in speaking.)

  14. Greg Pandatshang says:

    The Pannonians were too afraid of the Old Magyars to speak other than in a monotone, perhaps?

  15. A delicious post, a handful of mellifluous words. And – someone else who has heard of the ageless Sofia Rotaru! 🙂

  16. My favorite term of endearment in Hungarian is “kis husikám” …. “my little meat”
    It is used quite often.

  17. David M.: American English is rather tuneless, actually, except just at the ends of sentences.

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Compared to BrEng, yes. Compared to German, nope.

Speak Your Mind