On page 195 of Mason & Dixon, Pynchon writes: “Thro’ the Efforts of Count Paradicsom, in any Case, a Band of these Aliens the Size of a Regiment, were presently arriv’d in Gloucestershire.” Noting that the M&D index of references has not managed to find anything helpful to say about this in the eight years the book has been available for study, I thought I’d better point out here that paradicsom is the Hungarian word for both ‘paradise’ and (more commonly these days) ‘tomato’ (the latter comestible used to be called paradicsomalma ‘paradise apple’ until the mid-19th century). Since the Count was referred to just a few paragraphs earlier as “an Hungarian Intermediary,” this should not have been too hard to figure out.

Incidentally, the paragraph just prior to the Count’s appearance is interesting from a linguistic standpoint:

His Lordship, as Mason relates, requir’d a People who liv’d in quite another relation to Time,— one that did not, like our own, hold at its heart the terror of Time’s passage,— far more preferably, Indifference to it, pure and transparent as possible. The Verbs of their language no more possessing tenses, than their Nouns Case-Endings,— for these People remain’d as careless of Sequences in Time as disengaged from Subjects, Objects, Possession, or indeed anything which might among Englishmen require a Preposition.


  1. “Alma” is the Turkish word for “apple”. The early Hungarians had a very heavy Turkish influence, but it surprises me that they adopted the Turkish word for “apple”.
    “Alma Ata” (Kazakhstan) means “father of the apple”, according to Google; supposedly the Tree of Knowledge was there.
    I am neither a Turkologist nor a Ugricist, so perhaps someone else can elaborate on these things.

  2. There are a lot of Turkic loanwords in Hungarian; my etymological note says simply “from Old Turkic,” so I don’t have any details for you.

  3. A lot of the turkish loans in Hungarian date back to before the 10th century, when the Magyars were allied with the Ogur Turks and were a vassal tribe of the Khazar state. Early byzantine sources called them “Turkoi” and noted that they spoke their own language as well as that of other “Turkoi”. Words for agricultural products (alma, buza “wheat”) animal husbandry (birka “sheep”, kecske “goat”) and things like royalty (Gyula and Kende denoting the ancient khazar double kingship terms, names like Zoltan:Sultan) all date from pre-Ottoman turkish. The Magyars adopted the horse culture from the steppe Turkic tribes, along with the vocabulary.
    Paprika, kukorica “corn”, dohany “tobacco”, and patlizsan “eggplant” all came into Hungarian during the 150 years of Ottoman rule. Paradicsom, however, would never really be a proper name in Hungarian.
    Another source of Turkic terms in Hungarian are words such as the dog names “puli” and “komondor” and a few local dialect terms that derive from the Cuman language, which was spoken east of Budapest in the “Kun” regions until the mid 1700s.

  4. Noetica says:

    Hmmm… Is alma borrowed from some Turkic source outside of Hungarian at some early stage, or is it evidence of the deep Turkicity of Hungarian? Here is a survey of some of the possibilities, with pointers to some useful other locations:
    (Such a lovely thing alma is, yes? It turns up meaning soul, bounteous, apple, and dancing girl in various languages. My kind of word.)

  5. Hat needs to lookat the link. It looks like I may have to pull out my Dravidian Diaspora theory out again.

  6. Oh dear.

  7. The studentorgs link is the usual Hungarian right-wing pseudoscience regarding Magyar ethnogenesis. The theory that Hungarians are somehow not Finno-Ugric has roots in the old Turanian movement of the 1930s mixed with post WWII resentment of the Russians – I have heard the opinion that “the Khanty-Mansi theory is a commie plot to tie Magyars to russia!”
    The Sumerian theory is nothing but full tilt crackpot linguistics, but very significantly it makes Hungarians seem to have some connection to the Judeo-Christian bible tradition and the origins of civilization. It is used often by anti-semitic publications and media.
    During the right-wing FIDESZ governement years the city of Budapest had an “ombudsman” office run by a real wingnut named Laszlo Grespik who published a long article entitled “The Finno-Ugric Theory Lies, Werbozcy Istvan Doesn’t” (unfortunately – or fortunately – in Hungarian at that Werboczy (a nobleman who is famous for reinstituting serfdom after King Mathhias freed the serfs…) is correct in thinking that Hungarians are Scythians. The image of “wild, pagan” Hungarians is taken to be a slur on the nobility, and of course more noble origins must be found, as well as pointing out the culpability of the Jews in the whole matter. the Hungarian right wing is obsessed with this kind of thinking. It is a symptom of a deep and incurable inferiority complex that doesn’t evaporate in the face of linguistic science.

  8. Michael Farris says:

    As much as I love just about everything Hungarian (which is a lot) it’s hard not to notice some ugly stuff bubbling below the surface.
    The last time I was there (2003) I notice a few (enough that I noticed) teenagers with black t-shirts with the logo in white ‘Magyar vagyok nem turista’. (I’m Hungarian, not a tourist). A hungarian friend said that it’s from a (in her opinion) extremist group. I’m not sure if they were the same ones who campaigned with a map of where they think Hungarian borders should be (just a tiny bit different from the present borders).
    There’s a bit of that in Poland too, at present most ominously in the proto-fascist Liga Polskich Rodzin (League of Polish Families) and their youth auxiliary Młodzież Wszechpolska – All Poland Youth). My biggest consolation is that there’s no longer an intellectual infrastructure in Poland for supporting farright nationalistic looniness (it still exists, but deprived of academic cachet and so unattractive to enough people to keep it in check). Sadly, that isn’t entirely the case with Hungary.

  9. Actually, those T-shirts provoked a good response – last year a huge poster appeared near the Modern Art Museum showing an asian woman wearing a T-shirt that said “Kinai vagyok, nem, turista.” (I’m Chinese, not a tourist.) Presently we have a leftish government, so for the time being the right-wing theories are less public. But Hungary’s linguistic isolation makes a ripe atmosphere for crack-pot theories. 95% of people simply do not read or watch foreign media, and an awful lot of discontented people tend to believe that everybody in Europe thinks as they do – that Hungarians are noble Sumerians and that the Elders of Zion still pull strings at the world bank.
    Last year I had an earful about the Dacian origins of Romania from some friendly guys who picked us up hitchhiking in Transylvania. Romanian Dacianism stems from the theories of philosopher Ion Nika in the 1920s – a phlosophical attempt to explain Romania’s absolute lack of any contribution to the history of Western Christian civilization by positing that this lack actuallly “cloaked” the truth: Romanians were the source of all Western Civilization and the Dacians were Christians 800 years before Christ.
    East Europeans generally have an inferiority complex vis a vis the “West” and it often gets intensified among nationalist intellegentsia, which filters down to the general population as “fact.” I remember, however, watching one Hungarian TV history talk show in which somebody started talking about the “Sumerian-Turanian” connection. Another guest on the show, an old professor from a noble family prompltly interjected “My dear sir, I believe we are gentlemen. And in my day, sir, true gentlemen did not traipse out trash theories about the Turanians and such.”
    That said, yesterday was an anniversary of the signing of the 1920 Trianon treaty. The right wingers (MIEP and the “Jobbik” young rightists) were marching around with EU flags printed with “Made in Israel” on them. Just down the street from me.

  10. Michael Farris says:

    “The right wingers … Just down the street from me.”
    Had I been staying longer than a couple weeks of vacation (and if I were foolhardier) I would have made my own shirt made “Turista vagyok, nem magyar”.
    I don’t think it’s the isolation that supports the crackpot theories (indigenous ones at any rate) but simple proximity to the Balkans, the spiritual homeland of insane pseudo-academic nationalistic theories.
    “East Europeans generally have an inferiority complex vis a vis the “West””
    Tell me about it : )
    “it often gets intensified among nationalist intellegentsia, which filters down to the general population as “fact.””
    That aspect has more or less disappeared in Poland, after WWII there was academic pressure to ‘prove’ that the new areas of western Poland had been settled by Slavs before the Germans (and to label any prehistoric settlements found as Slavic). The first died down as Germany legally recognized the new borders, I don’t know about the second.
    The inferiority complex has sort of evolved though into a kind of free-floating masochistic pleasure. One of the main themes of the Polish press is to point out how inferior everything in Poland is compared with the US or Western Europe, or more recently, the Czech Republic …

  11. John Baptist says:

    Comparing Czech Republic favorably to Poland? That’s rich. Certainly, I’ve encountered better Indian food in Krakow better than anywhere in the Czech Republic, and I assume that Poland imports Star Wars action figures more regularly than Czech Republic. Everything else is tangential.

  12. John Baptist says:

    Oh, and bonus linguistic trivia: the Hungarian word for “paradise” and “tomato” perhaps had influence on the Czech language, in which the word for tomato, rajče, is related to the word for paradise, raj.

  13. Michael Farris says:

    The comparisons with the Czech republic mainly concern income (higher gpd) perceived better reception of things Czech both in Poland and the west than the other way around … (the fact that Havel’s international reputation held up better than did Walesa’s domestic reputation also rankles).
    Seems kind of silly to me to, but the “Poland/Polish (blank) is rotten” meme is pervasive most of the media (though it’s a game only the home team can play, the mildest criticism is not welcome from non-Poles).
    for completeness sake
    tomato : pomidor (from italian)
    paradise : raj

  14. the Hungarian word for “paradise” and “tomato” perhaps had influence on the Czech language, in which the word for tomato, rajče, is related to the word for paradise, raj
    Actually, I imagine Hungarian, like Czech, took the connection from German, where the word for tomato used to be Paradiesapfel. I don’t know where that came from, since I can’t find my German etymological dictionary.

  15. speedwell says:

    Actually, could I get a T-shirt that says I’m Hungarian AND a tourist? 🙂

  16. I don’t think it’s the isolation that supports the crackpot theories (indigenous ones at any rate) but simple proximity to the Balkans, the spiritual homeland of insane pseudo-academic nationalistic theories.
    Don’t you know that the Serbs invented the fork? They introduced it to Frederick Barbarossa on his way to the Second Crusade.

  17. Paradiesapfel is a regional term, now most common as Paradeiser in Austrian use. The strong influence of Austrian German on Hungarian over the centuries is the obvious source of the Hungarian loan.
    The Kluge Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache tells us that Paradiesapfel was used beginning around the 14th century for pomegranates (and other particularly nice apples, it would seem).
    Paradies (and of course English paradise) itself is, interestingly, not Turkic like alma, etc. but of Persian origin via Greek (Avestan pairi-daeza “walled enclosure” and Old Persian paridaida- “park, garden”).

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