Who leaked Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech in Balatonőszöd?

Yesterday I received Christmas presents from my relatives in Hungary and as usual I got books. I was looking forward to reading all of them, but József Debreczeni’s book on the riots of September-October 2006 especially interested me since I have been fascinated by the way in which the history of a series of events can be rewritten. One needs only a communication avalanche supporting a slice of the whole and magnifying it beyond recognition.

Debreczeni’s book has been #1 on the Hungarian bestseller list ever since it appeared a few weeks ago. So it seems that I’m not the only one who wants to read a minute-by-minute account of those days.

There are three narratives of the events as summarized by Debreczeni. The first is the right-wing version where Good does battle with Evil. The event is described as a spontaneous democratic protest against a government that came into power by lying and that was answered by brutal police terror. The second is the left-wing version that describes the riots as being fueled by Viktor Orbán who couldn’t make peace with losing two elections in a row. According to this version, the events were directed by politicians who hoped for a coup d’état that would remove the Gyurcsány government from power. The third version is that of the civil rights activists: TASZ (the Hungarian version of the American Civil Liberties Union), the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, and Védegylet, an environmental group in which András Schiffer and László Sólyom were active. These groups were aided by such Internet papers as Origo, HVG, and Index that tried “to find their place somewhere between the warring political factions.” In Debreczeni’s opinion these groups belittled the danger the rioters posed to society.

Naturally, Debreczeni has to deal with the immediate cause of the riots of September 17 and October 23-24: Ferenc Gyurcsány’s leaked speech before the MSZP parliamentary caucus on May 26. Here I would like to summarize briefly Debreczeni’s description of how it ended up in the hands of Viktor Orbán.

The quality of the audiotape was too good to have been done by an amateur. It had to have been copied from one of the two official tapes of the speech. One went to the prime minister’s office where it was placed in a safe. The other ended up in the headquarters of MSZP where it was lying about on an open shelf in a room that many people had access to. Thus, whoever stole and copied the original audio tape most likely got it from the party’s headquarters.

And now comes brand new information straight from Ferenc Gyurcsány who obviously shared his suspicions with Debreczeni. In July 2011, when the relationship between MSZP and Gyurcsány was sorely strained, Gyurcsány wrote a letter to Attila Mesterházy in which he told the party chairman that he was fairly certain about the identities of the three people who leaked the speech to Viktor Orbán. Gyurcsány told Mesterházy that he had no hard proof and therefore could not demand a police investigation. Mesterházy refused to open the letter and shredded it unread in public.

What was in the letter? Among other things, that sometime in the summer of 2010 a well known public figure visited Gyurcsány and claimed to know the name of the man who leaked the speech at Balatonőszöd. His son worked in a law office where one of his colleagues kept repeating that he knew who the man was but refused to reveal his secret. Then came a drunken party when he slipped. He named X.

A few months later Gyurcsány was talking to an influential journalist who revealed that on September 18, 2006, a day after the content of the speech became known publicly, a leading MSZP politician asked to meet him. During the encounter the MSZP politician tried to convince the journalist that it was actually Gyurcsány who had leaked the audio. That leading MSZP politician was X himself.

Then in the summer of 2011 Gyurcsány received a message from an MSZP member who doesn’t live in Budapest. According to his story, sometime in the summer of 2006, way before the audio became public, a leading member of MSZP played the tape of the speech for him, adding that “Gyurcsány is in my hands, I can do anything I want with him.” Who was this leading MSZP member? Not but a very close associate and friend of his. The two families spend their holidays together. Let’s call him Y.

And finally, shortly before Gyurcsány wrote the letter to Mesterházy another MSZP member called him with the information that a few months earlier among a small circle of friends revealed that his close associate Z, one of the leaders of MSZP, was the one who had actually smuggled the tape out of the party’s headquarters. 

Imre Szekeres who was named by Ferenc Gyurcsány minister of defense in 2006

Imre Szekeres, who was named minister of defense by Ferenc Gyurcsány in 2006

That was what Gyurcsány knew in July 2011, but since then he learned something else from another person who is ready to testify if necessary. The informer implicated Imre Szekeres who in July 2006 in Székesfehérvár, only a couple of months after the stunning MSZP victory, told county leaders that the party will have to prepare for the post-Gyurcsány period. The informer even asked Szekeres how such an idea could come up at that time. Szekeres answered that in politics one must be prepared for all eventualities. The person apparently sent a message to Gyurcsány about Szekeres’s odd remark,  but  Gyurcsány didn’t attach any significance to it at the time and soon enough forgot about the whole thing.

Péter Niedermüller wrote a four-part series on the “Őszöd speech” (Az őszödi beszéd)  in which he dealt at length with the possible reactions to Gyurcsány’s announcement of the austerity program. There were some party leaders who realized that the promised reforms would adversely affect their political influence and might endanger their positions, financial and otherwise, within the party. When he read these articles in August 2011 Debreczeni immediately thought of Imre Szekeres and László Puch. Just an immediate gut reaction. It was a year later that he found out from Ferenc Gyurcsány what the former prime minister knew about the affair, which seemed to implicate Szekeres and two close associates of his.

These three men obviously had no intention of wreaking havoc on the party’s national standing. They just hoped that they could get rid of Gyurcsány with all his liberal ideas and reforms that rattled the top leadership of MSZP. The party paid dearly for their ill-conceived political power play.

66 comments

  1. London Calling!

    Machiavelli out-machiavellied.

    Goodness – as you sow – so shall you reap.

    ******************************************************

    (Back from a cold cold Győr – and still so many want to leave.)

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to all who celebrate it. And a happy restful time for all too.

    Regards

    Charlie & Aniko

    http://funstufftosee.com/merrychristmas.html

  2. If not these guys, then somebody else would have stolen the tape. So I think this actually doesn’t matter – unless this information is part of another power play … God, we are good at power plays.

    The real question for me is why Gyurcsany gave the speech in the first place. I understand the intentions – coming clean, but I don’t think he did not anticipate the leak. What was he thinking??

  3. Mutt :
    If not these guys, then somebody else would have stolen the tape. So I think this actually doesn’t matter – unless this information is part of another power play … God, we are good at power plays.
    The real question for me is why Gyurcsany gave the speech in the first place. I understand the intentions – coming clean, but I don’t think he did not anticipate the leak. What was he thinking??

    I agree with you that it does not matter who leaked the speech.
    I do not agree with “coming clean”. I truly believe that he was referring to a general problem of how various parties in general but at his case his party tries to manipulate the general public in order to win the election. THe funny thing is that Gyurcsany was generalizing while Orban flatly dos lies every day and non of his believers care.

  4. “The party paid dearly for their ill-conceived political power play.”

    I would add that not only MSzP, but the country paid dearly as well.

  5. This speech was given in front of cca 200 people. It was only question of time to leak it.

    Mr Gyurcsány wanted to brush up the minds of the caucus – other question is the style of expression his good intentions. (Maybe a little bit more than necessary wine – no problem!, Gyurány Ferenc was always temperanmental person, anyway).

    More interesting is that FIDESZ probably new about these developments months before its “official release” and reacted with a well developped campaign immediately, seriously and intentionally misiterpreting the words in it, in order to assasinate the character of both MszP and Mr. Gyurcsány.

  6. A bit OT but on the spot regarding “lies”:

    AFAIK Orbán has introduced a lot of measures (like tuition fees – though it seems no one knows exactly how that’ll be managed) that Fidesz vehemently opposed when they were in opposition.

    Shouldn’t that be used against him/them by hammering on it incessantly:

    Look what they said four years ago – now they want the opposite!

    Kövér and his quote about policemen’s and teachers’ salary also comes to mind.

  7. The vulgarity of his language and not the admission that he had lied about the state of economy (politicians always lie if they can get away with it) caused the complete loss of respect for Gyurcsany – in my humble opinion.

    Gyurcsany should have apologized to the people for the vulgar language he used in that speech, and should have resigned in 2007 instead of 2009

  8. Mutt :

    The real question for me is why Gyurcsany gave the speech in the first place. I understand the intentions – coming clean, but I don’t think he did not anticipate the leak. What was he thinking??

    From the description of what transpired on that day in Balatonőszöd the intention was not at all to come clean. It was to convince the very reluctant caucus members to support him in changing the way the party and the government function. He made two speeches. The first one in the morning in which he simply outlined the situation and asked the people present to stand behind him in this effort. It didn’t do the trick. So, in the afternoon he turned up the volume and apparently the reaction was tremendously positive.

    No, he didn’t anticipate the leak. He was just carried away and made a terrible mistake. That’s how I read this particular chapter. I can certainly translate some of the important passages from the first speech which up to now hasn’t been made public. At that point he was very careful and told his audience that he is actually measuring every word he utters because of the political sensitiveness of the issue. By the afternoon caution left him. Let’s face it he was very much of a beginner of a politician.

  9. tappanch :

    The vulgarity of his language and not the admission that he had lied about the state of economy (politicians always lie if they can get away with it) caused the complete loss of respect for Gyurcsany – in my humble opinion.

    Gyurcsany should have apologized to the people for the vulgar language he used in that speech, and should have resigned in 2007 instead of 2009

    I’m not with you on the issue although I myself hate vulgarity and never use four-letter words. But it is hypocritical to complain about vulgarity in a country where people from all classes sprinkle four-letter words into practically every sentence that comes out of their mouth. So- called “intellectuals” also. Newspaper articles are full of it.

  10. It would be great to pledge to refrain from vulgarity. In Hungary and in USA.
    Gyurcsany has been intellectual all his life.
    Why not to adopt a no-vulgarity policy?

    He made an honest effort to change the course of the Hungarian governing.

    The country and his party was unable to follow him.

    I would have expected to find 4-5 smart people to create a transformational team, to create good public relations, explanations and arguments for ongoing reforms, that could have ended the old era and finished the democratic transformation. To start the era of honesty and no-corruption.

    Has he ever found energy to correct the errors of the privatization, reorganization of the Hungarian economy, and the redistribution of the burden of the material realignment?

    The generation of Gyurcsany has more or less failed the people of Hungary, and Gyurcsany was less guilty than many others.

    Let us see if a Dorottya Karsay can do better? Just an example.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gj2bGRCSlIs (the video stops around 35 minutes…..)

  11. Is it possible that Gyurcsány himself actually did leak the tape, as initially suspected by many at first, or are we absolutely certain now that that did not happen?

  12. buddy :

    Is it possible that Gyurcsány himself actually did leak the tape, as initially suspected by many at first, or are we absolutely certain now that that did not happen?

    From what I learned about the tapes it is totally impossible. Moreover, whey would he do such a thing? He would have been an idiot if he had done so. And he is not an idiot.

  13. Buddy: I suspected that initially. It made some sense at least. After the promise-zunami in the campaign (performed hand-in-hand with Fidesz), he had to make a 180 turn. If he had been able to sold his interpretation of the speech he could have come off as the big reformer of the party/the country, an interpretation the author of this blog shares for instance. He is a pretty big power player himself (otherwise how do you manage to stay in power for years in a hostile party after this cataclysmic loss of face and support?), maybe he wanted to make a ballsy move.

    However, developments since then suggest that this scenario is highly unlikely. What I’m sure about though is that he already knew about the leak when it happened. He was ready when the reporters got to him and his answer was very well prepared. I have no doubts that somebody warned him beforehand. Not that it matters.

    I don’t think he should have resigned because of the vulgarity of the speech. Politicians swear sometimes just like everyone else, oh my. The reason he would have had to resign is that he wasn’t able to govern. He indeed was in the hands of others and even though he personally managed to stay afloat for a few more years, that wasn’t swimming anymore but completely fruitless drifting and slow suffocation.

    I remember clearly that his main argument was that he was the only person standing between Orbán and the country. Well, doesn’t really seem that he saved us from him, did he? On the other hand if you check the polls from 2006, it becomes clear that he had a good chance of saving us from Fidesz’s 2/3rd at least. Worst case scenario, we would be through OV’s first cycle by now. Too bad power was more important…

  14. Jano, From Debreczeni’s research it is quite clear that the prime minister’s office knew about the leak but not a long time before September 17. So, you’re right about that.

    As for the vulgarity, come on! The MR’s announcement at 4:00 pm. had the only about a one-minute excerpts without any vulgarity and yet look what happened with a little from the president.

    It is quite clear that the ground had been prepared months before the actual release of the tape by the Fidesz leadership. This is exactly what they wanted. Preferably remove the government and hold elections or if that doesn’t work, remove Gyurcsány. If I had been him after all that I wouldn’t have resigned either.

  15. “As for the vulgarity, come on!” – If I didn’t make it clear, I totally agree you on that one. Picking on the vulgarity is highly hypocritical and mostly pointless. I wouldn’t give a flying frisbee if our PM spoke like a sailor as long as his governing good. Having said that, if I have the choice I’d prefer a proper style of course.

  16. Szekeres’ eyes remind me of a line in the movie, Get Carter: Carter tells Ian Hendry,
    “You’re eyes remind me of piss-holes in the snow.”

  17. Interestingly even the most rabid Gyurcsany haters fall short to explain why did he do it? They won the elections after all. I heard lame explanations like “he wanted to make himself bumped out because he didn’t want to be the PM”. So Eva is very likely right. It was amateurism and he just got carried away.

    Either way it doesn’t matter who leaked it and why he said what he said. My trouble is with the speech is that it awfully sounds like admission of guilt. But actually this is why I would give him a second chance.

    What is worth to explore is the attempted coup d’état by the Fidesz. How the events of the 2006 demonstrations unfolded and how it was distorted in the Fidesz propaganda machine.

  18. Jano :
    “As for the vulgarity, come on!” – If I didn’t make it clear, I totally agree you on that one. Picking on the vulgarity is highly hypocritical and mostly pointless. I wouldn’t give a flying frisbee if our PM spoke like a sailor as long as his governing good. Having said that, if I have the choice I’d prefer a proper style of course.

    Well I’m going to have to disagree with you two to some extent. It wasn’t just Gyurcsány’s vulgarity but the context in which it was used – for example the well-known “we f***d up” and “this f***ing country”, come across to me as unstatesmanlike given what they were referring to.

    That said, a conversation given in a private setting is a very different matter than public statements, and I think comments like this one by a politician, given in the public sphere, to be much more troubling:

    It’s not the only time he has used such language on Twitter, either. I guess it doesn’t bother anybody else.

    It’s commonly acknowledged that Hungarian society seems to be more vulgar these days. I hear it every day in stores and on the street. But I think politicians, as leaders, should hold themselves to higher standards than everyday people. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this way.

  19. Mutt :
    What is worth to explore is the attempted coup d’état by the Fidesz. How the events of the 2006 demonstrations unfolded and how it was distorted in the Fidesz propaganda machine.

    I have my doubts about a Fidesz coup d’etat. I think it was an Orban and inner circle try. Yes, I think it was planned, but I am sure that not everyone was in the know. We learned that Fidesz politicians actually were dissatisfied with the fact that the police did not fire into the crowd. If they would of been aware that the events were blessed by Orban behind the scenes, they wouldn’t of want the police to fire. Of course if the whole idea was to provoke the police, so “there will be blood”, the consequences would of benefited Fidesz.

  20. Some1 :

    Mutt :
    What is worth to explore is the attempted coup d’état by the Fidesz. How the events of the 2006 demonstrations unfolded and how it was distorted in the Fidesz propaganda machine.

    I have my doubts about a Fidesz coup d’etat. I think it was an Orban and inner circle try. Yes, I think it was planned, but I am sure that not everyone was in the know. We learned that Fidesz politicians actually were dissatisfied with the fact that the police did not fire into the crowd.

    A good point.

  21. To Buddy, Yes vulgarity is widespread in Hungary but politicians are just as much members of that society as you or I. It must be hard to switch when in ordinary conversations, among friends, one speaks like the worst lowlife and suddenly he must become a refined gentleman. Unfortunately this is how far too many Hungarians speak among themselves. And he was “among his own” on that day.

    Another thing, something related. In Hungary nowadays everybody uses the familiar “te.” Those journalists who keep calling Orbán or Gyurcsány “miniszterelnök úr” in public are no different. They have known each other from way back and normally they use of the familiar among themselves which is practically automatic in Hungary nowadays. With the familiar form of address, at least in Hungarian, also comes an entirely different manner of speech.

    Actually this pretension that “we are on the air now and therefore we use the formal form of address” is actually ridiculous. Journalists are quite capable of switching between the formal and the informal back and forth because they forget that they are supposed to be deferential.

    Someone told me that in Sweden the informal form of address became compulsory from the king down to the cleaning lady. Perhaps that would be a solution especially since the formal in Hungarian is extremely cumbersome for the simple reason that there was no such distinction originally in Hungarian.

  22. Eva S. Balogh :
    Someone told me that in Sweden the informal form of address became compulsory from the king down to the cleaning lady. Perhaps that would be a solution especially since the formal in Hungarian is extremely cumbersome for the simple reason that there was no such distinction originally in Hungarian.

    Very interesting. I guess it was something Hungarians adopted after they arrived in the Carpathian Basin and decided they wanted to model their language after certain Western European ones?

    Perhaps the Hungarian formal register is an anachronism and serves little purpose in today’s day and age, but I admit having a certain fondness for it nonetheless. It does lead to awkward situations sometimes though. Funny story: my wife has two aunts, who are sisters. She’s very close with both of them, but she uses formal speech with one and informal with the other! When I asked her why she does this, she said she didn’t know and in fact wasn’t even aware of it.

  23. Happy Holidays to everyone!

    Thanks for the summary, Eva!
    I certainly look forward to buy an e-book version, as soon as it surfaces.

    A few thoughts about the discussion above:

    – The Öszöd-speech were intended to persuade the ‘old boys’, that it’s time for a badly needed change. It’s an open secret, that he couldn’t get the necessary support, they were much stronger than anticipated.

    – It must have been a really upsetting, emotionally loaded experience, hence the heated style and the ‘vulgar’ vocabulary – but then again, they were among themselves, the speech were never intended to be released – to me it sounded straight and frank, but this is a rather subjective assessment.

    – As I know, Gyurcsány hasn’t calculated with the leak – after all, they were on the same side – and for awhile he even hoped that the disclosure, – when it happened, – will open the eyes of his opponents within the party..! (- and Santa coming through the chimney…) He was dead wrong, of course.

    – Orbán & Co been preparing the events for quite some time – The Infallible Leader has spoken already sometimes in the summer on some open air jamboree, condemning liars and declaring, that he never ever, etc., and, as I remember there couldn’t a day go by without Szijártó or some other similarly talented loudspeaker repeated the same sentences, over and over again.
    (I knew even then, that they’re brewing something, the pattern was quite obvious, even if the content wasn’t.)

    – I think, it still interesting to know, just who did what about the release of the recordings – if for no other reason, just for the record: here is a person, who were stupid enough to do this to his country – this way, please, have a nice trip…!
    It wasn’t all too difficult to figure out, that if the recording ever reach Orbán, he would attempt to overthrow his biggest rival at any price, so, if anybody has an ounce of the gray matter between the ears, should have know that too – and should take the consequences accordingly even today.

    – Gyurcsány had been better off, if he resigned right there and then – I would have turned the table on the snitch, for sure, – and leave the comrades at once, but the ‘loyalty’ to the party came first, obviously, and the false hope, that they may see the light sometime. Well, way to go, boys and girls..!

  24. London Calling!

    In England we no longer have any sort of formality such as you have in Hungary.

    In a class-ridden society that England was – I think it is arguably a recognition that we are all equal now. Hungarians, like the French with their ‘tu’ and ‘vous’, seem to have problems in regarding fellow man as their equals.

    We are such a cosmopolitan society in England that any other form of address would imply inferiority, or superiority between races – not to mention confusion.

    The only circumstance where we would have to be formal is if we are being presented to the Queen – possibly. I would address Prince Charles as ‘Charles’.

    I do not recognise that I am a ‘subject’ of the Queen – as a republican – and neither think she is superior or inferior to me. So I would never get the chance, least of all to address her as ‘Elizabeth’.

    As I have mentioned before – ALL the checkout operators in supermarkets have name badges with only their first names. And whenever you speak to someone on the phone – and ask their name – they always give their first name.

    Only one Supermarket chain – presumably thinking they were a better class of establishment – Marks and Spencer’s – made their staff wear full-name badges (Mrs C Smith) when others used first names.

    However I would always ask for their first name – and very few refused. Latterly M&S have fallen into line and their staff now wear first-name badges universally.

    So the Hungarian formality really puzzles me, it really does – it is just so unfriendly. And even politicians – as evidenced in Eva’s blog – insist on the formal ‘I-am-a-chattel-of-my-husband’ formality.

    Even though I am a dumb Englishman – I always address the checkout staff in Győr (never a man in Hungary – well I’ve not seen one yet!) by their first name – if I can work it out! – and they always beam a smile.

    It is obvious to me that many customers regards checkout staff as second class citizens.

    Most journalists address politicians by their full name – or position (‘Chancellor’ or ‘Prime Minister’). Very few address them as ‘Madam’ or ‘Sir’. When they do it sounds obsequious or fawning.

    I see no reason why the journalist profession should be deferential to the political profession.

    And I think ‘Buddy’ is right – “……it is an anachronism and serves very little purpose…..”

    Regards

    Charlie

  25. I think it is one thing to use vulgar language as a prime minister, and a completely different issue whether you use a familiar “te” in addressing fellow citizens who you do not know. Charlie, certainly you are aware of that English knew a “thou”, which is the equivalent of the “te”, and then switched completely to “you”. I come from a normal, middle-class background, do not have any monarchical leanings, and yet believe that addressing every person with its first name is a very odd way how to approach people. Why could we not keep a public space in which it is possible to address people without the need to be “free with everybody”? Or are you using the first name, while keeping your distance? Then my question would be: why then approaching people with their first name in the first place? Being polite does not mean being unequal.

  26. Charlie, what you write about England and that everybody uses first names, even strangers, it is the same in the United States. When I arrived in Canada and later in the United States it was still customary to call the parents of my friends Mr. and Mrs. So and So. This is gone. Kids call eighty year olds by their first name and total strangers also do on the telephone.

    I used to be petrified as a teenager when I had no idea how to call someone. I used to hide if I saw someone coming from the other direction on the street when I had no idea what to do. I opened the first gate of the next house and hid there.

  27. London Calling!

    Kirsten! “…….addressing every person with its first name is a very odd way how to approach people……” is even ‘odder’! (The use of ‘its’ is a mistake?)

    I’m afraid it says more about you than my explanation does me.

    I know you are not impolite – your contributions are the epitome of politeness – and you allow us – complete strangers – to address you as ‘Kirsten’!

    The word ‘thou’ and ‘thy’ has NEVER been used in England in my lifetime! It is archaic to say the least. My only experience of it is in the King James translation of the bible which many people here think adds to the charm of the narrative.

    I always address people – and yes older people too – by their first names and they are used to it in England now. Most older people, in my experience, insist on their first names.

    I certainly think that NOT using first names immediately places a barrier between people. And thank goodness we don’t have the ‘te’ or ‘Ön’ (or ‘Maga’) dilemma in English discourse.

    I certainly detest the requirement of youngsters in Hungary to address their elders with the salutary ‘Csókolom’ (I kiss sombody?) – very strange – and not appropriate in the sexually aware age when a little girl says this to an older man.

    So, Kirsten, using first names is not impolite. You can still stay aloof if you wish!

    (Next time you visit the supermarket – engage the checkout girl with her first name. See her beam a smile!)

    Regards

    Charlie

  28. London Calling!

    Eva – our blog entries crossed.

    What you say chimes exactly with my partner’s experience. She had similar dilemmas in her work as a Healthcare visitor with some of her elderly clients here in England – but soon realised that first name terms was ok – and friendlier!

    Regards

    Charlie

  29. As you write it, English does not even possess currently a way how to say “te” if you do not wish to be archaic. Should we therefore all switch to Charlie, Ön…? I simply do not share the oppinion that it is necessary for feeling “equal” to address everybody by its first name (while abandoning the word “te” from the vocabulary). And also, if you are not an Englishman with a lovely accent, might be that you are just considered a bit mad if you address every checkout “girl” (some of them about 50) with their first names. When I am in Hungary, people typically already beam a smile when they hear Hungarian from an obvious foreigner.

  30. London Calling!

    Yes – you’re right – they think I’m mad! – But only in Hungary!

    Regards

    Charlie

  31. If I may enter this discussion between Kirsten and Charlie. Charlie is right “thou” means nothing to people and although originally “you” was a formal, today it is not. I, you she-he, we, you (plural), they. Now if you take at the same in Hungarian: én, te, ő (both male and female), mi, ti, ők. Do you see here any “maga” or “ön”? No, you don’t because, as I mentioned earlier, they didn’t exist in Old Hungarian. Indeed, as Buddy pointed out it is due to foreign influence. I might be wrong but I think Széchenyi came up with this ridiculous “ön” from “önmaga” (himself or herself).

  32. So in English, the fact that “thou” of “Old English” is not in use anymore is just how the language developed, while in Hungarian, the Ön and maga are considered problematic because they did not exist in Old Hungarian? Perhaps we need not dwell on this issue for too long but I am more or less sure that the problem of equality or not is unrelated to the use of first names in supermarkets and elsewhere. What I wanted to say is that as English does not even have the opportunity to distinguish te from Ön or maga, what exactly can be the suggestion for languages that do have this distinction?

  33. London Calling!

    Eva – I never realised that the ‘you’ form, in English, was even formal. This is Hungarian Spectrum – not English Spectrum!

    What you say is very interesting – and I understand Kirsten a little better.

    And Széchenyi is a little less of a hero for me!

    Regards

    Charlie

  34. Kirsten, I have to disappoint you. I’m almost certain that in the next, let’s 100 years, everybody will be “te” in Hungary. The handwriting is on the wall.

  35. London Calling!

    The answer is obvious, Kirsten (!) – The language has to evolve – and become appropriate for the modern age! (As do its users!)

    (Light blue touch paper and retire Charlie!)

    Regards

    Charlie

  36. Eva, you are not disappointing me, I believe that language can develop. I just doubt that it is necessary to abandon the more polite ways how to address people to arrive at “equality”. But combining your forecast with Charlie’s theory gives very good news – Hungarians already now are moving (consciously or not) towards more “equality” !

  37. One more thing. Even if there was no formal in Hungarian or in English for that matter distinctions could be made by “My Lord,” “Mr. Smith,” “Your Honor,” and similar titles in earlier Hungarian texts.

  38. Here is the story of my typing skills in a nutshell. I started typing as a 13-year old on our old Continental typewriter but only with two fingers. I was pretty fast. As fast as one can be with this method of typing. Then I was sharing a house with another graduate student who as a high school student took typing and was fast as a devil. We had three little bedrooms, one of which was converted into a study with two makeshift desks. She was working on her dissertation, I on mine. Except it was driving me crazy how much faster she was typing than I was.

    So, off I went and bought myself a book on learning to type properly. It was terrible because learning it from scratch slowed me down considerable. Like snail pace. However, after a few weeks I was almost as good as she was.

  39. I might be wrong, but the formal address “ön” might be derived from the German/Austrian “Sie” (you) which is generally used instead of “Du” (thou).

    Now in real life in Germany you address strangers with “Sie”, only friends and family or people in a forum on the internet are addressed as “Du” …

    So we have a similar development – but the formal is still the rule in German, the familiar is the exception.

    PS:

    I’ve read that in old times children were supposed to talk to their parents as “Sie”! But that was probably the case only in aristocratic circles …

  40. And I’ve heard cases where in olden days wives and husbands used formal speech with each other. Rather hard to believe nowadays!

    For the record, I like the formal “Ön” form in certain situations, despite the fact that it may be outdated. I use this form with my children’s teachers, and I feel it shows respect towards their work and keeps our relationship on a professional level. I think formal speech is a nice feature of the Hungarian language, even if it was imported from German or wherever.

    Why should something be considered invalid just because it originated from another language? It’s worth nothing that there are a ton of words in Hungarian that are not originally Hungarian, but come from other languages like German, Romani, Turkish, and Persian, to name a few, and they are all a valid part of modern Hungarian.

  41. To Buddy, I actually met a couple like that. Mind you the only one I have encountered in my whole life. They lived beneath us in the apartment house where I grew up. For him it was a second marriage as far as I know.

  42. The book you are discussing here is the figment of imagination created by a much troubled mind. You liberals should open the window, breathe in fresh air and deal with the Hungarian reality. Doing shadow boxing either from a far-away happy country or from our much trouble Hungary does not do you any good! Your playing make-believe is rather childish and has not much to do with history or science.

  43. beregi :

    The book you are discussing here is the figment of imagination created by a much troubled mind. You liberals should open the window, breathe in fresh air and deal with the Hungarian reality. Doing shadow boxing either from a far-away happy country or from our much trouble Hungary does not do you any good! Your playing make-believe is rather childish and has not much to do with history or science.

    Could you elaborate on the troubled mind? Why is Debreczeni’s mind troubled?

  44. London Calling!

    How do we know that Beregi is a right-wing reactionary moustached troll?

    We just do!

    So here goes:

    Beregi? what are your solutions for “…..our much trouble Hungary….” ?

    More Fidesz? More Matolcsy? More Orban?

    Tell!

    Regards

    Charlie

    (shadow boxing… from a far-away happy country)!!

  45. PPS

    …and we know you won’t stick around to answer our q’s – we just do!

    (You don’t have the intelligence or courage – or true knowledge about Hungary – to face the music!)

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