Funniest Hungarian Joke Ever

I'm back from my fabulous adventures in Austria, Romania and Canada and I had a fabulous time, as you might imagine. We were in Romania for a wedding of some close personal friends who live here in Seattle; much of the groom's family escaped from Romania during the Communist period and settled in Austria, so we spent some time in Vienna and then headed to Bucharest, and then crossed the Carpathian mountains by bus into Transylvania for the wedding. Some of the highlights included:

* Vienna! An astonishingly beautiful city with classical sculpture and architecture everywhere you look. We were playing "identify that goddess" the whole time we were there. Plus, young men dressed like Mozart will try to sell you concert tickets and have an answer for every objection. "I saw that show last night" is met with "The second time will be better!" (The concert really was delightful.)

* Romania! Where there is a stark contrast between the quaint tiled-roof medieval buildings in beautiful mountain valleys, and the horrid, crumbling, brutal Communist-era concrete slab apartment blocks. Said medieval buildings included Bran Castle, a small but lovely medieval castle bizarrely marketed as "Dracula's Castle" for reasons which were obscure to me. Apparently Vlad the Impaler slept there one night as a child, or some such thing. It was difficult to tell from the materials at the castle what exactly the alleged connection was. But still, nice castle. And we visited the Black Church of Brașov, which was also quite historic.

* The ride from the hotel to the wedding! Let me begin by saying that I have a policy of not wearing socks after April, so I only brought my sandals to Europe. "No one is going to be photographing my feet", I said. So there we were at the hotel, and a horse-drawn carriage shows up to bring the bride and groom to the church. Just as they were about to embark, the happy couple said "Eric and Leah! There is room in the carriage beside the driver! Come with us!" Which was an unexpected treat, being taken by horse-drawn carriage over cobblestone streets up to the 14th century Fortified Church of Sfântu Gheorghe. Quite magical. And of course the wedding photographers were running alongside the carriage snapping pictures as we went. Since we were sitting up with the driver, my feet were at the same level as the bride's head. Thanks to the magic of digital photography, by the time the wedding was over the photographers had already blown up some of the photos from earlier in the day to poster size and printed them onto cardboard at the reception hall. And there it was, a life-size poster of my sandalled feet floating beside the bride's head to greet us. (Attention Romanian photographers: next time, use the "crop" feature before you press Print.)

* The kidnapping! Apparently it is a tradition in Transylvanian weddings for the bride to be mysteriously kidnapped and then ransomed back to the groom. The "ransom" included a long list of things such as "the father of the groom must sing a traditional Hungarian (*) song" and "a friend of the groom's must tell a joke in Hungarian". I volunteered for the latter task; fortunately one of the groom's cousins phonetically taught me a clean joke -- in fact, her nine-year-old daughter's favourite joke -- which I must say is hilarious. It goes:

Miért nincs a póknak telefonja? 





Mert bemegy a sarokba és telefonja!

Get it? Eh? és tele-fonja!


The joke literally translates as "Why does the spider not have a telephone? Because he is in the corner, weaving." Which isn't funny in English, but in Hungarian it is a hilarious pun because "telephone" and "to weave together" are homophones. A non-literal translation would be "Why does a spider not have the internet? Because he already has the Web in a corner."

HA HA HA HA HA! It is funny in English too!

Even though my timing was flawless, my pronunciation might have been off because the joke was met with utter silence.

Regardless, the bride was restored only to discover that her shoes had mysteriously gone missing. The little daughters of the kidnappers had gotten into the action! They demanded chocolate and gum as shoe ransom. Fortunately they were appeased and no shoes were harmed.

* The alpine village! The day after the wedding we journeyed to a village in the Transylvanian Alps. Which were extraordinarily scenic, but getting there was quite terrifying, what with the unpaved, washed-out road, the sheer cliff on one side, and the -- I kid you not -- donkey-drawn gypsy caravans coming down the mountain.

All in all it was quite the trip; we had a fabulous time thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of all of the relatives who provided us food, lodging, travel and entertainment.

Seems like it's been a while since we discussed programming language design on this here blog, so next time we'll get back into it with some musings about type theory.


(*) Transylvania was once a part of Hungary, and a large portion of the population is still ethnically Hungarian even though it is today nowhere near the border with Hungary.

Comments (21)

  1. Mario says:

    Haha, I'm always glad to hear when people visits Romania and the Carpathian mountains. Yeah, sure Bran Castle isn't all that much to see, but I hope you didn't miss Castle Peles (…/Pele%C5%9F_Castle).

    We did miss it, which is too bad since it looks impressive. We saw Castle Râşnov from a distance but we didn't get a chance to see it close up. — Eric

  2. dood says:

    The "kindapping" goes on here in Finland too, so it's not just a Romanian thing I guess. πŸ™‚

  3. Andrei says:

    Damn! Didn't know you were in Romania, would've been cool to meet you. πŸ™‚

    Btw, regarding your (*), I wouldn't say most of the population is Hungarian, there are only 2 counties where Hungarians are the majority out of the total of 16 counties in Transylvania.

    Good point. I've updated the text. — Eric

  4. Andrei Rinea says:

    Transylvania was once part of Hungary by occupation. Things have been restored in the meantime πŸ˜‰

  5. Viktor says:

    The "donkey-drawn gypsy caravans" are actually quite common in Romania and some other surrounding countries :).

  6. Dax says:

    The link to "next time" doesn't work.

    You want me to make a link to an article I'm going to write later this week? Learn patience, guy. — Eric

  7. Gabe says:

    I have a Hungarian friend whose family is from Transylvania. It's hard to tell whether they're Hungarian or Romanian, but I think the fact that they speak Hungarian means they're Hungarian.

    I also have a Romanian friend whose last name is Maghiar, which apparently is Romanian for "Hungarian" (in Hungarian it's spelled "Magyar").

    When does your "not wearing socks after April" clock reset? Or does it just mean you can never wear socks? I have similar questions about "not wearing white after Labor Day" and "never feed a Mogwai after midnight".


    When it gets too cold and rainy. — Eric

  8. Alan says:

    Eric, good to see you're back πŸ™‚ Been checking the blog every day even though I knew there'd be nothing new… πŸ˜‰

    Actually, I'm Hungarian so please allow me a pedantic correction to the joke (I know you do care about details). I had not known this joke, but your perfect English translation gave it away. The correct Hungarian version is this:

    "Miért nincs a póknak telefonja?"  –  "Mert bemegy a sarokba és telefonja!". The word "telefonja", as you correctly noted, is homophonic, meaning both "has a telephone" (telefon-ja) and "weaves it full" (tele-fonja). It *is* funny indeed πŸ™‚

    Sorry for the nitpick, but it wasn't to be one, and have a great time back home πŸ™‚

    Thanks! I was hoping someone would correct my spelling. I managed to figure out the spellings and accents of a few words but a few like "bemegy" defeated me. — Eric

  9. Aaron says:

    … metajoke: I followed the link expecting a post involving variable and function name prefixes[1], but instead found a joke about a spider. [1|…/aa260976.aspx

  10. Lior Tal says:

    This is nothing compared to what we do here in Israel at a Jewish wedding !

    You should drop by to see some of that.

    (only joking of course)

  11. Jakub Konecki says:

    I was expecting sth like this: a_crszkvc30LastNameCol  (constant reference function argument, holding contents of a database column of type varchar(30) called LastName that was part of the table's primary key)

  12. dlev says:

    Since you seem at least somewhat interested in gravel-covered mountain-top roads that lack railings to guard against sheer cliffs, might I recommend a trip to Monte Verde in Costa Rica? It's *terrifying*…ly beautiful.

    Welcome back.

  13. Pras says:

    I have been following your blog for a few months now.. mostly for the .net stuff. But I must say you write really well!! Loved the humor and the story in this aritcle!

  14. tiwahu says:

    RE: clock reset

    I'm with ya on the flip-flops/sandals thing starting in spring.  My rule for the reset: open toes until it snows.

  15. Luc Bos says:

    Glad to see you're back, looking forward to reading your posts again πŸ™‚

  16. penartur says:

    Sorry that i write you here, but it seems that people often ask you about new language features in comments to this blog πŸ™‚

    I can't find any information in google on the lack of that feature, which is strange because it is IMHO quite logical and needed thing… or maybe i'm just doing something wrong… anyway, the missing feature i want to say about is the "internal new()" generic constraint.

    In current C#, one may write e.g. "public TResult SomeFunc<TResult>() where TResult : new() { return new TResult(); }". The documentation tells us that in order to fit in such a constraint, TResult should have a public parameterless constructor, which quite makes sense: e.g. if TResult has a private parameterless constructor, then we probably don't want it to be called somewhere else; even if the constructor is accessible to SomeFunc, we probably don't want it to be called somewhere else ("public T SomeFunc<T>() where T : new() { return SomeOtherFunc<T>(); } public T SomeOtherFunc<T>() where T : new() { return new T(); }") until it is public.

    However, there are times when i want to write such generic functions in my library without exposing the parameterless constructor to everybody (basically, in such a case it is acting as a replacement to missing feature of constraints like "where T : new(int, string)").

    I understand that implementing constraints on constructors with parameters ("where T : new(int, string)") might be impossible due to the reasons you mention every time you're talking about why you won't add a certain new feature to the language πŸ™‚ however, it seems to be not a big deal to implement constraint such as "where T : internal new()". Basically, the only differences of such a constraint from the existing "where T : new()" would be that: a) it will allow for types in the same assembly with internal parameterless constructor; b) it won't allow to pass such types to another methods with old-style "where T : new()" constraint and to methods from another assemblies. It seems to be fairly easy thing to implement, even minding all you said about testing etc.

    Sorry about this huge comment with my terrible knowledge of english…

  17. Holding the bride for ransom is also a Chinese tradition. However, we were running behind schedule (another Chinese tradition), so the bridesmaids skipped the ransom ceremony. Lucky me!

  18. AntiPattern says:

    Romania acquired large portions (including Transylvania) of Hungary after WW1 cause Romania sided with the allies toward the end of the war after it was pretty certain that the German and Austrian Hungarian empire were going to lose.  To this day I hear many Hungarians HATE Romanians and regard them as gypsies.

  19. voo says:

    Good that you had fun in Vienna – it's a nice city, especially for people liking architecture or music (Raymond would have his fun as well there I think). I think I'm not 100% objective here though, so I'll mention that Prague is nice too πŸ˜‰

    tz if I'd known you were here..

  20. Jim Glass Jr says:

    Great coverage of a fascinating culture and event. My jokes don't always work either.  ;O)

  21. Gerely says:

    I did not know that you're not only a programming language expert, but a human-language expert too. Also, I did not expect that I'll read a joke in your post that I heard during the elementary school last time. πŸ™‚

    Gotta love your blog!

    GergΕ‘ (from Hungary)

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