Hungarian Folk Speech: “Apád nem volt üveges”

Text: Apád nem volt üveges

Transliteration: Apád → Your father / nem → not / volt → was / üveges → glass

Translation: Your father was not a glassmaker. 

Context: The informant, who is a 20 year-old Hungarian student, described how this is a phrase commonly used in Hungary when an extremely tall person is blocking your view of something. For instance, as my informant explained, “if someone sits in front of you in the movie theater, and you can’t see through them, obviously, because it’s a person, it’s basically poking fun at the fact that your dad didn’t make a glass child. Instead, he made a child.” In other words, you are telling them that they are not made out of glass and that you can’t see through them, so they shouldn’t be blocking your view. This refers to the fact that your father “made” you reproductively, but he did not make you out of glass to see through. Hence, he was not a glassmaker. 

Analysis: The informant explained to me that Hungarians have a very strong and pervasive sense of humor that permeates much of their colloquial discourse. The specific phrase “Your father was not a glassmaker” may be a reference to Hungary’s turbulent economic history. The Hungarian economy was ravaged by inflation after the World Wars and further took a hit after the collapse of communist rule in the country many years later (“Economy of Hungary,” Spaller). This reference to glassmaking may be the result of a cultural tendency to reflect on a long period of poverty in the wake of economic hardship, where handiwork, such as glassmaking, was the most dependable (and accessible) way to make ends meet. Likewise, glassmaking and engraving had a prolific, yet widely unrecognized history in Hungary (“History of Hungarian Glassmaking in 1800-1920”), so this phrase may be an acknowledgement of an esteemed Hungarian profession that was glossed over in the history of European industry and art. 

References for historical research:
“Economy of Hungary.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Feb. 2023,

“History of Hungarian Glassmaking in 1800-1920.” Prisma Gallery – Modern Hungarian Glass, 2023, 

Spaller, Endre. “The Political and Economic Transition in Hungary.” Medi(t)Ations (Re)Conciliations : Conflict Resolution and European Integration: Ecumenical Anthology Iii of the Wscf Central European Subregion, ed. Rebecca Blocksome, 2004, pp. 85-90. BGÖI; WSCF-CESR.