Szekely and Hungarian Proverbs

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Szekely & Hungarian Proverbs

Background on Informant: 

My informant is originally from Romania, specifically the Transylvania region that is intermixed with Romanian and Hungarian roots. They came to the United States at 24 and have been here since. They are very knowledgable with the cultural context of Romania and Hungary, having grown up in Szekely tradition (a subgroup of Hungarian people living in Romania). They have graciously shared with me parts of their folklore and heritage. 


They explain:

“You know a lot of these phrases stem from long traditions of proverbs and jokes, and I can remember as far back as my great-grandparents using these, but obviously many have evolved since then. 

A few I remember are: 

Sok lúd disznót győz. 

A rough translation would be like ‘A lot of geese can fight a pig’. It means that if someone is fighting against another person, if a lot of weaker people team up together they can take down the strongest opponent — hence a pack of geese against a pig is stronger than a single goose standing against a pig. 

My grandfather would tell me this a lot, he always had a fighting spirit. I guess in an American version it would like— united we stand something along those lines. 

Another one is

Itt van a kutya elásva

It kind of means ‘this is where the dog is buried’. We have this superstitious belief in our culture where if someone trips, it means that where they tripped is where a dog under the spell of the devil is buried. They also say that it might also have precious gems buried along with it. 

My mother would use it in a sort of more modern sense, to represent telling the truth, especially when we were younger to warn us about lying. 

Elszaladt vele a ló. 

This means ‘the horse ran away with him,’ it kind of means when people get carried away, it can be in pride or success — anything getting too much into someone’s head. The symbolism is that a good rider can control his/her horse but if they lose control they get the consequences.”


Listening and learning about these phrases allowed me to get some insight into Szekely ‘wisdom’ and expressions. I had never heard of these but even with the context they are very reminiscent of expressions I have heard in my own life. A lot of the phrases are attributed in a cultural context to the typical historical past of Hungary/Romania as a lot of them are associated with farm animals like horses and pigs that are very typical of the ancestral past and even in today’s traditions. 

I like how they all offer different insight into situations and how they evolved over time. I also like how they have been phrases that the person has experienced first hand themselves on several occasions and it was enjoyable to learn about. Overall, it was interesting to observe the cultural context of these proverbs and sayings and connecting them to the ones that I grew up listening to and observing how each culture has the same wisdom just said and established differently. 


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