Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook

From Teflpedia

Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook (/ˈdɜ:(r)ti: hʌŋˈ(g)eərɪən ˈfreɪzbʊk/) is a sketch from the British TV comedy sketch show Monty Python’s Flying Circus in which a Hungarian character (played by John Cleese) attempts to speak English as a foreign language to an English tobacconist (Terry Jones) in a tobacconist shop. It’s an example of ESL in popular culture.

Appearances[edit | edit source]

The sketch first appeared in episode 25 of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, entitled Spam and broadcast in 1970. It also appeared in the 1971 movie And Now for Something Completely Different, for which it was refilmed. There are some minor differences between the two videos.

The TV sketch[edit | edit source]

Part 1: In the tobacconist’s[edit | edit source]

The TV version begins with a text overlay referencing the fall of the British Empire and commenting on xenophobia present in British society:

In 1970 the British Empire lay in ruins; foreign nationals frequented the streets - many of them Hungarians (not the streets - the foreign nationals). Anyway, many of these Hungarians went into tobacconists shops to buy cigarettes…..

The Hungarian enters the tobacconists carrying the phrasebook which is opened. He starts by saying in a somewhat exaggerated foreign accent "I will not buy this record; it is scratched."; a sentence which while grammatical and lexically coherent, would be most appropriate in a record shop, and which therefore makes no sense in context. This produces a bewildered response "I’m sorry" from the tobacconist. The Hungarian repeats himself; the tobacconist responds with "No, no, no, this tobacconists" (sic). The two men then both have a moment of apparent understanding both saying "aah" and pointing at each other. The Hungarian attempts to self-correct his sentence, but produces an miscorrection, saying "I will not buy this tobacconists it is scratched." while pointing at the tobacconist. The tobacconist responds with "no, no, no, no, tobacco, erm, cigarettes", the Hungarian replies with German "ja ja ja, cigarettes".

The Hungarian then says "my hovercraft is full of eels"; the tobacconist responds with an exclamation "what?". The Hungarian repeats himself, miming cigarette for "hovercraft" and striking a match for "eels". The tobacconist recognises the matches mime and proffers a box, saying "matches", "matches", to which the Hungarian responds with "ja, ja, ja."

The Hungarian now makes a false start with "Do you want…", pronouncing want as */want/ rather than /wɒnt/. He then says "Do you want to come back to my place, bouncy, bouncy?" The tobacconist, recognising the sexual connotations of the new phrase, responds with "I don’t think you’re using that right". The Hungarian responds with a homophobic slur - "You great poof!", which the tobacconist chooses to ignore and instead responds by asking for payment "That’ll be six and six please" (i.e. six shillings and sixpence).

The Hungarian responds to this with a double entendre made famous by Groucho Marx (in the grammatical form of a second conditional); "If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" followed swiftly by "I… I am no longer infected". Given the previous sexual references, this seems to be an oblique reference to a sexually-transmitted infection.

The tobacconists says "May I… may I…" and gently takes the phrasebook with the Hungarian’s consent. The tobacconist says "Costs six and six" as looks for the phrase he wants, and then having apparently found what he was looking for, says in apparent fluent Hungarian "Yandelvayasna grldenwi stravenka" (though in reality this is nonsense); in response to which the Hungarian takes strong offence and punches the tobacconist.

A policeman (Graham Chapman), hears the punch from several streets away and runs to the tobacconists shop. There, the policeman enters and asks "What’s goin' on 'ere then?" to which the Hungarian responds "Ah, you have beautiful thighs". The policeman looks down at his thighs and says "What?". The tobacconist complains "He hit me!". The Hungarian says "Drop your panties, Sir William, I cannot wait 'til lunchtime." The policeman shouts "right" and puts the Hungarian into an armlock, to which the Hungarian responds "My nipples explode with delight!"

Part 2: The courtroom[edit | edit source]

A voice-over acting as a segue into the next scene in a courtroom explains that "The Hungarian gentleman was subsequently released, but it was his information that lead to the arrest and trial of the real culprit."

It is revealed that the name of the "real culprit" is Alexander Yahlt (Michael Palin), who has been arrested and is being tried.

The clerk of the court (Eric Idle) speaks to the defendant in the dock; "You are hereby charged that on the 28th day of May 1970, you did wilfully, unlawfully, and with malice aforethought publish an alleged English-Hungarian phrasebook with intent to cause a breach of the peace. How do you plead?"

Yahlt pleads not guilty, confirms his address as "46, Horton Terrace" and confirms that he is the director of a publishing company.

The clerk notes that "The Hungarian phrase meaning 'Can you direct me to the station?' is translated by the English phrase, 'Please fondle my bum'."

Yahlt is then tricked into saying "yes" in response to the question "You did say 46 Horton Terrace, didn’t you?", for which he is "gonged". (The "gonging" in court of phrasebook publisher Alexander Yahlt by the prosecutor is a reference to a British game show of the 1960s called Take Your Pick!. In one segment of the show, contestants had only to go 60 seconds without answering "yes" or "no" to questions by the host to win a prize. Some of the questions were designed to trick contestants into answering "yes" or "no" — similarly to the prosecutor’s "You did say 46 Horton Terrace, did you?" — and if they did, they were "gonged.")

The sketch then deviates from the phrasebook.

Later appearance in the Spam sketch[edit | edit source]

The Hungarian later makes a brief appearance in the spam sketch, where he sings "Great boobies, honeybun, my lower intestine is full of spam, egg, spam, bacon, spam, tomato, spam …"

Differences in the film version[edit | edit source]

In the film version there are some minor differences.

  • The cigarettes cost 6 shillings, rather than 6 and 6.
  • In the courtroom sketch, the "please fondle my bum" is replaced by "please fondle my buttocks".
  • After Yahlt is gonged there is a cutscene in which a tourist asks for directions using the phrase "Please fondle my buttocks" to which the man responds "Ah yes, past the post office, 200 yards down and then left at the lights."

Analysis[edit | edit source]

It has been suggested that this was inspired by the phrasebook English as She is Spoke. The phrase "My hovercraft is full of eels" has also been translated into many languages.[1] And TV Tropes has it as a trope-namer[2]

References[edit | edit source]