Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook
"Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" is a Monty Python sketch. It first aired in 1970 on Monty Python's Flying Circus as part of Episode 25. Atlas Obscura has noted that it may have been inspired by English as She Is Spoke, a 19th-century Portuguese—English phrase book regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour, as the given English translations are generally completely incoherent.
A Hungarian (John Cleese) enters a tobacconist's shop carrying a phrasebook and begins a dialogue with the tobacconist (Terry Jones); he wants to buy cigarettes, but his phrasebook's translations are wholly inaccurate and have no resemblance to what he wants to say. Many of them are plainly bizarre (for example: "My hovercraft is full of eels.") and become mildly sexual in nature as the skit progresses (for example: "Do you want to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?"). After the customer used gestures to convey his desire, the tobacconist looks in the phrasebook to find a Hungarian translation for "six and six" (i.e. six shillings and sixpence); he reads out a phrase (the phrase read by the tobacconist is nonsense, written to sound foreign), which provokes the Hungarian to punch him in the face. A policeman (Graham Chapman), hearing the punch from a considerable distance, runs to the shop. (In the 1971 film version, he steals a bicycle from an innocent rider.) The Hungarian angrily points out the shopkeeper to the constable, saying "Drop your panties Sir William, I cannot wait 'til lunchtime." In anger and confusion, the policeman arrests the Hungarian, who protests absurdly, "My nipples explode with delight!"
The publisher of the phrasebook, Alexander Yalt (Michael Palin), is taken to court, where he pleads not guilty to a charge of intent to cause a breach of the peace. During initial questioning, the prosecutor (Eric Idle) hits a gong after Yalt answers "yes" to a question (an allusion to the British television game show Take Your Pick!). After the prosecutor reads some samples from the book (a mistranslation for "Can you direct me to the station?" actually reads "Please fondle my bum."), Yalt changes his plea to incompetence. A policeman in the court (Chapman) asks for an adjournment. When the judge (Jones) denies the request, the policeman lets off a loud fart he has been trying to suppress. When the judge asks him why he did not mention the reason he wanted an adjournment, the policeman responds, "I didn't know an acceptable legal phrase, m'lud." (Cleese as the barrister can be seen corpsing during this scene.)
- John Cleese as the Hungarian and then a barrister
- Terry Jones as the tobacconist and then the magistrate
- Graham Chapman as the policeman
- Michael Palin as the publisher
- Eric Idle as the clerk, prosecutor, and voice-over journalist
The 1970 version is partly filmed in London in Dunraven Road. The tobacconist exterior location is 107 Thorpebank Road (on the corner of Dunraven Road). This was renovated back into a private residence in 1996. This corner is also used for The Ministry of Silly Walks sketch.
In other Python works
The sketch also appears in the film And Now for Something Completely Different. In this version, another Hungarian tells someone on the street, "Please fondle my buttocks," a mistranslation of "Please direct me to the railway station." The listener then gives the Hungarian directions in English with the Hungarian following his directions in a Gilliam animation.
- How a Portuguese-to-English Phrasebook Became a Cult Comedy Sensation, by Tucker Leighty-Phillips, at Atlas Obscura; published June 29, 2016; retrieved December 24, 2018
- Chapman, Graham; Cleese, John; Gilliam, Terry; Idle, Eric; Jones, Terry; Palin, Michael (1989). Wilmut, Roger (ed.). The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus: All the Words, Volume Two. New York, New York: Pantheon Books. pp. 16–19. ISBN 0-679-72648-9.
- "Does this Monty Python quote actually translate to anything?". Straight Dope Message Board. Sun-Times Media, LLC. March 16, 2003.
I've checked several sources, including various Python FAQs and a couple of online script repositories and have found nothing concerning the supposedly Hungarian words from the Dirty Hungarian Phrase Book sketch.... I showed ANFSCD [And Now For Something Completely Different] to my students in Hungary. They could not understand what was said in the skit. Hungarien [sic] students. It's gibberish.... It means nothing. (Yes, I am Hungarian).... I will confirm, from my Hungarian director who has seen the skit, that it is nonsensical.
- All the Words, Volume Two, pp. 27–28.
- Handlen, Zack (August 29, 2013). "Review: And Now For Something Completely Different". A.V. Club. Onion Inc.