Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Vachoocall (You'll see...)

How can I be a blogger and not write about words? How can I be a writer and not write about writing?

These are the thoughts that have been swirling through my head the past couple of days as I was approaching "W" Wednesday. On both subjects I have so much to say that I'm stymied into having almost nothing to say.

And that reminded me of my Hungarian Grandmother.

There are no "W's" in the Hungarian language. So, when Grandma spoke English, the sentence "do you want a glass of water?" came out "do you vant a glass of vater?"

But, that's not what I came here to tell you.

Whenever Grandma would flounder for words, when both Hungarian and English failed her, she would fall back on "vachoocall" - her way of saying, "what do you call it?"

She'd be telling us about her life in Hungary, and she'd say something like, "Ven ve vent to da vachoocall, ve don't vorry 'bout da vachoocall because ve don't have nuttink dey vant." (Translation: When we went to the what do you call it, we didn't worry about the what do you call it because we didn't have anything they wanted.) Mom would ask, "What word are you looking for, Mother?" Grandma would answer in a mash of Hungarian and English, hold out her hand in a helpless 'gimme' gesture, and end in, "You know... da vachoocall..." Mom would say, "You mean train station. You mean gypsies." Or whatever the current vachoocalls were standing in for.

I used to hear her saying vachoocall when she was speaking Hungarian too. It had become her own personal word. It was her "um." Often she evolved into what I call Hunglish - her personal blend of Hungarian and English - and would leave pretty much everyone perplexed. My favorite was the time she said, and I understood enough Hungarian to see the humor in her statement, she said, "Nem tudom vachoocall." Which translates to, "I don't know what do you call it." Which further translates to, "What the hell am I talking about?!" She was adorable.

Often, when I'm stuck for a word, I think of Grandma and her Vachoocalls. Even when we fail to communicate clearly, even when we lose our language, we still communicate. We still have our Vachoocalls to fall back on.

We find a way to say what we need to say, and words aren't the end all and be all of communication.

That's what I have to say about words... and... vachoocall...

(I can't wait to send my spellcheck into a spasm with this post! Words...)


  1. That last bit at the end is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thx BB. And is it wrong I wanna pinch your g-ma's cheeks?

  2. This reminds me of my mom. If there's a word she has a hard time pronouncing, it comes out as a skewed form of its original form. It never fails to crack me up, and sometimes i think she does it just to make me laugh. One of the funniest was the time years ago she said she thought she was getting "Thalhimers" (alzheimer's); Thalhimers is no more, but was once a department store here in the south. Another goodie was the time she called Twitter "Twatter"...


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