What the Hungarian?!: Virginia McClain

What the Hungarian?! – Virginia McClain

Üdv! Did you ever find yourself in a situation where you had no idea what was being said? Well, the brave people taking part in the What the Hungarian?! feature can experience exactly that. 5 quotes, 5 guesses, and 5 answers. How well would you do?

If you’d like to try this feature out, please contact us for further details!

Virginia McClain, a self-published Fantasy author, and SPFBO 6 finalist is here to try her luck with What the Hungarian?! as part of our 5th Anniversary Bonanza. Let’s see how she fared with my beautiful, but also pain in the arse language!

The Rules
  • You get the first passages in Hungarian (translated by me, but they should do) from 5 books you’ve read, and a couple of hints.
  • You have to guess which book they are from. And for extra fun, share your thought process with us!
  • You can also ask 3 question regarding any of the passages (1 question/passage) which I’ll answer with yes, no or I don’t know – as I didn’t read each of the books.
  • You can’t use a dictionary or a translator.
  • And you just have to have fun!

Simple, isn’t it?

Meet the Author
Virginia McClain

Virginia McClain is an author who masqueraded as a language teacher for a decade or so. When she’s not reading or writing she can generally be found playing outside with her four legged adventure buddy and the tiny human she helped to build from scratch. She enjoys climbing to the top of tall rocks, running anywhere that’s not a city street, and carrying a foldable home on her back whenever she gets a chance. Sometimes she hangs upside from fabric attached to the ceiling just for fun, and she’s decidedly fond of describing her hobbies in ways that make her sound especially eccentric. 

She has published eight novels to date and continues to be surprised that people not only buy them, but claim to enjoy them.

Connect with Virginia McClain
What the Hungarian?!

This What the Hungarian post is a bit unusual because Virginia went above and beyond as she recorded her attempt to read and understand the paragraphs I sent her! You can watch it, but we also did a written version for those who can’t watch video content.

Note: I did a fuck up (two, actually), and one of the hints for both the first and second paragraphs I sent to Virginia were incorrect. It seemed only fair to let her know and allow her to make changes to those two guesses. Since this happened after she edited her video, it might contain the wrong guesses. The text below was modified according to the changes. And that, my friends, should be a lesson not to send out stuff you worked on while being tired AF without checking it over.


Szerda reggel nyolc óra volt amikor a Kicsinyes Csábítások Bukott Angyala besétált a különös hangulatú kávézóba a Templom utcában. Az ablakokat csipke függönyök keretezték, és páfrányok lógtak a kis köralakú asztalok fölötti függőlámpák között. Az a fajta kávézó volt, amely vonzza az írókat és gondolkodókat – akik boldogan helyezik ide a székhelyüket egy pár órára – habár általánosságban csak néhány asztal volt foglalt. Ma, a legtöbb szerda reggel nyolc órával ellentétben, jelentős sor kanyargott a bistro asztalok között. _ sosem látta a helyet ténylegesen mozgalmasnak korábban.

Hints: standalone, indie published, female author, mercenaries

Virginia McClain: Words that stuck out to me were Templom (Is it a temple? Is it time? Is it a false cognate that has nothing to do with either of those?) Which SPFBO books do I remember that start with a temple? The first that comes to mind is ML Wang’s Sword of Kaigen, which features one of the MCs climbing a staircase to a temple, BUT that’s not a first in series. I was also hoping that reggel might have something to do with the word royal. And then I also saw the word amikor and desperately hoped it had something to do with friendship. This is grasping at straws, but A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy opens with the MC riding with her friend who is a prince looking out over a valley. That book IS a first in series and meets all the requirements of the hints so… that’s what I went with.

Note: I gave Virginia the incorrect hint of this book being first in the series, instead of a standalone. Her modified thought process is below.

Virginia McClain: And while I’m here I’ll go ahead and compare the opening from SoK to the Hungarian too! And… oh no… Sword of Kaigen doesn’t work. The sentence lengths don’t really match up and I can’t find anything else that makes me think they work. Ok… Just checked Fortune’s Fool, and it doesn’t match either. Also,  I guess it’s not really a standalone, the next book just isn’t out yet. Umm… Small Miracles? I’m off to check Small Miracles to see if that works…

YES! Small Miracles DOES work! The sentences are the right length. The capitalization of the Fallen Angel of Petty Temptations and also Church Street, both work! And so do the em dashes later on in the paragraph as well as the italicization of the word BUSY!

Guess: Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater

Timy: Yeah, temple/church both means templom in Hungarian. Reggel has nothing to do with royal, it means morning. Amikor has nothing to do with friendship… it means when. I think I’ll have to rethink adding NO LOOKSIES to the rules ?

The correct answer: Small Miracles by Olivia Atwater

The Original Quote

It was eight o’clock on a Wednesday morning when the Fallen Angel of Petty Temptations walked into a quiant café on the north end of Church Street. There were lace curtains in the windows, and a collection of ferns hung in between the low pendant lights over the small, round tables. It was the sort of café that attracted writers and thinkers – those who would gladly set up shop for hours at a time – though typically, there were still only a few tables occupied. Today, unlike most Wednesday mornings at eight o’clock, there was a substantial queue curving through the bistro tables. Gadriel had never seen the place actually busy before.



Ma istenné válik. Az anyja megmondta neki.

„Idd meg ezt”, mondta, átnyújtva neki a kupát. A kupa magas volt, vékony, és halvány krémes folyadék töltötte meg. Amikor beleszagolt érezte a narancsvirágok illatát amelyek az ablaka alatt nőttek kanyargó indákkal, melyeknek méz volt a közepén. Valamint érezte a harang alakú virágok édes földes illatát is, melyeket anyja az udvari kertben nevelt, amelyben neki sosem volt szabad játszania. Tudta, hogy vannak dolgok amiket nem tudott kiszagolni az italában, titkos dolgok, dolgok amik a zsákból kerültek elő, melyet anyja a nyakában hordott, amik befehérítették az ujjai végét, és az ő nyelvét.

Hints: Book 1 of a series, trad published, female author, star

Virginia McClain: This one left me with very little to guess at. The hint planet made me think Sci-Fi and then I had to try to figure out which sci-fi I had read that featured a planet and was book 1 of a series (and was trad pub by a female author). I spent a while thinking it might be A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna, but ultimately decided that wasn’t really about a single planet so much as many and then went with N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series which starts with The Fifth Season. I REALLY DESPERATELY wished that I knew enough about Hungarian to be able to tell if this was written in 2nd person, but… I do not. And I really couldn’t even find enough words I was certain might be verbs to be able to guess at their tense. ALSO, not every language has notable differences between 2nd and 3rd person, and for all I know Hungarian doesn’t so… I gave up trying and decided to go with it mainly based on the hints alone.

Note: I gave Virginia the incorrect hint “planet” instead of “star”. Her modified thought process is below.

Virginia McClain: I can’t decide between A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna and Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. Either one kinda works but… hang on I’m gonna learn from Noor Al-Shanti’s round and compare opening paragraphs! Ok. Yeah. Black Sun totally fits! The sentence lengths match. And the word repetition matches. From comparing the first couple of sentences I might even guess that Anjya is mother and kupat is cup! So, I’m gonna roll with Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse! Also, Noor was definitely smart to compare the texts. I wasn’t sure if that was allowed or not, so I didn’t do it the first time through, but now I wish I had!

Guess: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Timy: Yup, your guesses for mother and cup are correct!

The correct answer: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

The Original Quote

Today he would become a god. His mother had told him so. 

„Drink this”, she said, handing him a cup. The cup was long and thin and filled with a pale creamy liquid. When he sniffed it, he smelled the orange flowers that grew in looping tendrils outside his window, the ones with the honey centers. But he also smelled the earthy sweetness of the bell-shaped flowers she cultivated in her courtyard garden, the one he was never allowed to play in. And he knew there were things he could not smell in the drink, secret things, things that came from the bag his mother wore around her neck, that whitened the tips of her fingers and his own tongue.



„Add ide a kalapod.”

Szavak, amikről nem gondolnád, hogy egy legenda kezdetei, de ezek voltak az elsők, amiket tőle hallott.

Neki szóltak, természetesen.

Korán volt. A halak szaga megtöltötte az orrát és utat talált a gyomrába, felerősítve kezdődő hányingerét. A feje zúgott, a kezei remegését pedig csak az első pohár hajóbor enyhíthette. Az elméjében tanyázó fájdalom enyhülne ahogy a sűrű folyadék átfolyik a nyelőcsövén, felmelegítve a torkát és a beleit.

Hints: Book 1 of a series, traditionally published, male author, myth coming to life

Ok. I was sorely tempted to look at the English opening page to compare the text on this one, BUT I DID NOT. Please applaud my restraint. I don’t even know if that would be cheating but it FELT like cheating, so I didn’t do it. Anyway, in the end, the word legenda along with the hints led me to thinking this was Sarwat Chadda’s City of the Plague God. Mainly because I *think* there is a reference to a legendary shwarma in the opening lines of that book, and also because it was the only book I could think of from my reading list that was about myth’s coming to life written by a guy and traditionally published. So, here we are.

Guess: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda

Timy: Well, I admit this was a tricky one…

The correct answer: The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

The Original Quote

„Give me your hat.”

They are not the sort of words that you expect to start a legend, but they were the first words he ever heard her say.
She said them to him, of course.

It was early. The scent of fish filled his nose and worked its way into his stomach, awakening the burgeoning nausea. His head ached, and his hands trembled in a way that would only be stilled by the first cup of shipwine. Then the pain in his mind would fade as the thick liquid slithered down his gullet, warming his throat and guts.



Az igazi történet feleannyira sem szép, mint amit hallottál. Az igazi történet ugyanis, hogy a molnár aranyhajú lánya meg akar szerezni egy lordot, herceget, egy gazdag ember fiát, ezért elmegy az uzsoráshoz hogy pénzt kölcsönözzön gyűrűhöz és nyaklánchoz amivel felcicomázza magát a fesztiválra. A lány szép, így a lord, a herceg, a gazdag ember fia észreveszi őt, táncolnak, hancúroznak egy csendes szénakazalban amikor a táncnak vége, aztán hazamegy és elveszi a gazdag nőt akit a családja választott számára. A szégyenben hagyott molnár lánya mindenkinek azt mondja, hogy az uzsorás lepaktált az ördöggel, és a falu elkergeti, talán meg is kövezi, szóval a lány legalább megtarthatja az ékszereket hozományként, és a kovács feleségül veszi, mielőtt az elsőszülött gyermek egy kicsit korábban érkezik.

Hints: standalone, trad published, female author, fairy tale retelling

Virginia McClain: This one took me FOREVER to guess, but only because my memory is pretty bad and it took me a long time to remember what trad published fairy tale retelling I had read that was a standalone! Eventually, I realized it could be Uprooted OR Spinning Silver, BUT I found the word fesztivalra in there and I latched onto it HARD. Assuming it’s not a false cognate (which it easily could be) Uprooted starts with the festival for the “dragon” to claim his “sacrifice” and that’s what made me choose Uprooted in the end.

Guess: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Timy: Well, at least you are right about festival! And got the author right, too…

The correct answer: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

The Original Quote

The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard. The real story is, the miller’s daughter with her long golden hair wants to catch a lord, a prince, a rich man’s son, so she goes to the moneylender and borrows for a ring and a necklace and decks herself out for the festival. And she’s beautiful enough, so the lord, the prince, the rich man’s son notices her, and dances with her, and tumbles her in a quiet hayloft when the dancing is over, and afterwards he goes home and marries the rich woman his family has picked out for him. Then the miller’s despoiled daughter tells everyone that the moneylander’s in league with the devil, and the village runs him out or maybe even stones him, so at least she gets to keep the jewels for a dowry, and the blacksmith marries her before that firstborn child comes along a little early.



A _ szüzességért folyó licit meghaladta a valaha jegyzett legmagasabb értéket, részben mivel minden más Éjjeli Virág elkelt mire tizenahat évesek lettek. Míg a komor sikátorok mélyén működő kétes bordélyházak bármilyen testtel üzleteltek amit a pénzzel rendelkező férfiak megkívántak, és nem voltak rendes feljegyzéseik, a Lebegő Világ íratlan szabályai megkövetelték, hogy egy Virág érintetlen maradjon mielőtt kivirágzik a Menny Harmata által. Húszévesen, _nek volt néhány éve hogy felkeltse a gazdag férfiak figyelmét exotikus vonásaival, és bánatára még nem vérzett.

Hints: first book of a series, self-published, male author, Asian inspired

Virginia McClain: This one the only word I could latch onto was exotikus. Hoping it means exotic, but then unable to place that word in any of the English text from the openings of the books I could think of. Ultimately, 1st in series, self-pub, male authored, and Asian inspired, led me to guess Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang, I believe that one opens with the MC practicing her lute (maybe? my memory is truly terrible) and it’s conceivable the word exotic is used that opening page, but I wouldn’t put money on it. Anyway, that’s my best guess!

Guess: Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang

Timy: Once again, you were pretty close!

The correct answer: Thorn of the Night Blossoms by JC Kang

The Original Quote

The ongoing bid on Jie’s virginity had already exceeded the highest recorded, in part because every other Night Blossom was claimed by sixteen. While seedy whorehouses in dingy back alleys dealt in whatever flesh a man with coin craved, and didn’t necessarily keep accurate records, the Floating World’s unwritten conventions stipulated that a Blossom remain unplucked before she flowered with Heaven’s Dew. At twenty, Jie had extra years to catch the eye of wealthy men with her exotic features, and to her lament, had yet to bleed.

Results: 3/5

I decided to give 0.5 points for guessing the author right, and that’s how that result came to be. Well done, Virginia!

Check out how others did with this feature on the What the Hungarian?! page!

If you’d like to try this feature out, please contact us for further details!


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