Word of the Week: macska - MOTCH-ko (cat)

Bilinguality is a mystery to me.  As you may have gathered from this, our intensive exploration of Hungarian linguistics, I have no ear for languages whatsoever. It's a miracle I can speak English at all. So it was with frankly immense joy and excitement that I realised, only a few years ago, that in one sole word I am fully bilingual.  Whenever I see a cat I don't think 'cat'; I think 'hello, motchko'.

This plainly makes no sense at all.  Shouldn't it be something much more useful and familiar: 'hungry' or 'idiot' or 'we can speak loudly, they won't understand a word'?  My grandparents lived in a second-floor London flat without so much as a window-box; I spent the first two years of my life in a block on Queensway, KVEENS-vay, where - if you know that part of London - it is difficult to imagine a weed, let alone a bird, or an animal, existing, unless in edible form. My grandmother liked gardens, in that she liked walking into other people's and wrenching great branches of lilac or MOG-nolyo from their shrubbery to put in vases but, as far as I know, she had no interest in animals whatseover.

Yet, when I see a cat, it's her word I think first of all.