Word of the Week: pongyola - POND-yulo (dressing-gown

It is a commonly accepted fact, in Britain, that you have to turn to other languages for the really important words: weltschmerz; naive; schadenfreude; crescendo; schnorrer; kayak.  I haven't yet discovered a Hungarian word for which there is no English equivalent - although one might argue that some, such as Kürtőskalács (a traditional Transylvanian chimney-shaped cake, baked outdoors - yes, seriously.  Have a look below) need  no equivalent.  In England we have Mr Kipling and that's perfectly adequare, thanks very much.

But dressing-gowns, although not an exclusively Hungarian concept, were - at least to my Hungarians - an art form.  I don't mean the silk or velvet-lapelled kind you're probably thinking of, you with your terrible preconceptions about Central Europeans-at-leisure, some of which are probably true.  I mean pre-bed-wear as a state of mind; the idea that, after work or school or just an undemanding day spent learning several languages, taking soup to a 'poor sick boy' aged 92, walking half way across London to an exhibition, writing letters, cooking a vast meal for several distant relatives from Budapest and watching a Russian film, in Russian, one might relax by changing out of one's smart everyday clothes into something, yes, more comfortable.  My grandfather wouldn't have dreamed of such informality; my grandmother, however, embraced it, with a range of, well, sturdy outer nighties-cum-housecoat-kaftans which would have been the envy of a medium-sized ladies' outfitter. I spent so much time with her that now 'to pongyola' has become a verb.  We need an English equivalent - although not, please, not, 'to onesie'.

 

 

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