Name. First name. Middle name. Last name. Surname. Family name. Given name. Maiden name. Current name. Previous name.
What do all of these things have in common? Forms. When you fill out a form, you usually have to write your name. It has to be in a certain order, and these words are used to describe what it is. Just when you think you know them all, somone thinks of a new word.
Then, they translate it into Hungarian. That's a whole new ballgame.
Would you like to know a nice little bit of trivia? In Hungary, you write your last name followed by your first name. If you have a middle name, it usually goes at the end. Sometimes. Plus, pick up a pen right now, and try to sign your name in a different order. It's hard, isn't in?
If you're an American in Hungary, someone has to translate the form for you. When they tell you to write your name, you have to ask, "Which way?" Usually, they seem confused and have to ask someone else. No one ever seems to know.
I get an answer like "surname" - which I can never remember, first or last? - but there's not a lot of confidence in the answer. I'm supposed to write my name how it appears on official documents. But, my official documents are different than the official documents that the form expects.
Official documents, official documents, official documents.
There are probably five million of my official documents in dozens of government offices in Central Europe. Many were filled out by someone else, and as a result, are spelled wrong.
My mother's maiden name is used a surprising amount, and it's two words long. This really throws a wrench in the gears. Today, someone wrote it on a form with the words reversed and one was spelled incorrectly.
It's beginning to remind me of the chapter in Catch-22 when Yossarian starts taking random words out of letters to see what happens. So far, no one seems to have noticed.
The good news is, someone with a name resembling mine opened a bank account and registered for the national health insurance today. I can see it now:
Me (in Hunglish): "I'd like to see a doctor, I'm sick."
Hungarian Hospital Official (in Hungarian): "Name?"
Me (in Hunglish): "I don't know. Just write anything, it's a safe bet I've filled out a form with that name."
Hungarian word of the day: fánk (it rhymes with honk) it means doughnut. I like it because it makes doughnuts sound funky.