The Ungarian Key to Geschmack

Spotted recently in Rome, a package of Crik Crok potato chips, which are manufactured in Germany but sold in Italy:

Crik Crok Ungarische Taste

Behold the mysteries of cross-border snack-food marketing:Ungarisch is the German word for 'Hungarian'. Taste is the English word for 'taste', but the German word for 'key'. At the bottom, barely visible in this crappy cellphone picture, is "Gourmet Potato Chips." I think we cannot assume that the Germans intended an obscure reference to keys, since if the German word 'key' is feminine, so the preceding adjective would have to read 'ungarische'.

Therefore, the rule seems to be: "Everything after 'Ungarisch' is English." But why use the German word for Hungarian? I can understand why they might shy away from the English 'Hungarian', since it's got an "H" in front of it and therefore might confuse less cosmopolitan customers (who are nevertheless expected to be able to read English).

But why not just use the Italian word 'ungarico/ungarici'? These chips are, after all, marketed in Italy. I can think of only two explanations:

  1. The German marketing agency was just too damned lazy to look up the Italian word for Hungarian.
  2. German is joining English and French as a language 'sexy' enough to be used in empty catchphrases on T-shirts and consumer products.

I can't bring myself to believe #1, so it must be #2.

Does this mean German is now voll im Trend, so to speak? Will we start seeing the German equivalent of "100% Number-One Happye Free Pacific Coaste Motorcycleing Wondery Boy" on T-shirts and jackets from Sydney to Cairo to Kalamazoo?

We won't see that phrase in German, since the phrase and the language it's written in need to match somehow. When you use English nonsense slogans to attract customers in grayish countries full of meek, frustrated cubicle drones*, you want to evoke a sandy-haired golden boy cruising along the 'Pacific Coast Highway' (which often appears verbatim, albeit in various spellings) with his best girl's arms clasped across his wide, manly chest.

References to U.S. national monuments ('Tip=top Day of Joy and Freedom in Great Cenyon PArk of National Monuments') and fictional sports teams ('Kansas City Sport Team Warriors! Fierce, Yeah!') are good, too. French phrases often invoke 'petit' or 'gourmet,' to give that je ne sais quoi to whatever formless goo is contained in the shrink-wrapped package. The late, lamented Spy magazine once did an entire photo essay on the use of "le" and "la" to up-cachet barber shops, porno movie theatres (remember those?) and restaurants across the U.S.A.

So what does Germany have in the way of instantly-recognizable cultural cachet? I know what you're thinking. Stop it. But Germany does have long words. And philosophers! And composers! And umlauts, and that sexy, curvaceous ß character. I see no reason why T-shirt makers in Taiwan shouldn't start right in with the German phrases. After all, Volkswagen led the way years ago with Fahrvergnügen (yes, click on that link!). Here are some suggestions to start those third-world entrepreneurs in the right direction:

T-Shirt von Hegelianissche Vergangenheitsbewältigung — Prima Arbeit Macht Spaß

Beethoven Güteklasse 1A Made in Germany an die Freude National-Meisterwerk!

Mein Tagesbuch für meiner Teifnietsczcheanischen Gedenken

SchwarzwaldKuchen Christkindlmarkt vom Feinstern

Feel free to add more in comments.

* A science-loving friend of mine recently pointed out that phrases like 'office drone' and 'cubicle drone' are misnomers. Worker bees are actually the bees that toil away in cubicles. Drones, by contrast, have a pretty nice life of it: their primary purpose is to inseminate the queen. In mid-air, no less! Hardly emblematic of repetitive, mind-numbing office chores. There is a pretty significant downside to being a drone, however: "Should a drone succeed in mating it will soon die because the penis and associated abdominal tissues are ripped from the drone's body at sexual intercourse."

10 thoughts on “The Ungarian Key to Geschmack

  1. After reading this, I totally feel über voll im Trend, having, just last night, ordered a few T-shirts from Rumpfklunft for some of my relatives in France.
    As for “Ungarisch”, could it simply be that this “taste” only existed in Germany? Like French dressing isn’t really French?

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  2. Regarding „die ungarische Taste“: Perhaps “Ungarisch Taste” is just a case of „Deppenleerzeichen“, i.e. should have been „Ungarisch-Taste“ or „Ungarischtaste“? 🙂 Still, “key for switching to Hungarian” doesn’t make sense either…

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  3. At first: it is #1.

    Well, and Hungary sounds for German ears too much as hungry Hungerleider. And that’s too bitter to be pc.

    And Italians do like vocal-suffixes, even in German, don’t they, eh?

    Conclusion with #1: Ungarische Taste is not all right but it’s okay.

    ‘Gusto ungherese’ might be correct, but this funny something wouldn’t be bought in Italy by Germans, cause: err, what’s that.

    So what – it’s okay.

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  4. How about “ungarisch” as a kind of “fixed” common expression in the crisps producing industry ( >> the devil manifests in many shapes and sizes) as it is Forelle Müllerin, boeuf stroganoff et al. in cooking, and they thought it would be commmon at least Europe-wide?

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  5. It’s even easier than the previous suggestions.
    The exact same brand can be bought in Germany (I’ve seen it on display in vending machines on Cologne train stations), and it looks the same. It seems very likely that the manufacturing company sells it very cheap across the border, and thus doesn’t bother with marketing (or translating the package, to that matter) in the first place.

    Besides, it doesn’t look any less strange to Germans. Or to that particular German.

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  6. In a college town in upstate NY we bought a bumper sticker that read “Fahrfromüven” with a drawing of a stick figure in a hammock, smoking a fattie…

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