a dedicated space for curiosity

rudas bath, budapest: Leaf Press

In About All Publications, About Image Works, About Word Works on 02/08/2011 at 16:46

A vowel is a vowel is a vowel … right?

Well, not exactly. A vowel is only a vowel when it’s recognized as one,
and a vowel in the word ‘gyógyfürdő’, I’ve discovered, isn’t recognized as one in all places.

Below, the back-story, told backwards:

A steamy experience in Hungary is featured as ‘Monday’s Poem’ at Leaf Press:

rudas bath, budapest

The photo that appears with my words is the only one I took at the spa–the only snapshot the attendant permitted.

This bath is my favorite in Budapest–a city touted as ‘spa capital of the world’.


The process that accompanied publication included a linguistic snag:

The original submission was called ‘rudas gyógyfürdő, budapest’. The Hungarian word ‘gyógyfürdő’ translates into English as ‘medicinal bath’. This word–gyógyfürdő–is the one that caused the glitch.

Late Sunday evening, the night before publication, I opened an email from Leaf Press publisher Ursula Vaira:

I am working on the poem now, and am stuck on the last o in gyógyfürdő … my software (Dreamweaver) simply has no character for that.  Even when I go to a website and copy the word and paste it directly in, it still turns up as a question mark.

It’s interesting that Dreamweaver understands the vowels ó and ü, but not ő.
Makes me wonder what other languages feature the first two vowels, but not the last…


An abbreviated all-English version now stands:  rudas bath, budapest


Other Leaf Press featured writers include:
Rose Hunter,  rob mcLennan, Daniela Elza & Christina Shah, Tammy Ho Lai-ming,
14 Poets [including Dorothee Lang]

This blog post is included in Edition #4 of the BluePrint blog carnival >Language>Place.
It is hosted by UK-based editor, translator, and university administrator Jean Morris.
The direct link to the carnival is here.

  1. The same thing happens frequently with Old English and Middle English characters. My husband would say it’s all down to the letters that the original computer guys (the kind that read binary code for fun) were familiar with. One of these days the standard character set will have to expand. It’s nice to have the full story so that we can all see the beauty in your original title:-)

  2. Thank-you graystone:-)

  3. Congrats again Karyn. Lovely…. Now we just need to get you to pronounce that word for us!

  4. Thank-you Rose:-) As for the pronunciation of gyógyfürdő, I’ll need someone to say it correctly for me first!

  5. Yet another reason why online publishers should ditch Dreamweaver. I have yet to find a foreign character that a WordPress installation with UTF-8 encoding can’t handle (witness your ability to reproduce it correctly above — WordPress.com uses UTF-8).

    • Dave, would you say this represents a ‘natural’development in the sophistication of programs that has come with awareness of the increasing communication across linguistic boundaries on the Internet? I know nothing about Dreamweaver, but imagine it is older that WordPress. I have no idea, though.

  6. Maybe I should ask my friend in Hungary to pronounce it and them maybe we can post that with the impossible vowel. I am enjoying this carnival.

    • Daniela, that would be nice :-) I know how it sounds, but am not sure how to express it in written words, phonetically. I think it’s something like: dy-aw-dy-feer-doo [with a rolling ‘r’].

  7. Karyn, yes, quite a few years older. The Wikipedia article on Unicode should get you up to speed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicode

  8. Very interesting. Thanks for the link!

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