One day my first year in Budapest I was giving my third graders a lesson on abbreviations. Kids like abbreviations. When given a choice, they will always choose to abbreviate a word rather than write it all out. For children, it’s way more fun to write Jan. than January and U.S.A. than the United States of America. After making a list of abbreviations on the white board, I asked my students to tell me their favorites. Kids have favorite foods, sports, and subjects in school. Why not have a favorite abbreviation?
As I wrote them down, I made tally marks next to the words. Botond’s favorite was mt. because he liked the mountains. Bogi chose Sat. It was her favorite day of the week. Sarah said hers was Dec. because it was his birthday month. And András’s was dept. because it was a super hard one.
Bendeguz’s arm shot up. He was Hungarian. “B.U.É.K.!” he announced.
“What’s that?” I said.
“Boldog Új Évet Kívánok!” all the Hungarians answered in unison.
“Happy New Year!” they chorused.
I looked surprised. “Happy New Year in Hungarian is an abbreviation?”
I thought about it for a second. “If Happy New Year were an abbreviation in English, it would be H.N.Y.” I tried to say it, and it came out as “Huh, Nuh, Yuh.” The kids giggled as they gave it a try.
“Can I change my abbreviation?” Bogi called out. “I want B.U.É.K. now, too.”
“I do too,” Boti said.
Soon we were done with our tallies. B.U.É.K. won by a landslide.
As we ring in 2014, I wish you all a great big B.U.É.K. from Hungary…and a giant Huh, Nuh, Yuh, too.