Years ago when we were visiting my mom in Cleveland it was always tough when we were leaving. My mom, being alone and all since my sister and I left the nest, and I being the offspring who moved away, it was particularly difficult for her. She adored seeing us, cooking all of my favorite things, and seeing the boys and Mary Kay.
One time, she told us this ethnic story of some Hungarians. Truthfully, I don’t know whether the story is even true or maybe just made up by someone, but I tend to think that it is real.
My mom told us of some Hungarians who were trying oh so hard to learn English and to use the proper expressions at the appropriate times. We language learners know that there is nothing funnier than situations when people are experimenting with a language and just not managing to do so. Not that we want to laugh at their mistakes, but it is just funny. I always implored my students to be oh so careful when using colloquial expressions just for that reason, to be sure that they really understood the usage and the nuances.
Well, these Hungarians were interested in knowing the proper way to say “goodbye” and they asked some people, supposed friends, to tell them what to say upon taking leave of someone. They were given an expression and practiced it so their pronunciation was in order and then left.
One day, as they were taking leave of someone, they did the final small talk, were ready to leave and yelled out as they were departing and waving their hands in a goodbye gesture, “Go to Hell!” They thought they were saying something nice. Instead they almost got into trouble!
My mom told us the story and we took it in, this all occurring during our visit. As usual, the day of departure approached and my mom’s eyes started tearing up. We were all in the car, all five of us, and opened up the windows as we were ready to put the car into gear and yelled out to my mom, “Go to Hell!” This is particularly funny because not only did my mom start smiling and laughing but there were nosy neighbors on her Parma, Ohio Street who took it in as well and wondered what was going on. From that moment on, our family goodbye taking always includes a good “Go to Hell” and a big smile.