"Is your potato tasty?" That is the first sentence I learned in Hungarian, courtesy of Andy Wislen. He had spent time in Budapest learning the Magyar skills of breakfast drinking, preposition misplacement and border confusion.
I put it to good use in the Soviet Union, when the snack bar of Hostel No.3 In The Name of Pavlik Morozov at Voronezh State University In The Name of The Man Who Invented Beetroot was invaded one morning by 13 lascivious, chain-swearing Hungarian girls. Three of these deposited themselves and a selection of stale peppers at the table next to myself and my room-mate, "The Rev" David James.
We knew enough of their cut-and-shunt language to grasp that they were sizing up our respective merits as bed-fellows, and frankly neither of us was too pleased with the verdicts - accompanied as they were by wilting gestures and the Danube equivalent of retard noises.
We wrought our vengeance by casually leaning over on depature and muttering our two choice phrases - The Rev's being "Calvinista vagyok" (answers on a postcard of Esztergom Cathedral nave, please).
We ten Brits were the only West European men at the university, apart from a Portuguese Communist and a dipso French teacher called Adolphe. Chosing to be a Bolshevik was considered a sign of sick humour or soaring stupidity by beneficiaries of the Warsaw Pact, and M. le professeur's name won him no friends out there, so the Hungarian gals soon decided that we were the best they were going to get - whether we liked or not.
This equipped me with a skeletal grammar and x-rated vocabulary of the Hunnish tongue, plus a great respect for the stamina and sheer depravity of that moustache-wrangling nation.
My next encounter with a Hungarian came while working for a consultancy company in Oxford. János was our Budapest rep, and had the charm one associates with the man about Pest - with his German jacket, elegantly receding hair and chess-player's brow. As the say, he could enter a revolving door behind you and emerge ahead of you.
He also had a terrifying wife called Ildikó - a peroxide collision between Courtney Love and Sarah Palin in an overcrowded wonderbra, with an appetite for riding boots and carmine lipstick. I rather liked her.
János came over to a conference in Oxford one year. I introduced him to my young lady, who also happened to work with us. While I was bullshitting expertly about Bulgarian bonds to some Tarquin de Coke type from Daterape Merchant Bank, I noticed János take missy aside for a chat.
I later asked her what it was about, in the most casual manner possible.
"Quite funny, actually," she simpered. "János and his wife are going to dinner with Burlington Arcade III this evening, but Ildikó has left her tights in their hotel and won't have time to fetch them.
"She asked János to pick some up for her from the shops, as she's in meetings all morning. Being a typical man, he doesn't know the difference between tights and stockings and didn't want to get it wrong, so he asked me to explain.
"He still didn't get it, so in the end I just showed him my stockings. I think that did the trick."
What is a Hungarian? A Hungarian is a man who can get a young woman he has just met to show him her garters in a crowded office, a few feet from where her partner is sitting.
What I never had the heart to tell her was that János's wife hadn't come on the trip.