Saturday, September 13, 2008

The churning calabash

Sit up straight and listen, because I am going to transform your life. The way we look at the world is conditioned by where we live and who we are. You can see that when it comes to statements of the bleeding obvious, I am no slouch. But bear with me, because I am going to tell you about Tingo. Or, to be more precise, about two books called The Meaning of Tingo and Toujours Tingo, both by an author with the outrageous name of Adam Jacot de Boinod.
What AJdeB has done is to scour the dictionaries of the world to find words that define experiences for which we have no words, or for experiences which are foreign to us. Both works are so quotable that I could literally pick something from any page in either book, so just a few to whet your appetite:
pikun (Kapampangan, Phillipines) one who cannot take a joke
kasyapa (Sanskrit) having black teeth
drhey (Pashto, Afghanistan) the word used when addressing sheep
The very ancient amongst you who have been with my blog since the beginning will remember that I created an East Anglian version of the “Meaning of Liff”. Good fun, but that was spoof whereas the words in AjdeB's books are for real. Log on to Amazon, buy a copy of each, make AjdeB a rich man (yeah, some hopes, given the meanness of publishers' royalties these days) and treat yourself to a linguistic treat. A couple more, this time idioms, to give you the flavour:
The equivalent of “No use crying over spilt milk” in Welsh:
piad a chodi pais are ol piso – literally, don't lift a petticoat after peeing. (What??)
The equivalent of “Don't count your chickens before they're hatched” in Ndonga (Namibia):
ino manga ondjupa ongombe inaayi valu - literally, don't hang the churning calabash before the cow has calved. (What???).
I rest my case.

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