Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whothehellami ?

The word for 'person, human' in certain Formosan languages is:
Favorlang/Babuza - babosa
Ci'uli Atayal - ci'uli?
Squliq Atayal - squliq
Sediq Taroko - sediq
Siraya - sidaia
Bunun - bunun
Which is a very obvious answer to 'What do you call yourselves?'

But not as good as the Australian native who was asked what a certain animal was, and answered: 'How the f**k should I know?' which is why we now call it a kangaroo.

The indri (lemur)'s name means nothing special; it's just 'Here it is!' in Malagache, the local Austronesian language of Madagascar. In Filipino Bisayan, also an Austronesian language, more closely related to Malagache (6000 miles away) than French (22 miles away) is to English, the same expression is "Diri na!"

If I could read Chinese (台灣;) I might tell you what T'ai-wan means. Wikipedia says "Both Tayoan and the island name Taiwan derive from a word in Sirayan, one of the Formosan languages"

The only word I can find in Siraya that remotely resembles that is 'mat-tauwa' meaning 'laugh'. Perhaps the colonising Dutch really were laughable, before they started in on the usual native massacres.

Formosa just means 'beautiful', so, if I was one of the very few Formosans left, I would be happy that everyone else, including even linguists ;-) called me that.
Many years ago, I went travelling around Wadi Rum in Jordan, with a local guide named Ahmed Hellawi. We kept on getting lost, so he still has the nickname: "Where The?"