Friday, February 27, 2015

Words that traveled - another image-free post

Listening to a radio station yesterday, and the announcer used the word 'mumkin'. In Arabic, munkin means maybe, in Bahasa Indonesia, mumkin means maybe. Means the same thing in Hindi as well, my driver informs me, so presumably in Urdu, in Persian, etc.

It's traveled a long way, that word - you can use it from Morocco to East Timor and it's local.

I was thinking, are there other words that have traveled so well? The best other candidate I could come up with is 'lima' - means 'five' in Tagalog, in Bahasa Indonesia, in Fijian, in Hawaiian. In Maori, it's 'rima' for five, not a great stretch.

Of course, globalism has put an end to the traveling word phenomena. 'Boyfriend' and 'mobile' probably mean the same thing everywhere today, in every language - I remember being on a boat of refugees in Dili harbour in 1998, and those two words stood out in the otherwise incomprehensible language the girls on the boat were speaking, even then.

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