Tag Archives: Arabic

Learning the Lingo

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Don't let the lingo separate you

 

Having recently  run into hapless taxi drivers taking me anywhere but where I’ve asked to go, I’m stepping up learning the  lingo. ‘Learning the lingo, eh?’  is something my Aussie neighbour would drawl as he staggered home after a night at the  pub. He’d lean his battered Gladstone bag on our fence and sway while listening to my recital of  Dans le Bois, a French poem I was preparing for my test at Alliance Francaise. Inside the house my parents would be arguing while watching TV and down the back, in the kitchen, my eldest sister washed up while listening  to the Top 40. Sitting on the front steps under the street lights, was my escape from the racket, and my own little theatre. 

When work took us to Ujung Pandang in  Indonesia, I picked up the language readily but not before an embarrassing  incident played out  in front of  my neighbours. Coming home laden with shopping, I asked the maid to grab the kucing and open the door: 

The Maid: But  we  don’t have a kucing, Ibu. 

Me: Here on my car keys…quick open the door 

The Maid: I can’t see a kucing on your car keys 

Me: Here! Here! In front of you the kucing..take it and put it in the door 

By now the neighbours had gathered to watch the spectacle and burst into  laughter when once again I demanded the maid  put the cat in the door  (kucing=cat/kunci=key) 

What’s worse is that I visited my Greek relatives which I had not seen in over 40 years 

They threw me a party with flowing wine, drink and dance and so overwhelmed me with love  that I burst into tears and blurted out, ‘Your welcome has made me suicidal!’  The party ended then and there and I wondered why everyone was giving me such a wide berth. It wasn’t until the following day I realised I had mixed up the word suicidal with the Greek phrase for emotional, and thankfully the wine , food and love started to flow again. Although raised in a Greek house, my language was adulterated because my parents, like other migrants, would mix it with the English they were learning so you would get things like: 

carro=car= Grk. mahxi 

friza=refrigerator= Grk. psiyio 

televisio=TV= Grk.teliorisi 

In fact my Greek in Greece was so bad that my cousin wrote out all  my lingo  just so she could  laugh at it after I’d  gone home. 

What I enjoy about  having access to the Greek language is the many words whose root meanings come from the Greek. Here in Arabia I have come across several: tea, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, chocolate. 

I may get taken for a ride by the local taxi drivers but I will never starve!