Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Never do fieldwork (part 2)

(For background, the first post on this is here.)

Today we discovered that the word for "husband" and the word for "pork" in the language we are working on are the same, except for the tone. That tone we can't hear, remember? This led to us saying, "I am eating your husband" every time we tried to talk about something more normal.

Of course, in reality it wouldn't be a problem, since our speaker's village is in nothing-but-sago territory, and they are more likely to be eating people's husbands than pork.

Those people in the group with experience of sago-eating areas managed to find plenty of excuses later in the session when our speaker invited us to go visit her village.
"But it is a good village!" she said. "It is a very decent village. We are very proper people." And then, in what she must have imagined to be a deal-clincher, "It is easy to get to. There is an international airport in the city near us. And from there, the village is only one day's walk through the bush."
Then she looked us up and down appraisingly. "Maybe two days."


liina said...

I'm doing a month-long walking challenge at the moment and the trip to that village would generate a decent number of steps! Maybe I could post you my pedometer so you could wear it for me?

~profgrrrrl~ said...

This reminds me of an incident on my last trip to Thailand. A colleague who has been going there for years and who sort of speaks the language a little bit tried to order water with a meal, but the tonal thing got to him and the waiter thought he asked for a big glass of fish sauce.

StyleyGeek said...

Liina, somehow I don't think that is how it works :)

Profgrrrrl, that's exactly the sort of thing I would do. The tones, I hate them.

Never. Again.

liina said...

I know, I know. I won't cheat, I'll just pound the pavements of London. NOT that much fun, I'd rather be meeting weird tribes.

liina said...

P.S. Doesn't chinese have the same word for "mother" and "horse"? I remember hearing an example of both once, luckily that's the sort of tone difference we can hear :)