Is my face red.
Despite all my so-called cultural sensitivity, I have put my foot in it well and truly. I was responding to a question on a Facebook Page that promotes the preservation and use of the Roviana Language. The question was what was the Roviana equivalent to “Hello”?
A lot of suggestions were made that translate literally as good day or good afternoon, or how are you? and so forth, and the complaint was made that none of them meant exactly the same as “hello”. My contribution was vea or “how” short for vea si goi? or “How are you?” It was dismissed as not the exact translation.
I responded by pointing out that “Hello”, like “Hi”, “G’day”, “S’up?” , “How’s it going?” and a dozen other greetings, was idiomatic, and may not always have an exact translation. In any language there are always idiomatic sayings which, literally translated, cannot carry the same meaning or emotive power as the original word or phrase in the language. As an example I used the phrase batu hikama which is an insult that literally translated means “crayfish head”. Seemingly a fairly mild sounding insult. However the emotive power of the phrase is such that it is one of the deadliest insults, if not the most, in Roviana and worse than calling someone a dog. It is probably better translated as “sh*t head”, but even that does not convey the full power of the word.
It is indeed a powerful word even when used without being directed at anyone.
Such a furore. I had overlooked that this was a not a forum of objective academic interest, and also that many of the people on it did not know me personally.
I deleted my own post before an administrator did.
Bro the post sapu te allan Freshwater si gunia..its good that you deleted it..he was using some foul language as examples so I responded to it..am jst thanking you that its been deleted or maybe he did??
Too late of course. Such is the power of gossip that anything positive I am ever have achieved with Solomon Islanders will be forever tainted by that one injudicious comment. I am now the chap who wrote batu hikama on a public forum.
Reminds me of an old joke I just heard retold on TED . The teller was also using the power to shock in order to make a point, but this time the joke applies to me:
An old man sitting at a bar is in his cups. He is drunk and maudlin and teary-eyed.
He turns to the person beside him and says “You know, I built this bar with my own hands. I lovingly planed and shaped the timber, I cut mortices and tenons, and I put this whole thing together without using a single nail or screw. But do they call me Jimmy the carpenter? No!”
“And the stone work outside. I did that too. With my own two hands and a hammer and chisel I shaped each of those rocks and built that wall so that it stands by itself -weatherproof and wind-proof without the use of mortar. But do they call me Jimmy the Stonemason? No!”
“But fuck one goat….”