Evolution or Corruption? (You tell me!)

April 15, 2008 at 9:34 am 3 comments

They start out innocently enough, these expressions that spread like a germ and infect our language and, sometimes, the language of others. We hear them on tv, or while somebody we consider “cool” is saying them. And, before we know it, our mothers are swaping them over “buna” and “qurs”.

People who study languages would tell you there is no such thing as “wrong” language. The only role language plays in our day to day lives is serving as a communication device. So, if you managed to communicate your thoughts and ideas effectively, nobody can accuse you of not speaking properly. But I believe there is “wrong usage” of words and expressions, and every one of us should take it upon him/herself to correct them every time we come across.

Take the expression “biw alku! nervous honku!”, for example. The “ergo zimb” in this expression is “nervous”, an English word which according to Merriam Webster, means:-

1: archaic : SINEWY, STRONG
2: marked by strength of thought, feeling, or style : SPIRITED <a vibrant tight-packed nervous style of writing
3: of, relating to, or composed of neurons
4 a: of or relating to the nerves; also : originating in or affected by the nerves b: easily excited or irritated : JUMPY c: TIMID, APPREHENSIVE
5 a: tending to produce nervousness or agitation : UNEASY b: appearing or acting unsteady, erratic, or irregular —used of inanimate things

As it happens “biw alku” and “nervous honku” are the exact opposites of one another. Yet you hear the expression even from those you expect to know better. A good example of “being taken by the tide”?! I think so!

Another expression I heard this morning from those standing around a smashed car is: “Tigist Argo bihon noro…”. Now, I am well aware which language the expression “tigist arg” is adopted from and that I’m no expert when it comes to the subject of languages, especially Amharic. True, I’ve taken a couple of courses on “Amarigna SewAsew” for my Ethiopian Language studies at Addis Ababa University (the experiences of which I briefly related as a comment to one of Arefe’s posts, of arefe. wordpress .com, under the title “The Creeping Corruption of Amharic”). But, being one of those unfortunate kids taken to first grade before paying “Qess Timihirt Bet” a visit (or kindergarten for that matter, there weren’t many of those around!) I still get fogged about the inner workings of it. More so when it involves forumlas! Me and formula have always been what my Arada brothers would call “Iraq ena Chiraq”; what Zimb is to Qusil, and Nacha to Ayn. Have you noticed, by the way, this tendency of those who love literature never doing well when it comes to subjects related to mathematics? It seems our brain can only use one of it’s sides at a time, words or formulas! Never together.)

As I was saying, I do not consider myself a “sewAsew liQ”. But I know you do not “do” nouns the way you “do” verbs. You can be named after them. And you can become their adjective form (as in “tagash”, “afqari”, “techawach”). But you don’t “beTegbaar mawaal” them (as in “tigist arg”, “fiqir sira”, “chewata chemir”), like you do with verbs. You can never “tigist maareg” as you wear a trouser, for example or “fiqir mesrat” as you would “tinish yergib bet” for your tanash wendim, so he won’t feel inferior to all those bigger boys who can whistle for their “buure” from across a mile and have it come and rest on their shoulders. And “chewata” certainly doesn’t have a knob you can tug at when bored. It sounds pretty trifle, i know, and a tendency of taking things too seriously on my part. But anyone would tell you it’s the “insignificant little” that help bring down the “significant big”.

Aydel? :-).

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Entry filed under: Latest Posts.

Kids, a license of abuse?! The halo

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. abyssinia  |  April 15, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    I’m guilty. I use the expressions you mentioned regularly, not knowing if they are right or wrong…”tigist arg” is commonly used among friends. But one that does not sound right to me, is “akileh yazew” for “take it easy”.

  • 2. abesheet  |  April 16, 2008 at 5:50 am

    “Aqileh yazew” should probably sound more Ethiopiawi if it were “aqlileh eyew”. Englizegnaw endewerede metekem. Isn’t that the real problem? Tinish Ethiopianize binadergew ena leQuanquwachin endemismama binetekemewko, after all, quanquwa balebet yelewm! I like “enelefew” better. Especially on taxi tebbs that would never “mabarat” unless somebody decided to let it go.

  • 3. abyssinia  |  April 16, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    You are absolutely right, quanquwa balebet yelewm! Be’agebabu metekem mechale new yaleben.

    Let me tell you what we did one night. A group of friends chilling at home decided to play a game. That is to speak ONLY Amarigna…not even “ok” is allowed. The penalty for every non-amarigna word is a quarter. We put a bowl in the middle of the table and before we know it, quarters start pilling up. That’s when I realized how much we corrupted our language. How do we teach our kids to speak Amarigna when WE can’t even speak properly?

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