Beware hpst at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue May 16 15:04:44 UTC 2006

Beware of dictionaries of languages you do not speak.

I cannot vouch for the truth of this story but a friend of mine told me it
happened to him.

He was doing fieldwork in Kenya and in the course of his fieldwork he used
an informant to verify the names of plants in the local language by using a
manuscript written by another fieldworker.

It went well, and he managed to correct or at least add to the entries.

It went well that is until he got to the last entry in the manuscript when
his informant broke out laughing.

When he asked his informant why he was laughing he was told that that is
not the name of a plant but only meant, "I am tired of this and want to

If this story is not true it is still a good story and having done
fieldwork in various places where you had to make certain that your
informants were not bullshitting you you have to be very careful that your
informants were not putting you on.

The key to this is to live long enough with them so that they accept you as
an insider to the point where both you and they get together to put on

Page Stephens

The American Dialect Society -

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