FW: Beware

Wed May 17 17:44:16 UTC 2006

        There is a more verifiable account of this type in Napoleon
Chagnon's book Yanomamo - The Last Days of Eden, pp. 24 - 25, where he
discusses his collection of genealogical information, which in fact
amounted to an invasion of the Yanomamo system of prestige and
etiquette, if not a flagrant violation of it.  The Yanomamo for a period
of five months maintained a systematic sabotage of his project.  The

        <<My anthropological bubble burst when, some five months after I
had begun collecting the genealogies, I visited a village about ten
hours' walk to the southwest of Bisaasi-teri.  In talking with the
headman of this village, I casually dropped the name of the wife of the
Bisaasi-teri headman, to show off a bit and demonstrate my growing
command of the language and of who was who.  A stunned silence followed,
and then a villagewide roar of uncontrollable laughter, choking,
gasping, and howling.  It seems that I thought the Bisaasi-teri headman
was married to a woman named "hairy cunt."  It also came out that I was
calling the headman "long dong," his brother "eagle shit," one of his
sons "asshole," and a daughter "fart breath.">>

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of hpst at earthlink.net
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:05 AM
Subject: Beware

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 outsiders.

Page Stephens

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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