Books : reviews

Mamadou Niang.
Pulaar Dictionary.
Hippocrene Books. 1997

(read but not reviewed) review : 6 September 2002

I like skimming through dictionaries of foreign languages, to see the words that get translated into long phrases of English; the words that English has no bundled concept for; the words that might give some insight into an alien culture. It leads to the thought, what words in English require similar wordy translations into foreign languages?

I picked up this dictionary of Pulaar, a dialect of the African Fula language, during a recent semi-regular trip to Hay-on-Wye (read: the Welsh town comprising essentially nothing but second-hand bookshops).

The dictionary would imply a people concerned with farming millet and cattle, with cooking and eating, with the Moslem religion, with unbraiding hair and getting vaccinations, with war and examinations and marriage and child-bearing, and with urinating and defecating.

It includes words such as: • alde v. place animals in a hedged area • amnude v. make someone dance • ande v. 1) cut fish into pieces 2) be obscure • askinde v. tell the genealogy of someone • baami fibres used for false hair • bambu cloth used for tying a child on one's back • beyaat second clearance of weeds • bolce vomited milk • botoboto feast organised by children • buy adv. very yellow • ceggitoowo person who filters liquids again • dawde v. go to work in the morning • eloowo 1) person who disdains 2) person who cuts wood into pieces • fesaade v. 1) be intelligent 2) be vaccinated • fewjande v. 1) make food for someone 2) conspire; plot [so, "cook up a plot"?] • fongude v. remember and say something during a meal • harsude v. make a slip-knot • hawde v. 1) charge with the head 2) prevail; win; defeat • huwde v. 1) defecate 2) lie • jawdi 1) cattle; animals 2) possessions • jeenay nine • jeenayo the ninth person in rank • jumde v. 1) request; file a claim/suit 2) get honey from a hive • jumpude v. jiggle a bucket in a well • lamminde v. 1) make sour 2) joke around 3) appoint a chief • luuti posthumous child • meppo person with a lower lip smaller than the upper lip • ooyde v. be unwilling to share food • ormaade v. crush tobacco in one's palm • rungaade v. carry on the head without a head pad • ruttude v. 1) vomit 2) reimburse; refund; give change 3) repel • suutaade v. leave one's husband's compound after a dispute • taalnande v. inflict a wound on behalf of someone • taaraade v. 1) besiege; surround; circumvent 2) urinate • tagdude v. create simultaneously • talde v. cut a big piece of raw meat • tufam mixture of milk, sugar and water • tufde v. 1) pierce 2) mix water and milk • wambude v. carry a child on one's back • yaajde v. 1) be wide 2) be patient