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Melanesian tok pisin: Lesson #1

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The Bucket’s Special Minority Languages Unit, in consultation with some of the world’s  pre-eminent linguistic scholars, is proud to inflict upon you  launch this special illustrated guide to the use of Melanesian tok pisin, the lingua franca of Papua new Guinea.

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Ol pato bilas gut tru na behainim wanpela man igat bilakpela hat.

Several ducks dressed in their finery are following a man with a black hat.

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messing with myhead

Dispela sampting emi bagarapim stret tingting bilong me.

This is really messing with my head.

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as-nating meri

Yangpela as-nating meri holim wonem sampting tru long han bilong em na lukluk igo long solawara?

What imaginary objects is the naked young lady pretending to hold while she’s looking out to sea?

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Cycling Pigeons

Planti pisin sindaon na pekpek nabaut antap long ol wiliwil.

Lots of pigeons are sitting and crapping on the bicycles.

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upper class dog

Tupela blari longlong dog. Wanpela lesbaka putim shoe na hat na malalo olsem masta, na narapela bilas na sindaon long tebol redi long kaikai olsem Prince Charles.

Two stupid bloody dogs. One dressed up relaxing like an expatriate, and another sitting at the table dining like Prince Charles.

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Pikinini lukim bol bilong lapun man na poreit nogut tru.

The kid sees the old man’s privates and is horrified at the sight.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

45 responses »

  1. Me likem toktok engliss. Yu ting wanem wan shell kava? No bugger up.

  2. I think you need to do a full language primer.

  3. For once I am at a loss for words. Oh, hang on…


  4. I enlarged the photo, zooming in as closely as possible, and examined it for quite some time, and I have no idea what that clothing-deprived young lady is pretending to hold.

    • I’ve got the original full-sized photograph GOM, and when I zoom in I can see that she is holding onto two dreams of things she would like to do with you if only she knew where to find you.
      Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve sent her your email address. No need to thank me.

  5. You know, if French were like your language, and had your visuals, I would be fluid. Or fluent. Or something.

    • Oh French is something else Elyse. To my ear it is the most beautiful sounding language on earth….closely followed by Italian and Motu, another PNG language.

  6. Noken bagarapim ol animals.

    Mi laikim disla nupela layout. Igat kik.

  7. Where I’m from those ducks are geese but there may be culture shock.

    The other day, I thanked MasterMike for use of his hand lamp. That threw him. He asked me ‘WOT’ three times before saying, ‘you mean the safety light?’ I looked at him a while and said, ‘if that’s what it’s called where you’re from.’

    I call it a hand lamp. What do I know? Where I’m from if there’s not an Irish word or a weirdo mining term from the mid 1880s for it, you use what American English you know to describe it. Not big on vocabulary here!

    On the flip side of that, a cousin asked me this week about finding me a husband. She said I should use that internet to meet men out here. I replied, ‘They have to know how to read and write to get on that thing.’ Same goes for me! 🙂

    • “Where I’m from those ducks are geese but there may be culture shock.”

      And where I’m from those ducks are probably geese too, but as there’s no word that I know of in tok pisin for ‘geese’ I ran with ‘duck’ (pato)……opting for literacy over biological truth. Took a farm girl to detect my error. 🙂

      Re internet dating; I think Inga also has a pre-requisite that the blokes should have a basic level of literacy and numeracy. That severely limits the field. Apparently by around 99%.

      Oh and taking your ‘lamp’ story one stage further….in tok pisin a torch is a ‘shoot lamp’ How cool is that. 🙂

      • “Re internet dating; I think Inga also has a pre-requisite that the blokes should have a basic level of literacy and numeracy. That severely limits the field. Apparently by around 99%.”

        Wow! I’m honoured; in the top 1%. Yee-ha! Sadly for me – but certainly joyously for Inga – I am betrothed. At least, that’s what her-indoors tells me.

        And these days my literacy comes care of spellcheck and my numeracy care of Casio.

        😉 😀

        • OK, so you’re one more bloke Inga can strike off her list of possibilities Simon. I don’t wish to speak on her behalf, but it’s probably the matrimonial status which was responsible….apart from that I’m sure you would be exceptional and literate son-in-law material.

      • A torch in American English is ‘flashlight’ —which is pretty close to shoot lamp! This ‘hand lamp’ as I called it uses a regular light bulb (meant for lighting an entire room) but has a metal cage around it. You plug it into an extension cord (as long as you need) and carry it around with you. There’s a hook at the top, to hang on a nail or your friend’s finger for while you’re working.

        I’m surprised that I didn’t call it an electric lantern, since that’s a more apt description. My Pidgin sort of has its own Pidgin. 🙂

        And it’s a Pidgin for sure, no duck, goose or pato but I like ‘pato lamp.’ I say we introduce that to the lexicon!

        • ‘Flashlight’ has caught on here too, although it conjures up images of a grubby old torch ripping back it’s outer casing to reveal whatever disgusting thing lies beneath.

          Your ‘hand lamp’ sounds like what mechanics used to use when working under the bonnet. These days they have arty-farty LED lights.

          Let’s go with your “Pato Lamp” Lily. You supply the duck and I’ll shove the globe inside to shine out of it’s rear end.

        • I’ve always heard those referred to as ‘trouble lights.’

    • Where I’m from we call it a “wander lamp” or a “lead lamp” because it’s on a lead and you can wander with it. Car mechanics call it an “inspection light.”

      Weird, innit? Divided by a common language even within the same country!

      • We have subtle language differences in Australia, but nowhere near the same variation of regional accents that you have in the UK.

        • Yeah – everything from Cockney to carrot-cruncher, well-spoken Home Counties to the Geordies (people from the Newcastle area). Then there’s the Highlanders of Scotland. Who knows what the heck they’re saying…? Is that even English? Mind you, the Geordies are the same. Why aye, man!! About the only perceptible difference we can generally tell in the Antipodean accent variations is having a pretty fair idea before asking them that we’re addressing either an Aussie or a Kiwi. And even then it’s quite easy to get it wrong! Which can be awkward…

      • Simon, I’ll just continue the discussion we were having from the previous story about the A380 engine explosion……ran out of comment nesting over there. For most aviation incidents the pilot normally ends up wearing the blame….mostly because that’s where the fault lies, but occasionally politics and carrier economics combine to shift blame onto the flight crew when it is not justified.

        If you don’t have the opportunity to read Capt de Crespigny’s book, I can recommend the following 40 min podcast (mp3 link from the page) of a radio interview he did in Australia. It had me on the edge of my seat, and after also reading his book I have the greatest admiration for this man who took his responsibilities as “Pilot in Charge” way beyond what would normally be expected. It’s an inspiring story.

        • It’s the same at sea – the old man carries the can even though in my line he is little more than someone who does what the party chief tells him, within the scope of safe navigation and attendant regulation. Some survey type goes and drops the acoustic beacon transponder pole out of the bottom of the ship leading to its sinking because he was being slack and not following the procedure he’d been briefed on and it’s the captain having an uncomfortable interview with Muscat 5-0. I wonder what happened to ol’ Cap’n Bill…?

          This is my second sinking:-

          Not my photo album, though – I’m not even in any of them! Fortunately…

          • Wow, that’s a close shave Simon. Fascinating stuff about the acoustic transceiver poles and I can understand how it’s 500kg ripped a hole in the hull. Murphy’s Law at work too in that only 1 of the 3 pumps dropped off the chopper actually worked.
            Now that you are back home do you have land-based employment or is it like our remote-area mining staff who work a couple of weeks on 12-hour shifts and then are ferried back home for a week off work?

            • Me – in an office? [Shudders] 😀

              Time at home is time at home. I usually try and get in at least as long at home as I was last away before I let them pimp me out to the next bidder. 🙂

              Bit of a drag having to cook my own meals and do my own washing-up and cleaning, though. You kinda get used to having a bunch of Filipinos doing all that for you!

  8. Wow, the animals on PNG really know how to dress up for Sunday church! That lot would make one hell of a parade. It looks like Inga knows the language too although her photos weren’t nearly as good as they had exacly no dogs with bibs.

    (I’m obviously, painfully, clearly joking.)

    • Unfortunately I might have mislead you Amelia because I’m almost certain none of these photographs were taken in PNG. Had there been lots of naked young women there standing on rocks gazing vacantly out to sea I most probably would never have returned to Australia, in which case there would never have been an Inga either. Fate is a funny thing. 🙂

      • I actually thought that must be Australia (really, I have rare moments of lucidity) I’d also think you could write to Food Network asking Nigella to demonstrate nude beach grilling (cooking that is) if you want regular glimpses of such entertainment.

        • I think I’m going to the dogs Amelie. These days I’m more interested in the food than whichever attractive woman might be cooking it.

          No, that didn’t quite ring true. Let me give the matter more consideration. 🙂

  9. I’m staring at those dice and I just can’t figure it out. It’s twisting my melon. I mean, how do you even roll them?

  10. The young lady on the beach is making an interrogatory gesture as she says “Where did I drop my underpants?” The hatted and shod dog is probably wearing them.

    • lol…you’ve got me giggling at 6am Auntie B…..just checked the pic again and that’s exactly what it looks like, but I wonder if she really needed to bunch the skirt up around her waist in order to find out that her knickers were missing.
      Hehe, the world is full of mysteries. 🙂

  11. LOL that bottom photo is precious (pun intended).


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