Daily Archives: 19 May 2008

Wordcatcher Tales: gatvol, makwerekwere, utari

I’m still bogged down with obscure linguistic research projects that are not yet bloggable, and already half-blogged books on depressing 20th-century European history that I haven’t finished reading. But I see that two other bloggers, Khanya and No-sword, have explored the social context of some interesting vocabulary from two far-outlying parts of the globe, the northernmost island of Japan and the southernmost country in Africa. So, without further ado, here are snippets of Wordcatcher Tales by proxy.

Steve at Khanya appends the following glossary to a post on Xenophobia – the gatvol factor in South Africa:

1. Gatvol – which being interpreted for the benefit of makwerekwere [2], is Afrikaans, meaning literally “hole full”, or more idiomatically, “Fed up”, or “had enough”, or “had it up to here”.

2. Makwerekwere – which, being interpreted for the benefit of foreigners, means foreigners.

Another South African blogger who in his home country was mistaken for a Nigerian explains the second term more specifically at The Zeleza Post:

Makwerekwere is the derogatory term used by Black South Africans to describe non-South African blacks. It reminds one of how the ancient Greeks referred to foreigners whose language they did not understand as the Barbaroi. To the Black South African, makwerekwere refers to Black immigrants from the rest of Africa, especially Nigerians. I was confounded by the fact that Black South Africa had begun to manufacture its own kaffirs so soon after apartheid.

Meanwhile, Matt at No-sword investigates why the Hokkaido Ainu Association, founded in 1930, changed its name to the Hokkaido Utari Association in 1961, and has now announced it will revert once again to its original name.

Ainu is obviously the name used to refer to the Ainu as a people distinct from other peoples; this is directly from the Ainu word aynu which means, predictably, “man” or “person” (as opposed to “supernatural being”).

Utari is a more interesting word. As a loan word in Japanese, it is usually glossed as “compatriot” (“同胞”, dōhō), which usually implies “fellow Ainu”. Its etymology in Ainu is more interesting.

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