Category Archives: anglosphere

Wordcatcher Tales: heeltap, punkah louvre

You never know where you’ll learn a new English usage while traveling abroad. I came across a couple new ones while on vacation in Japan this month.

heeltap sign

Deposit Heeltap & Ice here

An English usage new to me appeared on a trash and recycling receptacle in Cafe Cuore atop Miraishin no Oka, a hill of white Italian marble imported and sculpted by Kazuto Kuetani on the grounds of the Kosanji Temple Museum. The Japanese sign reads nomi-nokoshi ‘drink-leftovers’ and koori ‘ice’, so the meaning was clear enough, but I had not encountered that use of heeltap before. The Kenkyusha Reader’s Plus dictionary in my little Canon Wordtank, however, listed heeltap with two definitions ‘heeled shoes’ and ‘drink-leftovers’.

punkah louvre

Punkah Louvre Instructions

Another phrase new to me appeared in a first-class cabin hallway aboard the NYK Hikawa Maru, a Japanese luxury passenger and cargo ship launched in 1930 to run between Japan and Seattle. It was nicknamed the Queen of the North Pacific, and carried Charlie Chaplin among other famous passengers. It was built to compete with the best at the time, and managed to survive the Pacific War because it was requisitioned to become a hospital ship and because its hull was engineered to withstand heavy northern seas and to stay afloat even after hitting a couple of underwater mines during the war.

From reading about British India, I was familiar with the punkah ceiling fan and the poor punkawallah whose duty was to pull the ropes to keep it in motion while his masters attended to other matters. Wikipedia notes that punkah louvre is used to refer to the air vents in passenger aircraft, but this usage for similar individually controlled air vents in passenger ships looks to be older.

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Cavaliers vs. Roundheads in the American Colonies

From Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830, by John H. Elliott (Yale U. Press, 2006), Kindle Loc. 2651-71:

The English Civil War and the king’s execution in 1649 raised, not only for Massachusetts but for all the colonies, major questions about the exact nature of their relationship with the mother country. Not only did the Civil War sharply reduce the inflow of capital and immigrants to the colonies, but it also created fundamental problems of allegiance, and posed questions about the exact location of imperial authority that would hover over the Anglo-American relationship until the coming of independence. No comparable challenge would confront the Spanish empire in America until the Napoleonic invasion brought about the collapse of royal authority in Spain in 1808. The transition from Habsburgs to Bourbons in 1700, which brought conflict to the peninsula, provoked only a few passing tremors in the American viceroyalties.

For the colonies, as for the British Isles themselves, the outbreak of the Civil War brought divided loyalties. Virginia remained faithful to the king and the Anglican establishment; Maryland briefly overthrew its government in favour of parliament, and descended between 1645 and 1647 into a period of turbulence graphically known as `the plundering time’; and many New England settlers went home in the 1640s to help establish the New Jerusalem in the mother country and join the parliamentary cause. But the absorption of the English in their own affairs during the 1640s gave the colonies even more scope than they had previously enjoyed to go their own way. Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts made the most of the opportunity to press on with the creation of new settlements and to form a Confederation of the United Colonies of New England for mutual defence. The colonies could not, however, count on being indefinitely left to their own devices. As early as 1643 the Long Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of the Earl of Warwick to keep an oversight over colonial affairs.

This committee, although interventionist in the West Indies in response to the activities of the royalists, and supportive of Roger Williams’s attempts to secure an independent charter for Rhode Island, was generally respectful of legitimate authority in the colonies. But its activities raised troubling questions about whether the ultimate power in colonial affairs lay with king or parliament. As early as 1621 Sir George Calvert had claimed that the king’s American possessions were his by right and were therefore not subject to the laws of parliament. This question of the ultimate location of authority became acute after the execution of the king, since several of the colonies – Virginia, Maryland, Antigua, Barbados and Bermuda – proclaimed Charles II as the new monarch on his father’s death. Parliament responded to these unwelcome colonial assertions of loyalty to the Stuarts by passing in 1650 an Act declaring that the colonies, having been `planted at the Cost, and settled by the People, and by Authority of this Nation’, were subject to the laws of the nation in parliament.

When this Act was followed in the succeeding year by the Navigation Act, it must have seemed to the colonies that the Commonwealth represented at least as grave a threat as monarchy to their cherished rights. Parliament’s bark, however, proved fiercer than its bite, and Cromwell turned out to be reluctant to interfere in colonial politics. The colonies therefore reached the Restoration of 1660 relatively unscathed. If anything, they emerged with enhanced confidence in their ability to manage their own affairs as a result of the uncertainties of the Interregnum and the impact of those uncertainties on the authority of royal and proprietary governors.

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Filed under anglosphere, Britain, democracy, England, migration, North America, religion, U.S.

Curing Capt. Cook’s Costiveness with Clysters

From: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Tony Horwitz (Picador, 2002), pp. 218-219:

Cook resumed his polar probe during the next southern summer [1773], after wintering in Polynesia. The second approach to Antarctica proved even more wretched than the first. Livestock perished, tropical provisions ran out, and the men—eating little except weevil-ridden biscuits and salt rations—began to show signs of scurvy and depression.

“Salt Beef & pork, without vegetables for 14 weeks running, would probably cure a Glutton, even in England,” wrote William Wales, the ship’s astronomer. According to George Forster, even the resilient Cook became “pale and lean, entirely lost his appetite, and laboured under a perpetual costiveness [constipation].”…

Three weeks later, Cook collapsed. He doesn’t reveal much about this in his journal, except to note that he was confined to his cot for a week because of a gastric affliction he called “Billious colick.” George Forster makes it clear that the captain’s condition was much graver than Cook suggests. The captain suffered from “violent pains” and “violent vomiting,” Forster wrote. “His life was entirely despaired of.”

The treatment given Cook—opiates, clysters (suppositories), plasters on his stomach, “purges” and emetics to induce vomiting—probably didn’t help. When Cook finally recovered, his first meal in a week was the only fresh meat on the ship: the Forsters’ dog. “Thus I received nourishment and strength from food which would have made most people in Europe sick,” Cook wrote.

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Capt. Cook, Guugu Yimidhirr, and Kangaroos

From: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Tony Horwitz (Picador, 2002), pp. 182-184:

Guns weren’t the settlers’ only weapons. Aborigines had little resistance to Western disease, or to alcohol. Chinese immigrants introduced opium, which Aborigines consumed by mixing the drug’s ash with water and drinking it. The Guugu Yimidhirr, like many Aboriginal clans, appeared headed for extinction—a fate little mourned by white Australians….

In the case of the Guugu Yimidhirr, it was Cook who proved their salvation, albeit indirectly. A German translation of Cook’s voyages inspired a young Bavarian, Johann Flierl, to set off in the 1880s “as a missionary to the most distant heathen land with its still quite untouched peoples.” He created a Lutheran mission near Cooktown that became a refuge for Aborigines. Flierl named the mission Elim, after an oasis the Israelites found during their exodus from Egypt. As oases went, Queensland’s Elim wasn’t much: a sandy, infertile patch north of Cooktown. But it grew into a stable community, and its school educated scores of Aborigines, some of whom became nationally prominent.

One such success story was Eric Deeral, who served in the 1970s as the first Aboriginal representative in Queensland’s parliament. I tracked him down late one afternoon at his daughter’s modest bungalow a few blocks from Cooktown’s main street. A small, very dark-skinned man, he met my knock at the door with a wary expression and a curt “May I help you?” When I burbled about my travels, his face widened into a welcoming smile. “Come in, come in, I love talking about Cook!” After several days of conversing about little except “ferals,” rooting crocodiles, and rugby league, it was a relief to find someone who shared my passion for the navigator.

Eric showed me into a small office he kept at the front of the bungalow. The bookshelf included several volumes about Cook. Like Johann Flierl, Eric had been fascinated since childhood by the image of first contact between Europeans and native peoples untouched by the West. He’d quizzed Aboriginal elders about stories they’d heard of Cook and his men. “At first, our people thought they were overgrown babies,” he said. Aboriginal newborns, Eric explained, are often much paler than adults. But once the Guugu Yimidhirr saw the newcomers’ power, particularly the noise and smoke of their guns, they came to believe the strangers were white spirits, or ghosts of deceased Aborigines. “Lucky for Cook, white spirits are viewed as benign,” Eric said. “If they’d been seen as dark spirits, my ancestors probably would have speared them.”…

Listening to Eric, I felt the giddy thrill of unlocking small mysteries that had been sealed inside the English journals for more than two centuries. Blind Freddy might know the answers, but no books I’d read had provided them. Eric ran his finger down the list of native words Parkinson had collected. “If you read closely, you can almost see these men, groping to understand each other,” he said. Yowall, for instance, meant beach, not sand, as Parkinson had written. “One of our men probably pointed across the river at the sandy shore on the other side,” Eric said. Similarly, wageegee meant scar, not head—perhaps the man who had told it to the English was pointing to a cut brow when he said the word.

As for kangooroo, this was a fair approximation of the Guugu Yimidhirr word, which Eric rendered gangurru. But Aborigines, unlike Maori and Tahitians, didn’t have a shared language; living in small, widely scattered groups, they spoke scores of different tongues. The English failed to recognize this. The result was a comically circular instance of linguistic transmission. Officers of the First Fleet, familiar with the Endeavour‘s journals, used the words Cook and his men had collected in Queensland to try and communicate with Botany Bay Aborigines eighteen years later.

“Whatever animal is shown them,” a frustrated officer on the Fleet reported, “they call kangaroo.” Even the sight of English sheep and cattle prompted the Gwyeagal to cheerfully cry out “Kangaroo, kangaroo!” In fact, the Gwyeagal had no such word in their vocabulary (they called the marsupial patagorang). Rather, they’d picked up “kangaroo” from the English and guessed that it referred to all large beasts. So a word that originated with an encounter between Cook and a small clan in north Queensland traveled to England with the Endeavour, then back to Botany Bay with the First Fleet, and eventually became the universal name for Australia’s symbol. There was an added twist. The Guugu Yimidhirr had ten different words for the marsupials, depending on their size and color. “Gangurru means a large gray or black kangaroo,” Eric said. “If Cook had asked about a small red one, the whole world would be saying nharrgali today.”

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Filed under anglosphere, Australia, Britain, education, Germany, language, religion, science, travel

Alien Encounter at Mercury Bay, 1769

From: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Tony Horwitz (Picador, 2002), pp. 104-105:

Most scholars believe that sailing canoes set off from the Society Isles, or the nearby Cook Islands, between A.D. 800 and 1200, carrying pioneers as well as plants and animals. They landed on the unpopulated North Island and gradually spread out, making New Zealand the last major landmass on earth to be settled. Then, nothing—until Cook arrived, the first intruder on the North Island since roughly the time of the Crusades.

To me, this was the most extraordinary and enviable facet of Cook’s travels: the moment of first contact between the “discoverer” and the “discovered.” No matter how far a man traveled today, he couldn’t hope to reach a land and society as untouched by the West as the North Island was in 1769. Cook, at least, anticipated first contact; finding new lands and peoples was part of his job description. For those he encountered, the moment of European arrival must have been so strange as to defy modern comprehension. The only experience that might resemble it today would be to find an alien spacecraft touching down in your backyard—except that Hollywood has prepared us even for that. Pacific islanders had no basis for so much as imagining a tall-masted ship, much less one from the other end of the globe carrying white men speaking an unfamiliar tongue.

According to stories told long after Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, some natives thought the ship’s billowing sails were the wings of a giant bird. Others saw three trees sprouting from the vessel’s base and guessed it was a floating island. A much fuller account survives from Mercury Bay, up the coast from Cook’s first landfall, where the Endeavour visited a month later. A boy about the same age as Young Nick, named Te Horeta, stood watching the ship’s approach from shore and lived long enough to share his memory with colonists, several of whom recorded his words. Te Horeta’s vivid and poetic detail, corroborated by the journals of Cook and his men, makes his story one of the most remarkable accounts in the annals of exploration.

“In the days long past,” Te Horeta recalled, he went with his clan to gather oysters and cockles beside a calm bay known by the name Gentle as a Young Girl. One day, an apparition appeared on the water, a vessel much larger than any canoe Te Horeta had ever seen. Watching from the beach, the clan’s elders wondered if the ship had come from the spirit world. Then pale creatures climbed from the vessel and paddled small craft toward shore, with their backs to the land. At this, the clan’s aged men nodded and said, “Yes, it is so: these people are goblins; their eyes are at the back of their heads.” Te Horeta fled into the forest with the other children, leaving the clan’s warriors on the beach.

At first, the goblins did no harm. They gathered oysters and other food. One collected shells, flowers, and tree blossoms, and knocked on stones, putting them in bags. Curious, the children crept out of the woods. “We stroked their garments,” Te Horeta recalled, “and we were pleased by the whiteness of their skin, and the blue eyes of some of them.” The goblins offered food from their ship: hard, dry lumps that looked like pumice stones, and fatty meat so salty that even the warriors winced. Was it whale’s flesh? A man’s? One goblin pointed his walking stick in the air. “Thunder was heard to crash and a flash of lightning was seen,” Te Horeta said. Then a bird fell to the ground. “But what had killed it?” Later, a warrior offered to trade with the newcomers, then snatched a goblin’s cloth and paddled away without surrendering his own dogskin cloak. A walking stick flashed and the warrior fell with a hole in his back. The clan buried him in the goblin’s garment; because the warrior had caused his own death, there was no utu, no revenge. The site of his killing became known by the name A Warm Bad Day.

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Legend of Sens-Pas-King in Kamtok & Tok Pisin

From West African Pidgin-English: A Descriptive Linguistic Analysis with Texts and Glossary from the Cameroon Area, by Gilbert Donald Schneider (Athens, Ohio, 1966), pp. 177-179. I have followed Schneider’s spelling of Kamtok (except for collapsing mid vowel distinctions) and his translation into English, and have added my own translation into Tok Pisin (New Guinea Pidgin). Both pidgin varieties here are likely to be somewhat rural and old-fashioned.

1k. Som boi i bin bi fo som fan kontri fo insai Afrika, we i bin get plenti sens.
1e. There once lived a very clever lad who lived in a beautiful part of Africa.
1p. I gat wanpela boi i bin stap long wanpela naispela hap long namel bilong Afrika, we em i saveman tru.

2k. I pas king fo sens sef, so i nem bi sens-pas-king.
2e. He was smarter than the King himself and so was given the name, Wiser-than-king.
2p. I winim king yet long save, olsem na ol i kolim em Save-winim-king.

(P olsem ‘so, thus’ < E all same)

3k. King i bin feks plenti, ha i bin hia sey, dis smol-boi i di kas eni-man fo sens.
3e. The King was very annoyed when he heard how this young boy was outwitting everyone.
3p. King em i kros tru, taim i harim tok olsem, dispela boi i save winim yumi olgeta long save.

(K ha ‘how, as’; K kas ‘catch, outwit’)

4k. So, king i bin mimba sey, i go kas i, i go win i fo sens.
4e. He decided to put the lad in his place with a few tricks of his own.
4p. Olsem na king i tingting olsem, em bai kisim em, em bai winim em long save.

(K mimba ‘think’ < E. remember; P kisim ‘catch s.t.’)

5k. I bin sen i imasinja som dey, we dem bin tok say, mek yu kom fo king i tong, na palaba i de.
5e. One day the King sent a messenger to the young man and summoned him to come to the palace for a discussion.
5p. Wanpela dei em i bin salim tultul bilong en bilong tokim em olsem em i mas kam long ples bilong king na toktok wantaim em.

(K tong ‘town, house, place’; P tultul ‘translator’)

6k. Sens-pas-king i bin go, i mas-fut fo rot, waka trong fo hil, sotey i rich fo king i tong.
6e. Wiser-than-king began his journey, up and down the steep hills he went and so finally arrived at the King’s palace.
6p. Save-winim-king i bin go, i wokabaut long rot bilong maunten, inap long em i kamap long ples bilong king.

7k. King i tok sey, yu don kom.
7e. (Upon arrival) the king welcomed him.
7p. King i tok olsem, yu kam pinis.

(K preverbal don and P postverbal pinis mark perfective aspect.)

8k. Mek yu klin ma het, biabia i don plenti tumos fo ma het.
8e. He asked the young man to cut his hair because it was so long.
8p. Yu mas klinim het bilong mi, gras bilong en i kamap planti tumas.

(K biabia, P gras ‘hair’)

9k. Sens-pas-king i bin tok gri sey, i go bap king i het.
9e. Wiser-than-king agreed to cut the King’s hair.
9p. Save-winim-king i tok olsem, orait, bai mi katim gras bilong het bilong king.

(K bap ‘[to] barber’)

10k. I bigin kot-am, bot ha i di kot-am, i di soso trowe simol kon fo fawu, we i de fo king i domot.
10e. But as he was cutting he was also continually throwing down a little corn for the chickens in the King’s courtyard.
10p. Tasol taim em i kirap long katim, em i tromwe liklik kon wantaim long ol paul i stap arasait long haus bilong King.

(K soso ‘only, just’; K domot ‘front yard’ lit. ‘door-mouth’)

11k. King i aks i sey, ha yu di soso trowe kon?
11e. The King asked him, “Why are you always throwing down corn?”
11p. King i askim em olsem, bilong wanem yu tromwe kon i stap?

(P bilong wanem ‘why’ lit. ‘for what’)

12k. Boi ansa i sey, na lo fo gif chop fo fawu?
12e. The lad answered, “Is there a law against feeding chickens?”
12p. Boi i bekim tok olsem, i gat lo long givim kaikai long ol paul?

(P ol plural marker < E all)

13k. Simol tam i don pinis i wok.
13e. Soon he finished his task.
13p. Liklik taim, em i pinisim wok bilong en.

14k. King i het don nyanga bat.
14e. The King’s head looked very fine.
14p. Het bilong king i naispela nogut tru.

(K nyanga ‘handsome’; K bat, P nogut ‘bad, very’)

15k. King i bigin hala, sey, na wati!
15e. The King (then) began to shout, “What’s going on here?”
15p. King i kirap long singaut, olsem wanem?

16k. Simol wowo pikin klin het fo bik-man?
16e. “Can a good-for-nothing youngster cut (shave) the hair of an elder?”
16p. Liklik pikinini nating i katim gras bilong het bilong bikpela man?

(K wowo ‘useless, dirty’; P nating ‘useless’ < E nothing)

17k. Mek yu put bak ma biabia wan-tam!
17e. Put the hair back in place immediately!”
17p. Givim bek gras bilong het bilong mi kwiktaim!

18k. A go kil yu ifi yu no put-am!
18e. “I’ll kill you if you don’t put them back!”
18p. Bai mi kilim yu i dai sapos yu no bekim!

(P sapos ‘if’ < E suppose; kilim ‘hit, beat’, kilim i dai ‘kill’)

19k. Sens-pas-king tok sey, no kes.
19e. Wiser-than-king replied, “It doesn’t matter.”
19p. Save-winim-king i tok olsem, Nogat samting.

20k. A gri. A bi daso sey, mek yu gif bak ma kon bifo a go fiks yu biabia agen.
20e. “I will gladly put your hair back, if you return the corn I fed to your chickens.”
20p. Orait. Tasol mi tok, yu bekim kon bilong mi pestaim, orait, bai mi bekim gras bilong het bilong yu.

(K daso, P tasol ‘only, but’ < E that’s all; P pestaim ‘first’ < E first time)

21k. King i no sabi wati fo tok.
21e. The King was speechless.
21p. King i no save bekim tok ya.

22k. i mof don lok.
22e. He was dumbfounded.
22p. Maus bilong en i pas pinis.

(K lok ‘locked’; P pas ‘fast(ened)’)

23k. Sens-pas-king i di go daso. Man no fit fan i kes fo dis wan.
23e. Wiser-than-king went on his way and no one was able to find fault with him.
23p. Save-winim-king i wokabaut i go. Ol i no inap kotim em long dispela.

(K no fit, P no inap ‘not able < E fit, enough; kotim ‘take s.o. to court’)

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Varieties of Kamtok (vs. Tok Pisin)

From West African Pidgin-English: A Descriptive Linguistic Analysis with Texts and Glossary from the Cameroon Area, by Gilbert Donald Schneider (Athens, Ohio, 1966), pp. 226-229. Each English phrase is translated into three versions: a. anglicized Kamtok, b. “broad” Kamtok, and c. Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea (the last being my translations). All varieties here are likely to be somewhat rural and old-fashioned.

ORTHOGRAPHY: Schneider writes the 7 vowels of Kamtok /a, ɛ, e, i, ɔ, o, u/ as a, e, ey, i, o, ow, u. Another source writes them a, eh, e, i, oh, o, u.

1. He married trouble.
a. hi don mari trobu.
b. i don mari trobu.
c. em i maritim trabel.

2. I stay in this town.
a. ay di silip fo dis tawn.
b. a di silip fo dis tong.
c. mi stap long dispela taun.

3. Do you have children?
a. yu get pikin?
b. yu get pikin?
c. i gat pikinini bilong yu?

4. They are pleased with my work.
a. dem di glad fo may wok.
b. dem di glat fo ma wok.
c. ol i laikim wok bilong mi.

5. My strength’s gone.
a. may strong hi don finish.
b. ma trong i don finis.
c. strong bilong mi i go pinis. / mi no strong moa.

6. Our Bible is on the table.
a. wi baybl dey fo tebl.
b. wi bau dey fo tebu.
c. Baibel bilong yumi/mipela i stap long tebol. (‘ours incl. you’/’ours excl. you’)

7. Pineapple is good food.
a. panapl na swit chop.
b. panabu na shwit chop.
c. ananas i switpela kaikai.

8. They’re having a meeting about coffee tomorrow.
a. dem get miting fo kofi tumaro.
b. dem get miting fo kofi tumaro.
c. ol i gat (wanpela) miting bilong kofi tumora.

9. Pardon me.
a. eskiys mi witi dis wan.
b. chus mi fo dis wan.
c. sori ya long dispela. (?)

10. This guava isn’t sweet.
a. dis gwava now di swit.
b. dis gwava now di shwit
c. dispela yambo i no swit.

11. Your oil isn’t good.
a. dat yu oyl now gud.
b. dat wuna oya now fan.
c. wel bilong yu i no gutpela.

12. He’s not speaking the truth.
a. hi now di tok tru.
b. i now di tok tru.
c. em i no tok stret.

13. I can’t sit on that chair.
a. ay now fit sidawn fo dat chea.
b. a now fit sidong fo dat chia.
c. mi no inap sindaun long dispela sia ya.

14. Come and scratch my back.
a. kom skrach mi fo bak.
b. kom kras mi fo bak.
c. kam skrapim baksait bilong mi.

15. We’re going to the town.
a. wi di kamawt go fo tawn.
b. wi di komot go fo tong.
c. mipela i go long taun i stap. (‘we’re on the way to town’)

16. Throw it on the ground.
a. meyk yu trowwey fo grawn.
b. meyk yu trowwey fo grong.
c. tromwe i stap long graun.

17. It has a strong odor.
a. hi di smel plenti.
b. i di simel plenti.
c. i gat strongpela smel (bilong en)

18. Who broke my pot?
a. wichman don browk may pot?
b. husman don browk ma pot?
c. husat i brukim sospen bilong mi?

19. My brother’s in the house.
a. may broda dey fo haws.
b. ma broda dey fo has.
c. Brata bilong mi i stap (insait) long haus.

20. Go and sit down outside.
a. meyk yu gow sidawn fo awtsay.
b. meyk wuna gow sidong fo ausai.
c. go sindaun long arasait / ausait long haus.

21.Who owns that oil?
a. na wichman get dat oyl?
b. na husman get dat oya?
c. dispela wel ya i bilong husat/wanem man?

22. Come and give me another one.
a. kom giv mi oda wan.
b. kom gif mi ada wan.
c. kam givim/bringim mi wanpela moa / narapela (‘more of same’ / ‘different’).
(More polite is: Wanpela moa i kam!)

23. They have many possessions.
a. dem get plenti kagow.
b. dem get plenti kagow.
c. ol i gat planti samting.

24. The medicine causes itching.
a. dat medisin di skrach.
b. dat metsin di kras.
c. dispela marasin i mekim skin i sikrap.

25. Who rang the bell?
a. wichman don ring bel?
b. husman don ring bel?
c. husat i pulim/paitim belo? (‘pull/strike’)

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