Saturday, 28 March 2015

Moten Word for the Day

itelmungi /ite̞lmunɡi/, verb: “to be strange, to be weird; to be interesting; to be amusing, to be funny“

And if you think that’s a rather tame meme for this word, that’s actually on purpose. This meme search has produced some results I’ll never be able to unsee again…

So, here we have a word that is (fittingly) rather strange from an English speaker’s point of view. First of all, it’s a verb, yet all its translations involve “to be” together with an adjective. In other words, Moten uses a verb in a place where English would normally use an adjective! That’s not so uncommon actually: words between different languages do not need to line up in terms of parts of speech (this is true even between closely related languages: in Dutch, the equivalent of the verb “to need” is actually an adjective: “nodig”: “necessary, required”. To say: “I need it”, you have to say “ik heb het nodig”: ”I have it necessary”). But how do you handle the attributive use then? (i.e. how do you say “an interesting person” for instance?) That’s actually easy: just use a relative clause: itelmungi itos fokez (literally “a person that is interesting”). Relative clauses are very light in Moten (you just need to put the verb in the dependent form), and are quite common where English prefers adjectives.

Second, the different senses of itelmungi look all over the place. But actually, they do make sense when you think about it for a minute. First, the etymology of this verb is quite simple: it’s a compound of tel: “other“ and imungi: “to be different“. In other words, itelmungi means literally: “to be other and different“, which is pretty much what “to be strange” means :P. Also, things that are strange and weird are usually uncommon, and since we tend to be curious animals, uncommon things are interesting for us. Finally, something that is strange and weird is usually unexpected, and unexpected things are often a source of humour, which makes them amusing or funny :).

So you see, that word’s not so weird after all ;).

No comments:

Post a Comment