woensdag 17 september 2014

Of monkeys and mountain goats

Today, while Big Boy J. was climbing up some weird circular play contraption that was clearly meant for children at least twice his age, I affectionately called him a monkey. 

Which sounds fine in English, but pulled me up short, because I wasn't actually speaking English. I was talking Dutch to him. And "little monkey", or "aapje", has a different meaning in Dutch. It's more about adorable naughtiness, or about using legs and arms to hold on tightly to mama or papa, not so much about climbing or running around. 

So, just to balance things out, I called him a "little mountain goat" in English. This is what I used to be called when I was climbing over rocks and in trees as a child. But in the Singaporean context it sounds... Silly. And stubborn. 

Now, J. is both stubborn and adorably naughty, and loves climb everything in sight (including but not limited to S.'s Very Expensive Amplifier And Boxes, the arm rests of all furniture, the dinner table, the piano and the Ikea toy kitchen.) So, he qualifies as a mountain goat and a monkey in both languages. 

And really, I don't know where I'm going with this. Maybe just the fact that in tropical Singapore monkeys are for practical comparisons like climbing and in temperate Netherlands goats are? Whereas less common animals, like goats in Singapore and monkeys in the Netherlands are used to portray more abstract notions of character? 

Or maybe, my brain has been under used recently. 

Below, a picture to illuminate the genetic heritage. 

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Ahhh, the fun of languages! Now I know too, thanks to your illustration!

  2. I adore language and languages, I love the fact that you've started on Norwegian!