Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Bilingual Puns in Bali

I came accross an old paper by Joel Sherzer on bilingual puns and word play in Bali. There are several languages in use in Bali, including Sanskrit, Old and Middle Javanese, Balinese (including the various levels - alus 'refined', biasa 'ordinary', kasar 'coarse' etc.), Indonesian and English. Most people speak many of these, and the interplay between them is a common feature of dialog. Here's some examples:

X (to Y, in Indonesian): Sudah siap? 'Are you ready?' (lit. 'already ready')
Y (in Indonesian): Sudah ayam 'Already a chicken.'

Here, siap, which means 'ready' in Indonesian, means 'chicken' in Balinese Alus. Also, ayam, means chicken in both Indonesian and Balinese Alus.

X calls out: Wayan mejalan cara taluh 'Wayan walks like an egg'.

Taluh is Balinese biasa for 'egg'. 'Egg' in Balinese alus is adeng. Adeng in Balinese biasa is 'slow'. That is, Wayan is walking slowly. People can also conduct entire conversations where the meaning is actually based on puns:

X: Mekunyit di alas? 'turmeric in the forest?'
Y: Ketemu '(type of) spice'

Here, X is asking Y if they have a girlfriend, since Ketemu is both a kind of spice and 'acquaintence'. This might just seem anoying, but it is by far the least complex punning interaction. Here's a section on popular ways of saying 'goodbye':

Here are some examples involving the sound similarity between Balinese siu 'one thousand' and Eng. See you. A person may say Siu surat, lit. '1000 letter', but a play on Eng. 'See you later', in which B, I surat 'letter' is a pun on Eng. later. Or a person may say Siu berjumpa, with Indonesian 'meet, see'. The use of meaning equivalences in different languages to go nowhere referentially is also the basis for such comebacks as Siu one thousand, based on the fact that siu is Balinese for 'one thousand'. Or a person may say Siu seribu, in which siu stands for Eng. 'See you' or Balinese siu 'one thousand', and seribu is Indonesian for 'one thousand'.

The most baroque and recherche in this group of mock leavetakings is Siu satak, lit. 'one thousand two hundred'. Again this takes off from the similarity of Balinese siu and Eng. See you, but added to this is the fact that '1200' can also be expressed as nem bangsit, lit. 'six two-hundred' - in which bangsit, with the m/b interchange seen above, sounds like mangsit 'to stink'. Once again the play is not on an uttered word, but on an imagined or presupposed word.
Aparrently, types of pig-latin are farily common including:
Inserting syllables with vowel echoing
Deleting all but the first Consonant-Vowel-Consonant sequence of each word
Reversing syllables
Reversing phonemes


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