hey gogo

One of my favorite marshrutka entertainments is the Public Radio International podcast The World in Words.  I particularly like it while I’m on my way to teach, because it puts me in a language-y (or “linguistic”, if you’re against word coinage) frame of mind.   The October 1 edition about the Hobson-Jobson dictionary, a compendium of linguistic borrowings in the British holdings in India, made me think about word borrowings–not across languages as a whole, but among specific groups, such as ex-pats.  Around the same time, I stumbled across an old article from Mental Floss on words English doesn’t have but should (ZEG) which made me think of the strange linguistic borrowings and conglomerations that my friends and I (both foreigners in Georgia and English-speaking Georgians) start to invent and use.  Living in another place changes the way you speak, even in your mother tongue, so I’ve compiled a short list of Georgia Ex-pat-isms.  Please feel free to contribute anything that I’ve forgotten (or am perhaps not cool enough to be a party to) in the comments. Some of these poke fun at life in Georgia, and the difficulty of explaining our lives to those back home, while others fill a gap in the English language due to different cultural circumstances.

to get dajeki-ed: to be told by a very well-meaning Georgian to sit down, or “დაჯექი”.  This is not impolite in Georgian, but many foreigners find it quite annoying.
khachapuri hips: weight gain caused by eating too much Georgian food, in particular khachapuri
marsh: a shortened form of marsh(r)utka that I’ve only heard used by foreigners
to marsh(r)utka it: a casual verb form–to travel by marshrutka
modi man: the man in a florescent yellow vest assisting cars in parking and leaving their parking spots by telling the driver “Modi! Modi! Modi!” (მოდი! მოდი! მოდი!) (Come! Come! Come!)
Tbilisi tummy: the Georgian version of Montezuma’s revenge or Delhi belly. Happens to the best of us…

It’s not a new fusion vocabulary word, but I’ve noticed some foreigners using the vocative cases of bidjo ბიჭო (boy/guy/dude) and gogo გოგო (girl) to refer to their friends, or adding ra რა (what) to the end of things.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to stop myself from calling a friend from home “gogo” because she’ll have no idea what I mean.

Some place names change across languages.  An example that immediately comes to mind is the area of Vake known to foreigners as “UN Circle”  which is called “Round Garden” მრგვალი ბაღი mrgvali baghi in Georgian.

Another common cross-language word exchange is referring to the Georgian language as kartuli ქართული while speaking English (this is the Georgian name).  This actually really annoys me.  I briefly did this while speaking in Russian (rather than using the unpopular Russian form грузинский gruzinskij), and was called out for it.  As it was explained to me “We don’t like that that’s the Russian word, but it IS the Russian word, so go ahead and use it, otherwise you sound silly.”  I feel the same way about people who say kartuli in English, especially since “Georgian” doesn’t have the negative connotations that “gruzinskij” does.  My annoyance at this particular usage is compounded by the fact that it is primarily used by people who don’t actually speak “kartuli” very well, so it strikes me (and not just me) as pretentious.

Although I haven’t heard any ex-pats actually use it in conversation, I think I’m going to take Mental Floss’ advice and try to make zeg (ზეგ=the day after tomorrow) happen. This is the only Georgian word that I give my students blanket permission to use in class. (And Regina replies “Shut up, Em.  Stop trying to make zeg happen. It’s not going to happen)

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