Monday, February 13, 2012

unexpected lessons in wolof class

Wolof class is always interesting with our hilarious professor, Sidy. Today, we learned that repeating certain words in a phrase can mean that you are pretending to do something.  For example, the word “goór” means “man” in wolof.  If I said, “goórgoór lu nga” that would literally translate to me telling you that you are pretending to be a man.  I could similarly take the verb fàtte (to forget) and do the same thing—fàttefàtte lu means “pretending to forget.”   Considering how many people can sometimes get crammed into different forms of public transportation here in Dakar, it might be easy to pretend to forget to pay your bus fare.
However, the “goórgoór lu nga” expression (pretending to be a man) also has a non-literal translation, and is used to tell somebody that they are doing a very good job.  It serves as a compliment for a person of any gender. Consequently, “jigéenjigéen lu” (repetition of the word for woman) is not a nice thing to say to somebody.  It might translate to meaning that you are doing something particularly slowly, which is not very fair.
We have also run into other interesting uses of the words “goór” and “jigéen” in wolof class.  When we were first learning some of the basic vocabulary, our professor (shown above) wrote the following on the board,
goór = ?
jigéen = ?
goórjigéen = ?
We still haven’t quite figured out what the word goórjigéen really means.  When our professor gave us some examples of famous people that we could lable as goórjigéens he included people who identify as gay and others who identify as transsexual.  When we tried to explain to him that those weren’t the same, he was a little bit confused and we figured it was probably best to just forget the debate and continue with the lesson.
Each week, our professor gives us a password that we have to memorize.  If, at any point, we run into him at the research center, we have to give him the password in order to get around him.  We are allowed to give him an english mot de passe as well.  Our most recent choice was "my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard."  The password that he gave us this week was particularly difficult.  Our phrase is “lekkal lu la neex waaye sol al lu neex nit ñi,” which means, «eat what you want, but wear what pleases people. »  I think we can expect to apply the same principle to seuxality and many other topics here...

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