How do I tell a girl she has a nice rack?

By: | Post date: December 27, 2016 | Comments: 1 Comment
Posted in categories: Language

When I was 12, I found in my local library a copy of Brush up your pidgin.

It’s a textbook of Tok Pisin, the pidgin of Papua New Guinea, played for laughs. It is hardly a serious textbook: the protagonists are a clueless British missionary and his sex starved wife, the Tok Pisin is respelled to look more familiar to English speakers, it pokes fun (though not, from memory, sneeringly) at the local culture.

Even though it was played for laughs, I actually learned a lot from that book. You could tell, even from that book, that Tok Pisin is a language with its own internal genius, which is quite far removed from English — even if its vocabulary is deceptively English baby talk. It may well have gotten me started as a linguist.

The final dialogue of the book introduces an Australian pilot, who flies the couple into the interior. Up to that point the dialogues are bilingual, British English and Tok Pisin. With the pilot, Australian English is also introduced.

And the pilot sees fit to comment to the missionary’s sex starved wife as follows:

  • Australian English: Geez, you got a beaut pair of norks!
  • Tok Pisin: Mi laikim susu bilong yu.
  • British English: … You have a lovely blouse.

One Comment

  • John Cowan says:

    Mmm, I’m with the Brit. As I commented on a Quora question about how to do things Americanwise: Complement a woman on her clothes (which she chose), not her body (which she didn’t). You wouldn’t think this from TV comedy, but TV comedy is transgressive.

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