Sangnnechi sangnni, ponnsak zalim vaingim

Tale of a tale, a minnow swallowed a whale

The literal translation of Sangnnechi sangnni, ponnsak zalim vaingim is: Tale of a tale, a jack fruit tree bore aubergines (or aubergines grew on a jackfruit tree). That is to say, a series of tales can end up with the fantastic report (and presumably a belief as well) that aubergines grew on a jack fruit tree!

Some of you might have taken part in, or witnessed, a group dynamic session in which a simple sentence, when individually and quietly passed down through a chain of participants, gets so mangled and mutilated that it totally loses all resemblance to the original.

That’s exactly what can happen, for example, over a series of gossip sessions in balcanvs, and this proverb illustrates just that in a colourful manner through vivid mental images from a Goan garden.

The word ponnôs1 can mean either a jack fruit or a jack fruit tree. In this proverb it stands for the tree. Vaingem2 means brinjal or aubergine, also known as eggplant. Vaingem is the vegetable, while the plant that produces a vaingem is called vainginn3. Vaingem is neuter and its plural is vaingim, while vainginn is feminine and its plural is vainginni.

While vainginn is a small plant which has a relatively short life, a jack fruit tree is huge and goes on yielding numerous jack fruits year after year almost endlessly. The sharp contrast between the two is intended to underscore the extent to which the original fact can be twisted and reshaped in the course of serial reporting.

  1. Ponnôs, ponnsa, ponnos, ponnsam
  2. Vaingem, vaingea, vaingim, vaingeam
  3. Vainginn, vainginni, vainginni, vainginnim

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Khakêk asa cheddo, sôdta sogllo vaddo

In her arm is her child for whom she scours the wild

A number of proverbs portray certain interesting and unexpected, yet not too rare, natural phenomena. Khakêk asa cheddo, sôdta sogllo vaddo is one such.

Khak (fem.) is an armpit — khakêk being its dative form — and vaddo (masc.) is a section of a village, a sub-village, a neighbourhood or, as it is often known in the west, a (geographical) community in which one lives. Khakêk marunk means to carry something under one’s arm. So Khakêk asa cheddo, Sôdta sogllo vaddo literally means “The boy is under one’s arm, (but) one looks for him in the whole neigbbourhood”. Since it is generally mothers who carry their children under their arms, we can assume that the one who carries, and searches for, the child is the child’s mother.

The English phrase, “under one’s nose”, is often used to express the sense of the above proverb. Situations like the above are a common occurrence in real life, like looking for one’s glasses which one is actually wearing.

Sometimes the word sôdta is replaced by bhonvta, although sôdta is more appropriate. Bhonvonk is to ramble around and does not include (nor does it preclude) the idea of looking for something or someone.

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Disachea disa

Day after day

Disachea disa, ratichê rati, sumanachea sumana or satolleachea satollea, mhoineachea mhoinea, and vorsachea vorsaare similarly constructed phrases respectively meaning day after day, night after night, week after week, month after month and year after year.

To examine the peculiar type of construction, let’s just take the first phrase: day after day.

The word for day is dis, which is the nominative. And just like in English, dis can stand for either 24 hours (inclusive of the night) or just the daylight hours (thus excluding the night time). The word disa is identical to the flex stem but has the ablative sense, which means “during the day” or “at day time”. The word disachea, on the other hand, is the flex stem formed from the possessive or genitive of dis. The literal translation of disachea disa would therefore be “on the day of the day”, but it actually means “everyday” or “day after day”.

This type of a construction can be extended to names of the months, like Janerachea Janeraor days of the week, like Aitarachea aitara.

1. Vorsachea vorsa ami Sant Antonichem fest kortanv 
     Every year we celebrate St. Anthony’s feast.

2. Mhoji madrin sunkrarachea sunkrara Mhapxea bazarak veta
    Every Friday my godmother goes to the Mapusa bazaar.

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Dekhlem moddem, ailem roddnnem

Right before me the dead body lies, A flood of tears welling in my eyes

Dekhlem moddem, ailem roddnnem literally means “Saw the dead body, couldn’t help crying”. Note that the sentence has no subject, that is, it almost doesn’t matter who that person might be, suggesting that the phenomenon is a part of human nature.

Dekhlem is the past definite of dekhonk which is a transtive verb meaning to see. Most verbs ending in onk are intransitive, like bosonk,(to sit), cholonk (to walk), and khellonk (to play), but dekhonk is one rare exception of a transitive verb ending in onk. As such, were the sentence to have a subject, that subject would have taken the instrumental case like hanvem (dekhlem) as do the subjects of other transtive verbs in the past definite tense.

Notice, too, that, even though the subject of the sentence may have gone awandering, the instrumentality of the missing subject nevertheless pervades the scene, with the result that the verb now agrees in gender and number with its object instead: As moddem is neuter in gender, the verb too takes the neuter form: dekhlem. Finally, to complete the parallelity between the two arms of the proverb, since moddem, in the first part, is a noun, the second part of the sentence also goes for the noun form of the verb cry, i.e. roddnnem, much like the word crying used in a popular Christmas carol: “No crying he makes.”

Another peculiarity to be noticed here is that the both the arms of the proverb begin with the verb. Now, that isn’t the way Konkani sentences are usually structured, since the common practice is to place the verb at the tail-end of a sentence. When you, for a change, start a sentence with the verb, instead of ending with it, you in effect give the sentence a special flavour, rendering it poetic or oratorical.

So much for the language aspect of the proverb. Now a word on its message.

Living in a complex world that we do, our minds are preoccupied with myriad things, so that certain (desirable) behaviours are generally evoked, often automatically, only by direct stimuli. One such situation has been captured by our proverb.

It is interesting that the English proverb, Out of sight, out of mind, purports to convey a very similar message, but by portraying exactly a contrary situation. It is tantamount (though not logically equivalent) to giving our proverb a new makeover: “If one doesn’t see a dead body, one doesn’t cry.”

I am reminded of a researcher on a mission to prove that all crows are black. To achieve that, he was required to go out and observe all the crows he could find and note their colour. On one rainy day, however, he decided to stay indoors and yet continue collecting his research data. What he did to make that possible was to make his hypothesis stand on its head with a double negative: “Whatever isn’t black isn’t a crow”, which does flow logically from his original hypothesis. So all he had to do now was to pick up all the non-black objects he could find in his house and note that they weren’t crows! Research made easy!

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Rôchlai, Deva, Pôs

One good turn deserves another

Translated literally, it says: “God, you have created me, nurture me”, though the exact sense it conveys is: God, you have created me, now how about taking care of me!

Rôchlai, Deva, pôs — just three words — and so pious they almost articulate a sublime prayer! But they are loaded with some connotations and associations. The proverb is meant to describe situations wherein you choose to do someone a favour and, in return (that is, on account of that favour), you are led to do another, or even a series of more, and perhaps greater, favours to the same party.

You invite a family to dinner. They arrive by the last bus. They enjoy the meal alright. But when the dinner is over, they have a problem getting back home. You have no option but to crown your invitation to dinner with an offer to drive them back home or else accommodate them at your place for the night! Rôchlai, Deva, pôs!

Or perhaps your friend, Sebby, has to travel a long distance to go to work. Now, seeing that his work place happens to be quite close to your residence, you generously offer him accommodation in your own house, and boy! Is he glad to accept your offer! Now it takes him just five minutes to walk his way to work. But that isn’t the end of the story.  When it’s dinner time, Sebby quite naturally turns up at your dining table as well. Rôchlai, Deva, pôs!

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Valichea niban mhôsgak udok

A case of piggybacking

Valichea niban mhôsgak udok means that the drumstick tree gets hydrated in the process of the creeper being watered. This is apparently a simple expression, but is open to somewhat differing interpretations depending on the motivation of the parties involved.

Val means a creeper, any creeper; nib means an excuse; mhôsgak is the dative case of mhoxing, which means a drumstick tree; and udok is water. So the literal translation of the proverb is: with the creeper as an excuse, water to the drumstick tree. Valichea is the singular flex stem of the genitive of val (i.e., ‘of the creeper’). Niban is the instrumental case of nib (meaning ‘with or through the excuse’).

As you can see, there are three parties involved: the creeper, the drumstick tree and the unmentioned but implied party which is the gardener who waters the creeper. Of these, since the creeper is the direct and unambiguous beneficiary of the act of watering, the two possibly motivated parties are the drumstick tree and the gardener.

Fr. Josinho Cardozo is the parish priest of Upaxim. He needs funds to renovate the Church compound. He decides to start a weekly novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, preaches and tweets fervently for several weeks about the importance of the novena, and finally installs in the church a beautiful picture of O. L. of Perpetual Succour without, of course, forgetting to place at the foot of the picture an even nicer money box for the devotees’ offerings. Valichea niban mhôsgak udok. Fr. Josinho (in combination with the devotees) is the gardener while the val or the creeper, to which the effort is directed, is the picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. And who is the mhoxing (the drumstick tree) or the indirect beneficiary? It is undoubtedly the donation box below the revered picture!

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Borem mhunn borem

"Thank God" -- An expression of relief about what has or has not happened or what has or has not been done

Borem mhunn borem literally means “good, therefore good” or, in slightly better English, “It’s good, so it’s good”. Borem is neuter singular of boro (masc), bori (fem), and both the occurrences of the word in the phrase always remain unchanged regardless of the context in which the phrase may be used. That is because borem refers to an impersonal situation which is always considered to be neuter.

Borem mhunn borem corresponds almost exactly to the sense of the commonly used English phrase “Thank God” as, for instance, in the following sentences:

  • Borem mhunn borem tum taka mell’lloi mhunn, na zalear to sanddtolo aslo.
    Thank God you met him, else he would have got lost.
  • Borem mhunn borem amim sotri haddli mhunn. Pavs iet mhunn kednanch chintlem na.
    Thank God we brought an umbrella. (I/We) never thought it might rain.

The word mhunn corresponds to “that” (used as a conjunction) in English.

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Regular Conjugations — Conjugation 2

Transitive verbs ending in unk

As has been explained under Conjugation 1, in this system, all verbs are to be learnt with their five principal parts:

The first principal part is the infinitive which is the key to most uses of the verb. The distinguishing mark of the infinitive of the second conjugation is that it ends with a consonant + unk. Example: marunk, to hit. Typically these verbs are transitive verbs. Incidentally, marunk has several shades of meaning which are somewhat related to each other. It can stand for “hit”, “beat” or even “kill”.

The second principal part is the present indicative. The future simple and the past continuous are the most obvious derivations from this part. Example: martam = I hit.

The third part is the present indicative negative. Example: marinam  = I don’t hit.

The fourth principal part is the past definite. Since verbs of the second conjugation are transitive, this principal part ends in lem. Example: marlem  = I hit. As you may know by now, here the subject goes into the instrumental case. Just to drive this point home, the following sentences illustrate the difference between the first and second conjugations just as well as the difference between the intransitive verbs and transitive verbs. Notice that in the second case (transitive verb in the past) the subject gets inflected to the instrumental case:

  • Forsu kal poddlo (Francis had a fall yesterday)
  • Forsun kal sorôp marlo (Francis killed a snake yesterday)
    Notice the difference between Forsu (nominative) and Forsun (instrumental).

Remember that when learning a new verb, you should pay special attention to its fourth principal part which tells you how the verb is to be used in the past definite and other related tenses.

Finally, the fifth principal part is the negative of the simple future. Example: marchonam  = I will not hit.

Here are a few examples of regular verbs of the second conjugation:

  • Marunk, martam, marinam, marlem, marchonam =to hit.
    E,g, Tannem cheddeachêr thapott marlem  = He slapped the boy [Literally: He hit a slap on the boy].
  • Foddunk, fôddtam, foddinam, fôddlem, fôddchonam =to break. E,g, Tannem battlli foddli = He broke the bottle.
  • Kaddnk, kaddtam, kaddinam, kaddlem, kaddchonam = to take. E.g., Tinnem mezailem (=mezavelem) kellem kaddlem = She picked up a banana from the table.
  • Sanddunk, sanddtam, sanddinam, sanddlem, sanddchonam = to leave (trans.) E.g., Ti boxênt kednach jevonn sanddina = She never leaves food in the plate.
  • Vachunk, vachtam, vachinam, vachlem, vachchonam = to read. E.g. Tum kitem vachtai? = What are you reading?
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Hispa bhair

Beyond reckoning

Languages have their peculiarities, and it may not always be easy or even possible to translate a phrase or sentence from one language to another with complete accuracy. At times it is a question of economy of words. We have earlier mentioned the present habitual tense which is embedded so seamlessly in Konkani grammar (Please refer to The Bees in a Goan’s Bonnet) but has a more involved format in English.  With other words or phrases it could be the other way around, and hispa bhair may be considered an example of that, it being slightly less economical than the English “much too”.

“Very” and “too” are similar words, except that “too” implies some sort of an expectation. When we, for instance, say “Pedru ekdomm lamb” or “Pedru is very tall”, what we basically mean is that he is more than average in height. But if we say that he is too tall, we imply something more than that. There is a sort of a norm, requirement or judgement involved: he is taller than he ought to have been. The Konkani equivalent of very is ekdomm, while too is usually expressed as chôdd or chodd, depending on the gender and number of the subject in the sentence.

However, when we say, “Pedru is much too tall”, we take the attribution one step farther. And that is exactly what hispa bhair would mean. In Konkani we would say, “Pedru hispa bhair lamb“.

The two words comprising the phrase are hispa and bhair. Hispa is the singular flex stem of hixôp, meaning account, computation, or reckoning. Bhair here is a postposition which means “outside of”, or “beyond”. So “Pedru hispa bhair lamb” means “Pedru is tall beyond reckoning” which is equivalent to “Pedru is much too tall.”

Here are some more examples of the use of hispa bhair:
Az nistem hispa bhair mharog = Fish is much too expensive today
Kal mhaka hispa bhair chodd kamm poddlem = Yesterday I had much too much work
Canadak hispa bhair chôdd thonddai = Canada is much too cold




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Mezailem kellem diun filiad zôddlem

Giving away honey with somebody else's money

Mezailem kellem diun filiad zôddlem literally means that one won a god-daughter by giving away a banana from the table, that is, belonging to somebody else. It is a reference to a favour one does, and takes credit for, without having to pay for it oneself, for instance by giving a gift that either belongs to somebody else or is ‘on the house’. Like many other proverbs of this type, it is an observational proverb that isn’t meant to impart wisdom as much as it tries to portray a particular situation with some insight into it.

The word mezailem is a contraction of mezavelem, literally meaning “from on the table” (locative on). If it were instead in a container, e.g., in a jar, we would use the locative in, e.g., bhornêntlem, meaning ‘from inside a/the jar’ As you can see, it isn’t a simple locative but a compound postposition, corresponding to a compound preposition in English: from on or from inside. A simple locative would be mezar (on a/the table) or bhornênt (in a/the jar).

Diun literally means ‘having given’ or, as is the case here,  ‘by giving’.

The word filiad comes from the Portuguese afilhado or afilhada, i.e., godson or god-daughter respectively, so filiad or filhad can be any of the three genders — neuter if it refers to a young girl, as is the case here. Notice that the neuter is apparent here only because the sentence is in the past definite. And, as has been mentioned elsewhere in Nostalgoa, when a transitive verb like diunk (to give) is used in the past definite, the verb abandons its loyalty to the subject and agrees with the object (filiad),  which is how we come to know that it is neuter (i. e., a young girl), because zôddlem is neuter. Had the sentence been in the present, i.e., with “zôddta” instead of “zôddlem“, the gender of filiad would be unknown.

Yet another observation. Notice that the sentence is devoid of a subject. It has a verb (zôddlem) and an object (filiad), but no subject. Such a thing is very conveniently done when it is the verb that is important, and not the subject, that is, when the focus is on what is done, rather than on who does it.

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