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What do cows, rain, reindeers and snow have in common?

October 11, 2015

La Chica has been intrigued recently by the array of words available in the Masai language to describe different attributes and behaviours of cows. Here are some examples:

Ngarip – means the cow who runs to be united with her calf when she returns from her day of grazing

Nengalejani – means the cow who withdraws her milk from her Masai owners who are trying to milk her, saving it for her calf

Nladutio engine – means the cow with small teats the size of a goat’s

Ngaipilay – means the cow who walks around in circles while being milked

And how are cows similar to rain, reindeers and snow? Well, in recent conversation with some British chappies, La Chica was told how the British have many words to describe rain – pouring, bucketing down, drizzle, deluge, downpour, mist, spitting, light, raining cats and dogs, pelting down and no doubt many more.

And snow? Well, according to authoritative sources (google) Anthropologist Franz Boas ignited the claim that Eskimos have dozens, or even hundreds, of words for snow. Additionally, the Sami people, who live in the northern tips of Scandinavia and Russia, use at least 180 words related to snow and ice, according to Ole Henrik Magga, a linguist in Norway. The Sami also have as many as 1,000 words for reindeer. These refer to such things as the reindeer’s fitness (“leami” means a short, fat female reindeer), personality (“njirru” is an unmanageable female) and the shape of its antlers (“snarri” is a reindeer whose antlers are short and branched). There is even a Sami word to describe a bull with a single, very large testicle: “busat.”

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The moral of the story?  La Chica has too much time on her hands!

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