In studying the Menyan language I’ve learned to recognize co-opted words. It’s not hard. When the Menyans wish to add a new noun to their vocabulary, they typically add “-əgə” (pronounced like UGA’s bulldog mascot) to the end of a word. Thus a shovel (or spade) is “spadəgə.” A cell phone is “fonəgə.” This comes in handy when I don’t know how to say something. I add “-əgə” to the end of a Pidgin or English word. It’s never correct, but almost always gets a laughəgə.

Sometimes when I ask for the Menyan word for an object, I’m told it’s “something new” which means there isn’t a Menyan word for it. It means the thing wasn’t here before white people. This happens frequently with produce. Coffee, avocados, lemons, oranges, pineapples–all grown locally now–don’t have Menyan names. I decided to use this pattern to investigate what would have been the traditional Menyan diet. Aside from the meat of pigs, birds, fish, lizards, humans and tree kangaroos, the Menyans of old had only eleven choices: sweet potatoes, taro, tapioc, corn, papaya, squash, greens, bananas, beans, sugar cane and karukwa.* This may explain why the cooking-reality-show genre hasn’t taken off in Menya.

*”Karukwa” is a pidgin word. I can’t give an English equivalent because I don’t know if there is one. Karukwa grows in a tree, tastes like a nut and looks like nothing familiar.

1 Comment
  1. Joseph, you may like to tell your readers more about karuka.

    Karuka (Pandanus julianettii)
    Karuka is very widely planted in a narrow altitudinal band in the highlands in the central cordillera of New Guinea and on the Huon Peninsula. Kuruka nuts are an important part of highlanders’ diet during the producing period, being one of the few high protein plant foods in the region. During the harvest, entire households and their domestic pigs often migrate from the highland valleys up to the high altitude locations.

    Karuka grows between 1800 and 2600 m and in locations with a mean annual rainfall from 2000 to 5000 mm. It grows well on poorly-drained sites but can also be grown on better drained sites. It is grown as individual trees and in large groves in primary forest and in woody regrowth and cane grass. It does poorly in open sites and short grasslands.
    I’ll send you some handy pictures I found on the internet so you won’t have to hunt yourself. Love to you all, Lynette

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