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5 Witty Phrases In Kokborok That Encapsulates The Borok People's Worldview

We may not realize it but our languages shape much of our personalities. The way our words treat gender, pain, and happiness reflect the community's relationship with its members and the world at large. This in turn has a deep impact on the speaker’s world view.

Jamatia women at a function

The Jamatias of Tripura are known among other communities for being quick-witted. In villages, there is a constant battle of words to prove who is wittier and can tell a good story. A person who can elicit the most laughter from the audience is considered to be a good host and a party-favourite. Many times, people don’t say something directly but use euphemisms and simile to put their views across as they are more impactful. Following are five of the many phrases that are used in everyday life to denote emotions and events:

  1. Singh Baimani: It translates to "the breaking of spine" and is used to denote paralyzing fear. It is used in circumstances where a human or an animal is overcome by sudden fear that freezes them at the spot. According to the Borok people such fear is akin to breaking one's spine. The phrase is used as follows: "Cheebuk nukmani ulo swrabsa ni bagwi aani singh baai thankha" or "On seeing a snake, I broke my spine for a few moments."

  2. Saak ni khum baar mani : The literal translation is "flowers have started blooming on the body." The phrase is a euphemism for puberty in both boys and girls. It is understood that teenagers go through many bodily changes as they hit puberty and they bloom with beauty and vigor. The phrase has been permanently made popular through a superhit song by the same name.

  3. Phwikung motokmani : It translates to "The back is itching" and has nothing to do with an actual itch. This is a phrase used by parents to warn their children against a possible punishment. It is usually used in situations where the children are misbehaving or making too much noise. Parents will either tell their friends, "Forgive me but my children's backs are itching," or they will yell at their children and say, "Is your back itching? Shall I come and scratch it?"

  4. Aigi ni nokbar : It is an equivalent of "once upon a time" that is prefixed to a story that is timeless. It translates to, "the wind that blew in the past" and assigns the "wind" as a chronicler of past events that would otherwise be forgotten. Every folktale starts with this sentence.

  5. Kok saakhe kok bango : It is a saying which means that the more people try to explain things, the more confusion it leads to. Sometimes silence is golden and can diffuse a potential misunderstanding or fight. It also shows the understanding that words can fail to communicate if two people are unable to interpret them in the same way. It literally translates to "the more you talk the more you have to talk" as the speaker may need to keep explaining further and further.

What are some of the phrases in your community that gives a glimpse at the way it understands the world?

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