Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interesting Facts about Using a Colonial Era Dictionary No. 1

I use a colonial era Swahili-English dictionary that was published in 1903. That's when none of my living relatives were alive. And perhaps more interestingly, my dictionary is older than all 72 things younger than John Mccain, which include FM radio, minimum wage, polyester, and the ZIP code.

It's age has given it so much value that it's actually available in seven different covers, but with the same 1903 print.

Cover version #4

Last month, a dear friend from the good ol' MN visited Korea, and I asked her to buy a Swahili-English dictionary for me, as such object does not exist in Korea. I trusted her sound judgment to buy me a decent dictionary that would work just fine. Buying a dictionary didn't seem to require too much professional expertise.

And now I have a 107 year old dictionary, probably made by an author who thought colored people were stupid and Queen Victoria was pretty damn hot for her work with the British Empire.

At first sight of the dictionary, I was quite shocked by its age, and briefly browsed the book until on page 2, I read the entry for the verb acha.

Whoa! "Let alone Europeans for strong government" appears in page 3! I wonder how many more politically incorrect examples would be used in the next 400+ pages!

It definately feels a bit odd to use a colonial era dictionary, potentially filled with examples as above, and I wish I had an English-Swahili dictionary too. But to be honest, this one already cost me $35, and it'll suit me well for the first couple of months (I have a Swahili-English dictionary software in my laptop to help as well). I promise I won't get brainwashed by the colonial writing.

For those of you eager to share my experience, the dictionary is available online.


Narae said...

I can't believe that you wrote a blog about ME!!! (not the dictionary, really...)lol
It seems like you are surviving very very well tho, righT? ;-)

Mbele said...

I am a Tanzanian, sitting here in the Library of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, reading this blog entry on the old Swahili dictionary and browsing through the dictionary itself. Thanks.

TK said...

Mr. Mbele,

Karibu tena!

It feels great to meet someone from MN!