21 February 2011


Congkak is a game played by two people. You sit opposite your oponent and take it in turns to move pieces around the wooden containers. This is an extract from a leaflet that attempts to explain the rules. The English is perhaps the worst piece of translation I have come across:In addition to being the name of the game, congkak also means 'supercilious'. The two words are unrelated; in linguistics, we say they are homonyms, as they are both written and pronounced in the same way, though there is actually no connection between them. (Just like bark in English: it can be the outside of a tree or the sound of a dog, but there is no link between these two words.)

The translator here has chosen the wrong meaning for congkak, apparently without any awarenss of what is being written. It looks like every word has been looked up in a dictionary without any idea of context.

And then, in the second line kedua-dua means 'the two of them'. But kedua on its own means 'second', and this is the translation chosen. Bizarre!

(My thanks to Ish for giving me this leaflet, and also to Adrian Clynes for helping to decipher it.)