Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Anansi answer

Ye gods, you people are fast and informative. First this,

Re: Anansi Question

I'm West African (although I prefer to be identified by tribe-Yoruba, since you asked).
Although I can't comment specifically on the tiger issue one thing I've noticed is that translations of our folk tales are at best approximations. The word translated into tiger may actually refer to something entirely different.
For example, in my language there is a word for lion (kiniun), but the word for leopard (ekun) can also mean panther, cheetah, wildcat, and sometimes hyena.
To be honest I don't actually know what word (in my language) was translated into tiger.


and then this (with a link, yet)

According to this page:
The "tiger" of the Anansi stories is really the African leopard, or the Central and South American jaguar. However, the European colonists throughout Africa--the English, Dutch, and Germans--called leopards, "tigers." And so, in the African patois of the West Indies and in the African/Spanish dialects, leopard was often translated as "tiger" or "tigre."

- Ian 'fuz' Struckhoff

The patois thing makes a lot of sense: Tiger becomes an all-purpose word meaning any big cat who isn't a lion.

Thanks to both of you -- and everyone else who wrote in to help, or is writing in even as I type this...