We often use similes without realizing, when we desire to emphasize the meaning of an idea or an image. But similes allow us insight into a different culture, as you can notice from these Afrikaans similes and their English translations.
Ons gebruik gereeld vergelykings, somtyds sonder dat ons dit besef, om ‘n idee of beeld te versterk. Vergelykings gee ons ook insig in ander kulture, soos jy kan opmerk van herdie Afrikaanse vergelykings en hulle (direkte) Engelse vertalings.
so arm soos ‘n kerkmuis = as poor as a church mouse
This simile is probably deriving from an older one, as hungry as a church mouse – illustrating how the Catholic and the Orthodox priests were careful not to mess the smallest crumb of the sacramental bread.
Die vergelyking het heelwaarskynlik sy oorsprong van ‘n ouer een, “so honger soos ‘n kerkmuis”, wat illustreer hoe versigtig die Katolieke en Ortodokse priesters was om nie die kleinste krummel van die heilige nagmaalbrood te mors nie.
so bitter soos gal = as bitter as bile
so bleek soos ‘n laken = as pale as a sheet
In English we would rather say as pale as death, as pale as a ghost, as white as a sheet)
so blind soos ‘n mol = as blind as a mole so blou soos die hemel / die berge = as blue as the sky / as blue as a mountain so dapper soos ‘n leeu = as brave as a lion
so dood soos ‘n mossie = as dead as a sparrow
This simile might derive from as dead as a dodo (referring to the dodo being an extinct species), although I think that as dead as a door nail is more used.
so doof soos ‘n kwartel = as deaf as a quail
Quails are widespread in South Africa and very easy to catch. The expression is based on a misunderstanding between Dutch and German. In German “doof” means “dumb”. Because quails are easy to catch or be lured with simple tricks, the Germans called them “doof” and the word entered Dutch and then Afrikaans. In English we would say as deaf as a post.
so dom soos ‘n esel = as stupid as a donkey so donker soos die nag = as dark as the night so dronk soos ‘n matroos = as drunk as a sailor so droog soos kurk / strooi = as dry as cork / as dry as straw (as dry as a bone is used in English) so dun soos ‘n plank = as thin as a plank (rather as thin as a rail in English)
so fris soos ‘n perd = as healthy as a horse
This is an interesting Afrikaans idiom as the English equivalent originates in the NE of the USA and is best used in summer. In English we would rather say as healthy / as fit as a butcher’s dog. This makes sense as a butcher’s dog would have a diet based on meat and other scraps, thus keeping him healthier than the stray dogs.
so geduldig soos Job = as patient as Job so geel soos goud = as yellow as gold geld soos bossies = money like weeds (has a lot of money) so gereeld soos klokslag = as regular as clockwork so giftig soos ‘n slang = as poisonous as a snake
so goed soos goud = as good as gold (completely genuine)
This simile most probably draws from the end of the 19th century when banknotes were first introduced in the USA. These were actually IOUs, written promises for a later payment, in gold and silver. Thus the expression, IOUs were “as genuine as gold”, as good as gold.
“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit… “As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better.”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843
so glad soos seep = as smooth as soap so groen soos gras = as green as grass so groot soos ‘n reus = as big as a giant so hard soos klip = as hard as stone so helder soos kristal = as clear as crystal so honger soos ‘n wolf = as hungry as a wolf
so koel soos ‘n komkommer = as cool as cucumber
As cool as a cucumber dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. Cool here does not refer to low temperature, but rather to someone unruffled. As cool as a cucumber was first recorded in 1732, in John Gay’s New Song on New Similes.
so koud soos ys = as cold as ice so krom soos ‘n hoepel = as crooked as a hoop so kwaai soos ‘n tierwyfie = as vicious as a tigress so lelik soos die nag = as ugly as the night so lig soos ‘n veer = as light as a feather so lui soos ‘n donkie = as lazy as a donkey so maer soos ‘n kraai = as thin / skinny as a crow so mak soos ‘n lam = as tame as a lamb so maklik soos pyp opsteek = as easy as lighting a pipe
so moeg soos ‘n hond = as tired as a dog
As tired as a dog draws back to the 9th century, originating in the adjectival phrase dog-tired. It is said that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and King of the Anglo-Saxons used to send his sons, Athelbrod and Edwin, out hunting accompanied by their dogs. Whichever son would catch more game would be seated at their father’s right hand side at the dinner table that evening. The hunt would leave both young princes as tired as a dog.
so nat soos ‘n kat = as wet as a cat so nuuskierig soos ‘n aap = as curious as a monkey so oud soos die berge = as old as the mountains so plat soos ‘n pannekoek = as flat as a pancake pronk soos ‘n pou = shows off like a peacock so reg soos ‘n roer = as straight as a barrel (of a gun) so rond soos ‘n koeël = as round as a bullet so rooi soos bloed = as red as blood so regop soos ‘n kers = as upright as a candle rook soos ‘n skoorsteen = smokes like a chimney so sag soos sy = as soft as silk so seker soos twee maal twee vier is = as sure as knowing two times two is four sing soos ‘n nagtegaal = sings like a nightingale so skerp soos ‘n lemmetjie = as sharp as a razor blade so skraal soos ‘n riet = as slim as a reed so skurf soos ‘n padda = (skin) as scabby / dry as a toad
slaap soos ‘n klip = sleeps like a stone
The former version of sleep like a stone would be sleep like a log – metaphorically mentioned in English as early as the 17th century:
“foundering is when she will neither veere nor steare, the sea will so ouer rake her, except you free out the water, she will lie like a log, and so consequently sinke.”
John Smith, A Sea Grammar, 1627
so slim soos ‘n jakkals = as clever, crafty as a jackal so soet soos suiker / stroop = as sweet as sugar / syrup so stadig soos ‘n trapsuutjies = as slow as a chameleon so steeks soos ‘n donkie = as stubborn as a donkey so sterk soos ‘n os = as strong as an ox so stil soos ‘n muis = as quiet as a mouse stink soos ‘n muishond = stinks like a skunk so suur soos asyn = as sour as vinegar so swaar soos lood = as heavy as lead so swak soos ‘n lammetjie = as weak as a lamb so swart soos die nag = as black as the night swem soos ‘n vis = swims like a fish sweet soos ‘n perd = sweats like a horse so taai soos ‘n ratel = as tough as a honey badger so trots soos ‘n pou = as proud as a peacock so vas soos ‘n rots = as steady as a rock so vinnig soos ‘n windhond = as fast as a greyhound
so wit soos sneeu = as white as snow
Imagine the pure, pristine snow of a sunny winter’s morning. Shakespeare was one of the first to use this powerful simile:
… What if this cursed hand Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood, Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens To wash it white as snow? …
I watch my dogs basking in the sun, the tip of their tail swishing just as I think of them, standing against the door frame. Can they read my mind? I know they will shake off their dreams and follow me as I stroll around the yard. Their heart chooses to follow mine. That’s how dogs are.
118 Military Working Dog Teams were deployed to the Gulf region for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In the War on Terrorism a big threat are explosives hidden on a person, in a vehicle, or a roadside location. Therefore, Explosives Detection Dogs were, and still are, specially trained to alert when they sense the specific chemicals used in explosives, either packed, hidden or even as powder remains on the humans that handled them or on their clothes . Explosive Dogs are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other US locations for this purpose alone.
2000, Robby’s Law, one reason to cheer for former President Clinton
Before President Clinton passed “Robby’s Law” in 2000, military working dogs were considered “military surplus equipment” and deemed unfit to adjust to civilian life. This meant that once the military could no longer use, need or afford a canine, the once treasure four-legged was either released or euthanized instead of honored. After “Robby’s Law” was passed, handlers (who had already formed a strong
bond with their canine mate) and their families were first to be offered the
opportunity at adopting these military animals at the completion of their
Some soldiers even used their military operational bonus to buy the dog that served with them.
“Fluffy was my Comrade in arms first, then he walked into my heart as my friend and became my buddy then he became part of my family. He was not a pet! He was a soldier first. During our time in Iraq he checked on me and I checked on him. He was one of the team, he was my battle buddy! If I sat down he would sit no farther than five feet away. If I got up and moved ten feet he would get up and move ten feet. “
Russel, on K920Fluffy (Iraq War vet) – USAWarDogs.org
For the dog training program, Iraq came too late after Vietnam
The first 30 dog teams sent into Iraq in 2004 were the “guinea pigs”, all tactical lessons and experience gained during the Vietnam war lost. What made it worthwhile for the dog teams were the canines, with their honest, open and loving personalities.
The Paradogs: the parachuting dogs of war
By 2008 German Shepherd dogs already jumped from aircrafts at 25,000ft, strapped to a member of the special forces assault teams. Later, Belgian Malinois dogs, lighter and stubbier, were considered better for the tandem parachute jumping and rappelling operations often undertaken by SEAL teams. The tandem jumping was done to protect the canines on landing.
A military dog would only be allowed to jump solo form a helicopter if he lands in water and only if properly outfitted with a flotation vest. Such dogs were trained to accompany soldiers on ‘High Altitude High Opening’ (HAHO) parachute jumps. After landing, men and MWDs would still have to travel 20 miles to their targets.
These MWDs had small cameras fixed to their heads and, trained to penetrate the enemy lines before their human partners, would hunt for Taliban or insurgent hideouts. The cameras will sent live images back to the troops while the dogs warn of possible ambushes.
The elite American unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, commonly known as Delta Force, has pioneered the parachute technique from heights over 20,000ft.
U.S. Army soldier with the 10th Special Forces Group and his military working dog jump off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during water training over the Gulf of Mexico:
2009: U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and a MWD wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009:
Navy Seal teams are trained to parachute from great heights and deploy out of helicopters with dogs. In 2010 the Seals bought four waterproof tactical vests for their dogs that featured infrared and night-vision cameras and an ‘intruder communication system’ able to penetrate concrete walls. The MWD’s handlers — using a three-inch monitor from as far as 1,000 yards away — could immediately see what the dogs were seeing. The vests, which come in coyote tan and camouflage, let handlers communicate with the dogs through a speaker and were strong enough to protect the dogs from harm due to everything, from bullets to ice picks. The four vests together cost over $86,000 at the time, says a 2011 NY Times article.
The world record for highest man-dog parachutejump
In 2011 U.S. Military Handler Mike Forsythe, a former US Navy SEAL turned canine parachute instructor for military and search & rescue units and his dog Cara, strapped on a K9 Storm Vest tactical body armor and fitted an oxygen mask, jumped in tandem from over 30,100 feet, the altitude at which transoceanic passenger jets fly. Cara is a Belgian Malinois.
In October 2010 the Pentagon announced that after six years and $19 billion spent in the attempt to build the ultimate bomb detector technology, dogs were still the most accurate sniffers around. The rate of detection with the Pentagon’s fanciest equipment — drones and aerial detectors — was a 50 percent success rate, but when a dog was involved it rose an extra 30 percent.
began a pilot program in Afghanistan with nine bomb-sniffing dogs, a number
that reached approximately 650 at the end of 2011 and 2,800 active-duty
dogs in 2013, making it the largest canine contingent in the world.
The MWD who took Osama bin Laden down
Not many know, but the 81 members of the American commando team who blitzed into Abbottabad, Pakistan, to capture and kill Osama bin Laden had a MWD with them. Some say he was the U.S.’s most courageous dog, yet little was known about him until recently. his name is Cairo and he is a Belgian Malinois.
MWDs in the War in Afghanistan
How MWDs contribute to the local Afghan economy
Maintaining a Military Base, building roads and maintaining them requires constant effort. Often local contractors are used, in an attempt to support the local (Afghan) economy. But to keep the soldiers safe, each local truck or worker has to be checked for possible hidden explosives (they are aware of or not). Here is where Vehicle Search dogs play an important role.
Surviving the harsh climate in Afghanistan
If you wondered how the MWDs survive the harsh climate of Afghanistan, know that (some) of their kennels are equipped with air conditioning and, often, if an army base has a swimming pool – that definitely is not for the benefit of the humans.
Dog Breeds preferred as MWDs by U.S. Military
U.S. military prefers mostly German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois, breeds because they are aggressive, smart, loyal and athletic.
German Shepherd dogs are the standard breed because they are considered to be intelligent, dependable, predictable, easily trained, usually moderately aggressive, and can adapt quickly to almost any climatic conditions.
Single-purpose dogs are used for one purpose only: sniffing out explosives or narcotics. Retrievers (Labrador, Golden or Chesapeake Bay) are preferred, also Viszlas, various short-and wire-haired pointers, Jack Russell terriers and even small poodles. These are all nose, no bite dogs. These dogs are trained to locate either drugs orexplosives – never both. “When your dog makes an alert you need to know whether to run away and call the explosives people or whether to go arrest someone.”
It is empowering, yet worrisome to find out that military working dogs today train for such a diverse range of tasks: EDD (Explosive Detector Dog), NDD (Narcotics Detector Dog), SSD (Specialized Search Dog) – trained to work off leash, at long distances from their handler, in order to find explosives. SDD dogs work by hand signals, and can even receive commands via radio receivers they wear on their backs, attached to their bulletproof doggy vest, and TEDD (Tactical Explosive Detector Dog).
A dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in his nose and the part of their brain devoted to scent is 40 times greater than that of a human.
“A dog can see through his nose.”
Mike Dowling, former Marine Corps dog handler, Iraq
More single purpose dogs, like the dogs I depicted in my latest novel Silent Heroes: CTD (Combat Tracker Dog) trained to detect where IEDs and weapons caches are located; MDD (Mine Detection Dog): these dogs do slow off-leash searches for buried mines and artillery; IDD (IED Detector Dog), this is a temporary program created to fulfill the urgent need for bomb dogs, especially in Afghanistan.
Of course, there are dual-purpose dogs, multi-purpose canines, the special K-9 Corps of CIA.
What are vapor-wake dogs?
Scientists at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have genetically bred and specially trained canines that are able do more than just detect stationary bombs or bomb-making materials. These MWDs can identify and alert their handler to the moving scent of explosive devices and materials left behind in the air. If a suicide bomber walks through a crowd, these dogs would be able to tell him apart without ever tipping off the perpetrator. The cost of breeding and training vapor-wake dogs is around $20,000 each, still less than the cost of training most MWDs.
The Difference between a German Shepherd and a Belgian Malinois dog
But training is much more than teaching a dog commands. It is bonding, above anything else.
There is no count to the number of hidden bombs detected and the human lives saved by the MWDs today, yet it is certain that the use of these dogs marked a pivotal moment for the coalition forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when it comes to the moral of the troops and the freedom of movement for the ground patrols operating in combat areas.
The bond formed between military dogs and their human handlers is stronger than an outsider can imagine, helping the soldiers cope with a ghastly war.
In crucial moments, when humans naturally tend to doubt themselves, a dog will sense the tension and still trust his handler, and this tips the situation in the favor of the human-dog team.
All dogs trained and used by the U.S. military are procured and trained by the 341st Military Working Dog Training Squadron, Lackland AFB, TX.
Doggles – goggles for dogs!
Dogs, the Silent Heroes of any war
Some might argue that the use of animals, and lately dogs, in war borders an ethical dilemma. Yet during conflicts, saving human lives (be it military or civilians, always dragged in combat) always takes first stage and it is certain that hundreds, if not thousands of men, women and children owe their life, in one way or another, to the military working dogs, MWDs, who served beside them.
Silent War Heroes page on my website contains part of the extensive knowledge I absorbed while researching for Silent Heroes as well as links to all my articles about the history of human-canine relationship and that of the military dogs. I hope you will stop by.
After a military history that seemed to have snowballed between the Great War and the Second World War, what happened to these specially trained canine soldiers once dust settled over the Paris Peace Treaties?
Military Dogs during the Korean War
As there were still U.S. Army troops that remained in Korea after the end of WW2, due to the Cold War, they stayed put in the south after the Communist government was established in North Korea. Therefore more than one hundred U.S. military dogs were already stationed in Seoul at the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950.
The sentry dogs were quickly trained for combat situations. The the 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon was the U.S. dog sent unit to fight in Korea. Back home, the dogs were trained at the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson
“The 26th Infantry Scout Dog Platoon is cited for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services in direct support of combat operations in Korea during the period 12 June 1951 to 15 January 1953.
Korean War, General Orders Citation
Thoughts on deactivating the Army Dog Training Center at Fort Carson, in 1957:
“While fighting in Korea I was attacked and one of these dogs took over my attacker and I was able to recover my footing and escaped. Please reconsider.”
Frank Conanno, 1470 Third Street, West Babylon, N. Y.
“I am in the Army and was put into the scout dog platoon and trained dogs for nine months in the States and have had the same dog all the times. This dog STAR has saved my life and about twelve other men’s lives. I would like to know if there is any way that I could have him discharged the same time that I am. I would gladly pay the Government for the dog and take all the responsibility for him. “I would appreciate it very much if you could help me in any way so I could take him home with me. This dog is not dangerous and would be suitable to civilian life.”
Cpl, Max Meyers, 26th Infantry, Scout Dog Platoon, APO #60 San Francisco, Calif.
At the end of he Korean War, some scout dogs were put on sentry duty at various Dog Platoons in the U.S.
Laika, first dog in space, 1957
Laika was he first dog in space, November 1957, on board of Sputnik 2, the second spacecraft launched into Earth orbit by the Soviet Union. Sadly, Laika survived for several orbits but died a few hours after the launch. Laika was part husky or other Nordic breed, part terrier, once again proving that a brave heart is worth more than a pedigree.
The American press dubbed Laika Muttnik: mutt + suffix -nik
Military dogs during the Vietnam War
Below: two sniffer dogs that served in the Vietnam War, 1967, South Vietnam, with the 7th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment. Justin is left, and Cassius is right, pictured here with Lance Corporal Thomas Douglas and Cpl. Norman Leslie. Cpl Blackhurst, a radio operator, was killed in action in April 1971 while calling in a helicopter for a medical evacuation. The helicopter crashed, killing L Cpl. Blackhurst, another officer on the ground, as well as the medic on board.
In Vietnam there was a specialized requirement for tunnel dogs to detect and explore the tunnels exploited by the Vietnam Cong (National Liberation Front). The tunnel dwellers feared the U.S. dogs and used tactics to confuse them. For example they washed with GI soap and covered air vents with shirts taken from Americans so the dogs’ sense of smell would not be alerted.
Sadly, the war dogs deployed to Vietnam during that conflict, 1955 – 1975, were classified as “surplus equipment” and left behind, no matter what their human handler and buddies believed. When U.S. troops withdrew in 1973, most of the 4,000 U.S. military dogs on the ground there were deemed “surplus equipment,” and left behind. Some were given to South Vietnamese forces, while others were euthanized.
The Prison Riot of 1996 and the first dog body armor
The Winnipeg prison riot of 1996 might not have made the international news, but the two days of horror have been enough for Jim Slater, a former dog handler for the Winnipeg police department, who adjusted a human flak jacket on his canine partner Olaf.
“He was out working ahead of our lines,” he says. “I realized it would be a bad way for him to go down, stabbed with a screwdriver.”
Jim Slater for Money.com
Orders for more bullet proof jackets for dogs soon began to pour from fellow canine officers.
Military Working Dogs in the Israeli Special Forces
Founded in 1939 as Hagana ( when canines were used for the security of Jewish villages threatened by their Arab neighbors), the Oketz Unit (Oketz is Hebrew for “sting”) is the independent canine special forces (sayeret) unit of the Israel Defense Forces. Initially, Oketz trained dogs to attack kidnappers, but today their dogs undergo specialized training: attack, tracking, sniffer dogs (especially ammunition and hidden explosives) and finding people in collapsed buildings.
The Oketz military base has a pet cemetery, the final resting place of over 60 four-legged recruits. A testimony to the increasingly significant role that dogs have come to play in the ranks of the military and of the never ending bond that forms between them and their human handlers.
Fighting terrorists or taking part in the Gaza-Israel conflict, when a Israeli military dog happens to be torn apart by a land mine he is officially registered as missing in combat.“Our troops train as one – man and dog... It’s less about you and more about you and the dog together, what you can do together.”
“Since 2002, soldiers and dogs from Oketz have been able to prevent at least 200 suicide attacks in the central region”
Israeli officer says.
Unlike other combat troops in the IDF, Oketz soldiers carry three liters of water on them during operations – 1.5 liters for themselves and 1.5 liters for the dogs. (Source: The Jerusalem Post)
In 2017, India announced that it had bought 30 Oketz attack dogs, bomb sniffers and chasers from Israel because “the new four-legged recruits to the Special Protection Group are considered the best in the world in sniffing out explosive booby-traps.”
The Jerusalem Post
“On numerous occasions and on numerous deployments I have seen battle-hardened men pouring affection on stray dogs that happen to frequent their bases, and often try to adopt them. I remember in Bosnia, in the deep snow of Mrkonič Grad where we were holed-up in an old, windy bus depot, there was a huge mongrel, clearly the alpha male, that used to lay in the snow permanently surveying his empire, confident that as each unit passed through on its 6-month rotation, someone would make sure that he was well looked after.”
Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, British Army Blog
1989, the Berlin Wall comes down
Before 9 November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, the East German Communist Government used over 6000 dogs for patrol along the wall, known as “Wall Dogs”. A special breed was raised for this reason alone, DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) Shepherd: dogs that excelled in tracking, were athletic, tough, had excellent climbing abilities, and could withstand extreme physical conditions and demands.
These dogs were tied to a 5m long chain attached to a steel cable that ran approximately 100m in length along the Berlin Wall. Their life was tough, were treated with extreme cruelty. Barely fed every two days, they went through a (short) life with barely any human contact. They soon developed the “wall syndrome”: barking incessantly even when they could hardly stand. Some were killed when they could no longer perform their guard duty, some strangled themselves when their own leads got tangled.
After the Wall came down and these guard dogs were no longer needed, they were mostly abandoned. The German Association for the Protection of Animals did everything they could to save as many Wall dogs as possible. Some say that the adopted Wall dogs, when approaching the area where the wall once stood, would
“move as if tethered to an unseen leash, with absolute certainty, following the old border along its zigzags through the city”.
Is one happy ending enough?
Between the Wall Dogs, whose difficult reputation made it difficult for them to be adopted, two German Shepherds, Juro and Betty, and a Schnauzer called Valco, were adopted in March 1990 by a family in Mallorca, Spain.
The history of Military Working Dogs, or War Dogs, is long and sad. Have humankind learned anything from these amazing souls, who give unconditionally, forget and always offer second chances?
Next post: MWDs encountered in the Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. Do return for some amazing images and more canine history.
It has been a long, crimson battle for the shaggy warrior, but he won it. Nevertheless, the carmine bodies of his opponents, the Autumn’s subjects, littered the ground.
Drenched in memories of bloody battlefields, sentencing childbirths and sin, Crimson sank at Autumn’s feet. Hand picked by Her and entrusted with her most prized possession, her leaves, Crimson now looks up, in the symphony of life.
Never have the carmine or crimson colors been happier as this Autumn!
Above, russet leaves, hushed tones, their veins facing the road, trembling in anticipation. In a tornado of horse power and diesel a Ferrari flashed by, crimson, as if pulled by the ray of sun caught in its glass. And leaves, like paparazzi, followed.
Dating back to Roman times and the Middle Ages when it was accepted as payment, the crimson or carmine dye was first made from the body of the female kermes (Atabic qirmiz), a tiny red insect.
Carmine pigment is not very stable unless it is stored in dry place and it fades even under incandescent illumination.
Kermes (carmine) is mentioned in the Old Testament and it was used in the Americas for dyeing textiles as early as 700 B.C.
Example of carmine used in art:
Titian depicts the biblical scene (John 20:17) where Mary Magdalene recognizes Christ after his Resurrection. Christ comforts Magdalen but asks her not to touch him as he will ascend to Heaven soon. Noli me tangere is Latin for “let no one touch me.”
Do return to my blog for more colors and seasons. You can subscribe to my newsletter and never miss a post.
If you’re lucky you get to witness Autumn capturing the last heat of the summer’s sun in its deep yellow leaves. Gamboge canopy. Powdery like saffron, spicy like mustard.
Dressed-up in her best sepia, with eyes of mustard gamboge, the cat thought of herself as one of Autumn’s leaves as she purred among amber and crimson. Now… the bird will come.
Gamboge fills up my mouth when I say it. So fitting to describe autumn’s vivid yellows!
Gamboge arrived to us from Latin gambogium. It most probably has ties with the gum resin extracted from trees and used as a yellow pigment in art, trees of southeast Asia. Initially, the resin is orange-brown, but it becomes bright yellow when turned to powder.
Yes, gamboge, also spelled camboge, is family with the noun cambugium, most probably deriving from Camboja, the word Portuguese seafarers used for Cambodia in 1600. Cambodia is one of the countries where the trees producing gamboge are indigenous.
Masterful use of gamboge in art: Rembrandt’s portrait of his beloved wife Saskia van Uylenburgh as Goddess Flora, 1634.