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.
When learning a new language, some of the issues we encounter are translating those crafty closed compound words – combinations of two or more words that function as a single unit and mean something different than the individual words they are built from.
Direct translation: bait bird
Actual meaning: vulture
Direct translation: Hunting lazy horse
Actual meaning: cheetah
Direct translation: full throat
Actual meaning: sick of it all
Direct translation: Growl nut
Actual meaning: starter motor
Direct translation: Little Flap cupboard
Actual meaning: cubby hole
Direct translation: Camel horse
Actual meaning: Giraffe
Direct translation: Cats mischief
Actual meaning: getting up to no good
Direct translation: teasing little man
Actual meaning: a male rock lizard
Direct translation: Lazy horse
Actual meaning: Leopard
Direct translation: late lamb
Actual meaning: a child born many years after its siblings
Direct translation: road food
Actual meaning: Southern African snacks and provisions for a journey
Direct translation: horse fly
Actual meaning: wasp
Direct translation: falling hat
Actual meaning: helmet
14. Papier vampier
Direct translation: paper vampire
Actual meaning: stapler
Note: papier vampier (papiervampier) is slang and is included in Mzansi Taal online dictionary. More common names are “kramdrukker” (staple presser), “krammasjien” (staple machine) or “krambinder” (staple binder). But how boring they sound 🙂 isn’t it? [Undated 30 June 2020]
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