Archives for February 2006


This wonderful page at the Virtual Hilltribe Museum (an extremely worthy site, created by the tribes themselves) presents a matrix of names and stereotypes of the hill tribes of Thailand:

It can be confusing. In addition to the names that each tribe has for themselves, and the names of the tribes in English and Thai, each tribe also has its own name for every other tribe (these terms are called autonyms and exonyms, respectively). It can be very, very confusing. Below we have assembled a matrix of what each of the seven main ethnic groups of the area call each of the seven ethnic groups. If you are counting, that’s 49 different names. Phew!
In this website we try to use a romanization of the name that the tribe calls itself. The exception for that is the Karen, because it already has a standardized English name, and the name which is uses to refer to itself is very difficult to spell in English.
We have also included the traditional opinions or stereotypes that each tribe has towards the others and themselves. We haven’t listed these to assign any sort of value judgment or superiority/inferiority among the different ethnic groups, but, instead, to show how complicated the relationships between the various ethnic groups in Northern Thailand are.

So the Karen call the Lisu Kae Lisaw and the Lisu call the Karen Ya-geu-leu; furthermore, “Lisus have always gotten along with Karens because they have never tried to take advantage of each other.” I can’t tell you how much I love this stuff, and I wish somebody would replicate the matrix for other areas of the world. (Nigeria would be an excellent start.)
I found it at MetaFilter, by the way.


A post by aldiboronti at highlights a word the OED is apparently planning to include—not a new word at all, but an old one that’s missing a couple of centuries of documentation. From the OED’s Appeals list:

tipitiwitchet, tippitiwitchet, etc. (US, = Venus fly-trap):
   interdate 1763-1940

Aldi also turned up a site called “Tippitiwitchet explained: from Aphrodite’s Mousetrap, a biography of Venus’s flytrap with facsimiles of John Ellis’s original pamphlet and manuscripts, by E. Charles Nelson and Daniel L. McKinley,” which has a long discussion of the possible origin of the word (first used in print, apparently, by John Bartram, a remarkable botanist and writer whose Observations are online here):

My foray in search of the roots of the word Tipitiwitchet is first into what Eric Partridge calls ‘slang and unconventional English’. A few terms seem particularly enlightening, not all of them slang. ‘Tippet’ is a fur collar, in ordinary English, and Marlowe’s ‘Hempen tippet’, a hangman’s rope, is a poetic embellishment. Farmer has ‘Tippet’ alone meaning a hangman’s rope, with further play on the word in the phrase ‘to turn tippet’. A ‘Twitch’ is a noose for recalcitrant horses. ‘Twitchers’ are either pincers or tight boots; and, of course, ‘Twitchety’ is nervous, fidgety, jerky. Additional uses of ‘Twitch’ and variants of ‘Tippet’ and ‘Tippity’ in the Scottish dialect are recorded. All these terms, coupled with Ellis’s overworked idea of a trap for mammals, to be mentioned later, parallel the term ‘Snatch-box’ that Partridge records as used for vulva in popular parlance. Some aspect of the ‘Toothed Vagina’ may be relevant, as can be traced out in Stith Thompson’s Motif Index of Folk Literature.

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