I’ve recently begun reading Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon (I suspect this won’t be the last post to emerge therefrom), and I have a question about the word lengkua in the following passage from page 82:
Tis then Mason and Dixon are most likely to be out rambling among all the Spices armies us’d to kill for, up in the Malay quarter, a protruded tongue of little streets askew to the Dutch grid, reaching to the base of Table Mountain. The abrupt evening descends, the charcoal fires come glowing one by one to life, dotting the hill-side, night slowly fills with cooking aromas,— shrimp paste, tamarinds, coriander and cumin, hot chilies, fish sauces, and fennel and fœnugreek, ginger and lengkua.
By dint of googling (only 9 hits for the word as printed) and my amazing linguistic truffle-hunting skills (I combined the “Malay” in the quoted passage with what appeared to be Malay text in some of the Google results and took out my Malay dictionary), I discovered that the word should be lengkuas, a Malay word for the spice whose Linnean name is Alpinia galanga.
Now, this site has a slew of names for it: siamese ginger, siamese galanga, java galangal, greater galangal, el galangal, el adkham, hang dou kou, stor kalanga, galanga, galanga de l’inde, laos, galgant, kulanjan, naukyo, lenkuas, galanga maior, kha, ka, riêng, großer galgant, herbe indienne, da liang jiang, grand galanga, galanga majeur. But the form galangal seems to be the current English name, used alongside galanga.
So my question is this: is Pynchon’s lengkua a simple mistake or typo for lengkuas, or could it be a legitimate (though rare) alternate form? I have too much respect for Pynchon and his love of variant forms to assume the former, but I don’t see much evidence for the latter. Persons with knowledge of Malay or other relevant subjects are invited to reply at length, but random comments and jokes are, as always, welcome as well.
Incidentally, the OED has the entry form galingale (used by Chaucer in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales: “A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones/ To boille the chiknes with the Marybones/ And poudre Marchant tart and galyngale”) and gives the following impressive variety of forms:
(1 gallengar), 4-5 galyngal(e, 5 ganyngale, 6 gallyngale, galigal, 6-9 galingal, 7 gallingale, galingame, galingall, 6-9 galangal(e, 7 galangall, calangall, 6, 8 galengal, 8 galengale, 4- galingale
But that appears to be a different plant. Still, it seems to be historically the same word; here’s the OED’s etymology:
ad. OF. galingal (garingal), a. Arab. khalanjān or khaulinjān, said to be a. (through Pers.) Chinese Ko-liang-kiang, lit. ‘mild ginger from Ko,’ a prefecture in the province of Canton. The word appears also as med.L. galanga, galinga (F. galangue), MDu. galigaen (Du. galigaan, galgant), MHG. galgan (mod.Ger. galgant).
Oh, and if anyone can direct my attention to an online map of Cape Town in its Dutch days (18th century), I will be most grateful. I’ve found nice history sites but no maps.