I heard them say…

Friday , 25, July 2008

I don’t know if it’s true but here are three examples of language misunderstandings from the colonial past:

  1. Kangaroo. A common myth about the kangaroo’s English name is that it came from the Aboriginal words for “I don’t understand you.”
  2. Macau. It is said that when the Portuguese sailors landed at the coast just outside the temple and asked the name of the place, the natives replied “A-Ma-Gao” (Bay of A-Ma). The Portuguese then named the peninsula Macau.
  3. Yucatán. There is a popular myth that the name Yucatán comes from the Yucatec Maya phrase for “listen how they speak,” or “I don’t understand your words” — supposedly said by contact period Maya when the first Spanish explorers asked what the area was called.

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