Saturday, 13 July 2013

Missing words in Didinga…

Some words in our language have changed their meaning or take on another meaning as new generations emerge, such as gay, wicked or stoned, while some other words seem to disappear from our vocabulary entirely. Words are not simply how we communicate; they are also a vital part of telling us what is important to our culture and what is not.

 So far I have discovered six different words in the Didinga language for ‘carrying something on your head,’ In English we don't even have even one, why?  Because, we don’t carry things on our head, therefore it holds no relevance to us.

For a woman in Didinga, who almost constantly is transporting something on her head, having a word for a carrying a heavy load, or a light one, or for carrying something for a long period of time is significant because these words are a part of everyday life to a Didinga person.

As I have studied and asked, I have found missing words here in Didinga. Some have little to no significance, for example there is no word for dessert (thanks to the missionaries, it is known as ‘goody-goody’) Also, surprisingly, there is no word for flower yet there are thousands growing wild.

There is also no actual word for ‘ugly’ in Didinga. What does this tell me? Well, where most the world hangs great value in clothes, hair and a slim waistline, to a Didinga person, these things are just not as significant.

Some missing words throw us for a loop and cause a difficult time or a long time in translation as you cannot simply say the word (as it is not there) you have to describe it.
Like the missing Didinga word for faithfulness

I discovered this missing word one day as I was telling a friend about God’s faithfulness; he turned and translated for me but he used the word "love." I asked him later how to say ‘faithful’ in Didinga. He said, “Just use the Didinga word love.” However, feeling strongly that this was not a proper translation caused me to go on a search for this word ‘faithfulness’ and yet, I could not find it anywhere. The answer I received from everyone was "Maybe long ago we had a word that meant this, but we have long since forgotten it."

Coincidently, faithfulness is not only a missing word among the Didinga people; it is also a missing concept and action. No one trusts anyone with anything! There is a Didinga saying that goes like this, ‘Keep it in the dark, don’t tell your wife,’ in other words don’t trust anyone and sadly, it is often said with good reason.
One of the ways I explained faithfulness to my language helper was by explaining faithfulness in marriage (also no word for adulterer). She looked at me and laughed, yet with sadness in her eyes and said “Impossible, I have never met a man faithful to his wife.”

This is not simply a Didinga phenomenon, faithlessness is epidemic in the lives of people all over the globe. Because of my Didinga ‘faithfulness’ word search I have been studying the Old and New Testament for definitions of faithfulness. I have come up with so many references in God’s word that it would take pages to write down the findings, let alone what there is yet to find in its wealth.

I have been challenged. 

Am I faithful? It’s hard to tell, as time seems to be a critical test. I look back at my life and I have been passionate, I have made huge obedient decisions for Christ but in the every moment with unseen thoughts and behaviors have I really loved God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?  O God, refine me so that your faithfulness is also in me!

Please pray with me that I would be faithful in every aspect of life. Pray for faithfulness in Didinga believers, pray they would let the Holy Spirit do His work in them and praise God for his unfailing faithfulness to the world!


  1. Such a great post and sad reality... am praying for them.

    1. Thank you Fiona! You prayers are greatly appreciated!!!!! Miss you!

  2. Language is so fascinating in how it reveals a culture!!! Praying for you this morning as i snuggle your littlest niece. Love you.

  3. Loved reading this interesting post. Scott and I are proud of you for working to learn the language, it will pay big dividends in return!

  4. You are so you, Mom

  5. Such good insights! May God use your life to reveal new words and concepts to the people HE loves.

  6. Very interesting! Keep up the good work Abbi!

  7. So I saved your blog wrong, and every time I clicked on it- it went to the same post. I thought "She never updates her blog!" . Don't you worry. I figured it out.
    Love this post and your insight and I definitely needed to be reminded to meditate on the word faithfulness.