Wednesday Word: (Wrong) Turn

Welcome to those who searched for “Turn”! Look right and left. You might enjoy some of the other posts on this blog…t.

This week I will try not to lead you astray.

This week’s Wednesday Word demonstrates how languages differ in describing changes in direction.

In English, we turn and we go. We turn left. We turn right. But if we continue in the same direction, we go straight. But to get lost we take (or make) a “wrong” turn.

How about here in the Philippines?

In Tagalog, right left and straight can be made into verbs. So they can simply “right,” rather than turning right.

Palawano has a very different way of expressing this. They take turns (no, I don’t mean that kind of “taking turns”!) When walking down a trail, they take from the left. They take from the right. But to go straight, they also “take.” They take from the chest.

But when Palawanos get lost, it gets even more interesting.

They have a word suayan (soo-WHY-ahn) which means “fork in the road,” i.e. a place to turn (er… take from the) left or right. The basic root of suayan is suey (pronounced something like soo-UHy). However, neither suey nor suayan mean to turn, nor do they have any meaning of right or left. They simply refer to the split where the choice is made to go right or left.

But to take a wrong turn, there is no word “wrong” used to express it. Palawano uses suey, which has no component of wrongness in its meaning, and they add an “accidental” prefix teg- (think tug as in tugboat).  So tegsuey means to “take a wrong turn.” Literally, it would be translated “accidentally turn.”


Okay, now it’s u-turn.

Do you know of other ways languages speak of turning, going straight, or making a wrong turn?

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About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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2 Responses to Wednesday Word: (Wrong) Turn

  1. Gill says:

    We can also ‘go’ in English… ‘go left at the lights’. We also ‘go’ round a corner as well as ‘turn’ a corner. Or we can bear left, or veer left. And then we can head down.
    But don’t keep your head down if there’s a bear!

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