Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What Does The Kankana-ey Word "Taraki" Mean?

Kimberly, a student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City sent me an email asking me to translate into English a list of Kankana-ey words and phrases. Kimberly is writing an overview paper on the evolution of two of the most common dialects in the province of Benguet. These are Kankana-ey and Ibaloi. I'm completely clueless about the latter so I told Kimberly to find someone else who is knowledgeable about the dialect. I however decided to help her with the Kankana-ey words and phrases. I grew up speaking the dialect. So she sent me a long list of about a hundred words and phrases.

Translating into English the list that she sent me was not too difficult. They're mostly basic stuff like take a bath (man-ames), sleep (maseyep), good (gawis), make (iyamag), etc. However, there's one word that caused me a lot of difficulty translating. Finding the right and accurate English translation for it was an exercise in itself. Said word is "taraki", an adjective often used by Kankana-ey speakers to describe someone or something in a positive way.

Taraki is not gender-specific. It can be used to describe a man or a woman. Say you just met a girl and you find her attractive, you can describe her as taraki or na-taraki. The same can be said if you are a girl and you met or saw a guy you are attracted to. The term is also commonly used to describe a thing or an animal. For example, you can use it do describe a painting or any work of art that you like.

When used on people, taraki isn't used directly by the speaker to the person who is the recipient of his/her affections. It would be very awkward to simply walk up to someone and say he/she is taraki. It doesn't work this way. It's used in the same way as telling a friend that you have a huge crush on someone. You don't say it directly to the person. Instead, you mention it to a third party, out of earshot of the person who is the subject of your compliments.
Digital art by James Claridades. See more of his work on DeviantArt.
There doesn't seem to be a direct English translation of taraki. This is because it can be used as a substitute for a myriad of adjectives like beautiful, good-looking, confident, talented, intelligent, handsome, artistic, industrious, etc. You can very well substitute the word for all positive adjectives in the book. The English word that comes closest to it is the loose word "cool". When you describe someone as taraki, you are saying that that someone is "cool".

It's much easier to translate taraki into Tagalog. It fits rather accurately with the Tagalog slang word "astig". However, the word astig carries a tinge of aggressiveness in it which is minimal if not absent in taraki.

What do you think? Are there other translations of taraki into English or Tagalog that you can think of? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

[Update, December 1: From comments on this post and elsewhere, the word "taraki" is an Ilocano term adapted by Kankana-ey speakers. Some contest the proposition so we'll have to look further into it.]