This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Thing Not To Be In Today: in a state of latah.

Language is playfully bonkers, deadly accurate, euphonious, and a cacophony...

...but the reason it truly fascinates me is the way it shows us the world.

Latah is a psychological state you'll probably only have observed if you've been to Malaysia and spent time teasing women too old to have children.

It's when, after a shock (even something like being poked suddenly, or shouted at), a person (usually a no-longer-youthful, not-very-educated woman) begins to scream, swear, jiggle about, laugh uncontrollably, sweat, mimic the people around them, and do whatever people tell them to do, however embarrassing that might be afterwards (though they probably won't remember what's happened).

Why this happens is a mystery. Some other cultures exhibit something rather similar, but the state of latah is a purely Malay phenomenon. 

But...I don't know...I've never thought about it before, but the link between a shock and someone being suggestible is a real one everywhere. 

And without that Malay word (which English has borrowed, though it's rarely encountered) I probably wouldn't have realised it.

It's certainly something to bear in mind if you have a shock.

Thing Not To Be In Today: a state of latah. This word is Malay.

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