Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Code for Efik is 144

I have on my desk a "Student Master Enrollment Form" that I need to complete to register Lilly for high school next year. In fact, I've already completed it. I just need to return it to the school, which I'll call Schleswig-Holstein High.

Some of the answer boxes require codes, including for language spoken at home. A helpful list of the three-numeral codes is on a separate sheet, listing 165 human languages out of the what -- 6,000? -- that are still in use worldwide (a dwindling number, I understand). The English code is 000, for example. Japanese is 011. Esperanto isn't on the list, but that's expecting eccentricity from a standard form, and that isn't going to happen.

I ran down the list to see how many languages I'd heard of. That is, the number I could associate with some part of the world or some group of speakers. That number is 112, including only those I'm completely sure of, though there were others I could guess at. Not bad, but I'm shockingly ignorant of many -- I'm guessing here -- African languages, the lesser-known languages of China, and maybe some stray Filipino tongues, with something from the diverse language stock of Papua New Guinea thrown in.

Efik, for instance, which is spoken by people who "inhabit the coastal area of South Eastern Nigeria and are very well known nationally and internationally partly because of the prominence of Calabar in Nigerian history and also due to their rich cultural heritage," according to the web site of Nka Ikem Esit, which says it's "dedicated to the provision of services that contribute to the socio-economic development of the peoples of Calabar (Nigeria), and minorities in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area."

I think "well known.. internationally" is a bit of a stretch, but then again part of the art of self-promotion is claiming you're already well known. From that web site, I also learn that "the Obong of Calabar is a democratic monarch, the paramount traditional head of the Efiks and the protector of the Efik tradition." Now that's a title, the Obong of Calabar. Apparently there was some kind of crisis in the mid-2000s regarding who would be obong, though the current title-holder seems to be Edidem Ekpo Okon Abasi Otu V.

I could pursue more information about that subject by going down the rabbit-hole of the Internet, but there's only so far I want to take this tangent. Still, it's remarkable where a standard form can lead you, if you're inclined to follow.

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