45. Excerpt from the journal of the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India (1497–99)

Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto (Portugal)
mç. 804, fol. 45r
SENDER: Vasco da Gama

The anonymous diary of the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India, between 1497 and 1499, included a lexicon in Portuguese and Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala in southern India. He must have compiled this dictionary with information provided by the native hostages that were taken during the voyage. In this manuscript, the anonymous author registered expressions for standard gestures and actions (e.g., to drink, to go away, to throw, to fall), body parts (head, nose, hand), and other common words (man, woman, sun, moon, sky, boat, house). A group of other lexical items (penis, testicles, ass, fart, copulate) were deemed too indecorous to feature in a document of this thrust and although an zealous clerk subsequently blotted them out, they can still be read. The document is an early European attempt to reach out to the native inhabitants of southern India, their language and their culture.

(Roger Lee de Jesus)