These Monkeys Bite …

… and cause serious injury. Do not approach!

How it all started!

Several years ago, while living outside of Quonochontaug, R.I., I happened to receive in the mail a catalogue, as I did, back then, all the time, maybe several a day, who knows?! But anyway, I always at least looked at the catalogues I would get, all 3.000 in a day.

Jim & Monkeys 2 (215K)

This one catalogue came from a company in the midwest that specialized in agricultural accident remediation supplies. Page after page of eye-popping agricultural worksites just oozing with gore-potential implements, and what to do with the occasional mishap involved said implements and you, dear reader.

Well, one page caught my eye pretty quickly. It was the SIGNAGE page. Now you must know, that I love signage. All kinds, the quirkier the better; the foreign language-er the better. For instance, one of the signs (and I am kicking myself now, as I type this, for not jumping up right away and buying it). It was a sign that simply said, Salesmen Forbidden! What was so cool about this one is that it was in Swedish. I immediately wondered if having a surfeit of Swedish salesmen was as much of an agricultural accident waiting to be remedied, or someone's idea of a good joke. I mean, are there thousands of Swedish salesmen swarming around ready to pounce on the unsuspecting consumer? Enough to warrant the explicit manufacture of (I assume) thousands of signs.

But did I order it? Nooooooooo.

I did, however, order several (to give to friends, if a matter of absolute necessity) of the sign at the right.

And I kept one at home, and one at work.

The Leap into further madness

The one at work was posted to actually ward off co-workers. Not because they might be afraid of monkeys (or more precisely biting monkeys), but because it was just one more mote of proof that I was a bit, shall we say, strange.

But one of my favorite co-workers, a Russian emigrée O—, would stop and chuckle every time she walked by my cubicle (no small feat as I had been banished to the nether regions of the cubicle farm). And ask me (for the hundredth time) how I found the sign?

Then I had the inspired (or insane [inane?]) thought, and asked out loud, “Well, O—, how would you write this in Russian? And she thought, and thought, and sat down and wrote out the content of the sign in (what I assume is grammatically and semantically correct) Russian (Moscow variant). Which I then, promptly, typeset to match (somewhat) the original sign.

These Monkeys Bite ... in Russian

Ėti obez'iany kusaiutsia i mogut prichinit' ser'yëznye uvech'ia.

Well, you can see where this might go.

The Kartvelian Leap (or მარჩევნია ქართულად ვლაპარა კობდე!)

Next, my niece A— mentioned, knowing my attempt at learning the Georgian alphabet, that she just so happened to work with a Georgian. Which I found kind of funny, as her own father is from Georgia, but the southern U.S. state, not the former Soviet republic.

So once we cleared that up, she offered to connect me with her co-worker, so I might actually learn how to pronounce this incredibly wonderful language, with perhaps the most complex verbal morphology of any language I have ever tried to learn.

Well, it turns out that I did indeed contact her co-worker, D— (actually დათო), and we got together at his place, which he shared with a dear friend also from Tbilisi (თბილისი ). Well, in spite of the fact that they had to go to a class that evening, they blew it off because they were having such a good time explaining the Georgian way of life. They were, indeed, a couple of nuts.

So near the end of the evening, I hemmed and hawed and tried to explain this story about the monkey sign, and they wanted to see it (of course, I had it with me). They then proceded to translate it into modern Georgian (Tbilisi-flavored), and in typical Georgian fashion, they got into an argument about it, and started shouting at each other: "No, not შეძლება!", "Yes, შეძლება!" on and on. Here it is...

These Monkeys Bite ... in Georgian

es maimunebi ik'binebian da shedzlebi mogaq'enon t'ravma!

By this time, I am no longer at the same job with O— (we had both left the company by then), so I moved my signs to my kitchen. When a dear friend, P—, a newly minted librarian working at Harvard, saw them, he quickly realized that I was going over the deep end (which was truly obvious to anyone with the slightest interest), he offered to contact two co-workers, one a Hungarian, another a Finn (I had studied Finnish for a few years during the Seattle Phase, but didn't feel comfortable translating into it. What I did do, though, was do a rough translation and ask P— to run it by her. To my credit (polishing his nails), it turns out I had just one word wrong (I think I had it in the elative case, and it was really in the partitive case (“some injuries”).


These Monkeys Bite ... in Finnish

(1) "warning" [nom-sing]
(2) "this" [nom-pl]
(3) "monkey" [nom-pl]
(4) "bite" [purema: pres-3pl]
(5) "and"
(6) "cause" [aiheuttaa: pres-3pl]
(7) "serious" [part-pl]
(8) "injury" [part-pl]
(9) "not!" [imp-sing-neg]
(10) "come" [stem-sing]
(11) "close; near" [allative]


The Hungarian I hadn't dared even think of translating first. But don't get me wrong: I love Hungarian. It just happens to be the most impenetrable language I have ever heard. I have been trying to get it for years (even in spite of two trips to Budapest), but can make neither heads nor tails, except for the digits from one to ten. Which brings up a funny (to me) story.

These Monkeys Bite ... in Hungarian

In my first trip to Budapest, not long after the Communists were voted out of government in the first free elections there since ...

The Trader Joe's Phase


These Monkeys Bite ... in Croatian


These Monkeys Bite ... in Serbian

Algerian Arabic

These Monkeys Bite ... in Algerian Arabic

Friends (and friends of friends)


M—, a friend of J—J—

These Monkeys Bite ... in Dutch


I did this (I have a Level 1 certificate from the Esperanto-USA), and hope it's right!

These Monkeys Bite ... in Esperanto


D—, D—, D—; if you only knew...

These Monkeys Bite ... in German


I LOVE Italian! and Italians. From the boyfriend (F—) of a friend (J—)

These Monkeys Bite ... in Italian


from one of my favorite fellow square dancers: J.U., from the Philippines

These Monkeys Bite ... in Tagalog


Yet another “co-worker”, of course

These Monkeys Bite ... in Tamil

My On-Line Chat Room Buddies


from Tomaž

These Monkeys Bite ... in Slovenian

Norwegian: Bokmål!

These Monkeys Bite ... in Norwegian Bokmal

Norwegian: Nynorsk!

both Norwegian translations from Gayr

These Monkeys Bite ... in Norwegian_Nynorsk


from B—S—

These Monkeys Bite ... in Swedish


A Friend (of another Friend (of a friend))

These Monkeys Bite ... in Romanian


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in


These Monkeys Bite ... in