Does sex kill language?

I grew up in a culture where it is taboo to discuss sex or an array of sex-related subjects in front of one’s parents, siblings, and relatives. People blush if someone accidentally utters anything about sex and intimate relationships. However, I have observed that the exile Tibetan community is quite advanced and open-minded about these topics. One apparent example would be blugs” (བླུགས།) which is even overused in their conversations. As you may know, blugs is slang for sex. 

At the fourth Dawa Norbu Memorial Lecture in Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, the erudite Tibetan scholar, Professor Tsering Shakya, opined that one of the major problems in the exile Tibetan society is language. Many Tibetans are able to speak some English, Tibetan, Hindi, and Nepali, but can hardly produce something of high standard in any of them; their language foundation is deprived. I further believe that when we are in poverty of our own language, our access to the history, culture, religion, and stories embedded within it is severely limited. In other words, the more limited access we have to our own language, the less freedom, and flexibility we can enjoy with it.

There are various signs of language decline in the Tibetan exile community. Of them, one particular aspect is the decline of the specific usage of individual nouns, verbs, and descriptive words in a variety of discourse. If we take the example of the usage of Tibetan verb blugs (བླུགས།), meaning to pour something liquid or grainy into a container, it could be used as both in the past tense and imperative.

The following phrases give us a glimpse of the overuse of blugs:

ང་ལ་ཇ་ “བླུགས་”།  =  (Pour me some tea.)

མོ་ལ་འོས་ཤོག་ “བླུགས” །  =  (Vote for her.)

ཁྱོད་ལ་ “བླུགས་” དགོ་ཨེ། =  (Do you want to have sex?)

ཅ་ལག་དེ་ཚོ་སྒམ་ནང་ལ་ “བླུགས” ། =  (Put these in the box.)

ང་ལ་ཁ་ལག་ “བླུགས་”།  =  (Serve me some food.)

དཀར་ཆག་ཡར་ “བླུགས”།  =  (Upload the content.)

ལག་འཁྱེར་ཁ་པར་སྟེང་ལ་བོད་ཡིག་ “བླུགས”།  =  (Install Tibetan fonts on mobile phone.)

In exile, we use blugs widely and loosely without acknowledging or employing other verbs that could replace blugs for their particular usage and precise meaning in both writing and conversation. If blugs weren’t used for all purposes, then what verbs could be used in blugs’ place? Let’s look at the diverse options that we have in our rich vocabulary:

ལྡུག (ldug) བྱོ། (byo) བླུགས། (blugs) for ‘pour’

འོས་འཕེན། (‘os ‘phen) འོས་བསྡུ། (‘os bsdu) འོས་འདེམས། (‘os ‘dems) for ‘vote’

འཛེགས། (‘dzegs) གཡབ། (g.yab) རྒྱོ། (rgyo) for ‘sex’

ཞོག (zhog) ཆུག (chug) for ‘put’

འདྲེན། (‘dren) སྟེར། (ster) འབུལ། (‘bul) བྱིན། (byin) for ‘serve’

ཡར་འཇུག (yar ‘jug) for “upload”

ནང་འཇུག (nang ‘jug) བཅུག (bcug) for ‘install”

If we are able to employ these verbs above for their specific meanings in our communication, this will bring more diversity to our verb usage and keep their richness in order to sustain the commanding heights of our language. As we are mountain people, our language is as rich as our geography.

Some Tibetans might argue that these verbs above are not commonly used like blugs. Yes, nothing comes easily until you study it, especially language. However, I would encourage you to try to enrich your Tibetan vocabulary in exploring and in understanding the poetry of our language and literature to retain its power.

You may ask: how should I improve my Tibetan? My answer is simple; read. In short, language is not just merely grammar, syntax, and communication, it is the ultimate power that we have within our history, culture, religion, and stories over the colonial force that tries to weaken us.


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