Tok Pisin


Erudite ‘bun nating’ Nige introduces the inventive pidgin language of Tok Pisin…

Tok Pisin is a form of Pidgin English and is widely spoken in Papua New Guinea. It developed as a result of Pacific Islanders intermixing, when people speaking numerous different languages were sent to work on plantations in Queensland and elsewhere.  Today, some five to six million people use it to some degree.

I pass on the Tok Pisin word list in the interest of spreading good cheer. It also shows remarkable creative ingenuity in making a handful of words express a wide range of meanings, sometimes achieving a kind of poetry.

(Incidentally, in Tok Pisin, Prince Philip is known as ‘oldfella Pili-Pili him bilong Misis Kwin’. On the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, where the Prince is revered as the errant son of a local mountain god, he is known more respectfully as ‘number one bigfella him bilong Misis Queen’.)


liklik box you pull him he cry you push him he cry – an accordion
bigfella iron walking stick him go bang along topside – a rifle
skru bilong han (screw belong arm) – elbow
gras bilong het (grass belong head) – hair
maus gras (mouth grass) – moustache
gras bilong fes (grass belong face) – beard
bel hevi (belly heavy) – the heavy sinking feeling that often accompanies extreme sadness
magimiks bilong Yesus (Magimix belong Jesus) – helicopter
pen bilong maus (pen belong mouth) – lipstick
bun nating (bone nothing) – a very thin person
tit i gat windua bilong em (teeth have window belong him) – a broken-off tooth
sikispela lek (six legs) – man with two wives
susok man (shoe sock man) – urbanite
frok-bel (frog belly) – obese person
pato-lek (duck legs) – waddling person
emti tin (empty tin) – person who speaks nonsense
flat taia (flat tire) – exhausted person
smok balus (smoke bird) – jet airplane
poket bruk (pocket broken) – out of money
bagarap (bugger up) – broken, to break down
haus moni (house money) – bank
haus sik (house sick) – hospital
belhat (belly hot) – angry

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About Author Profile: Nige

Cravat-Wearer of the Year Nige, who, like Mr Kenneth Horne, prefers to remain anonymous, is a founder blogger of The Dabbler and has been a co-blogger on the Bryan Appleyard Thought Experiments blog. He is the sole blogger on Nigeness, and (for now) a wholly owned subsidiary of NigeCorp. His principal aim is to share various of life's pleasures.

One thought on “Tok Pisin

    December 18, 2014 at 13:45

    Among the books in our living room is a Nupela Testamen, that is, a New Testament in New Guinea Pidgin, which the front matter also refers to as Neo-Melanesian. It is more or less readable, given the familiarity of the matter–I doubt I’d get far with a discussion of EU monetary policy in Pidgin. A couple of snippets: “Redim rot bilong Bikpela” is “prepare ye the way of the Lord”; “Herot i kalabusim Jon” is “Herod imprisons John”.

    The volume is from the used book table of the local Russian Orthodox cathedral’s fall festival–at $1 (or maybe $4), how could I not buy it?

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