Sir James George Frazer > The Golden Bough > Page 250
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Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941).  The Golden Bough.  1922.

Page 250
 
that when any of a man’s many fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law are called by such names, these common words may not pass his lips. Among the Alfoors of Minahassa, in Celebes, the custom is carried still further so as to forbid the use even of words which merely resemble the personal names in sound. It is especially the name of a father-in-law which is thus laid under an interdict. If he, for example, is called Kalala, his son-in-law may not speak of a horse by its common name kawalo; he must call it a “riding-beast” (sasakajan). So among the Alfoors of the island of Buru it is taboo to mention the names of parents and parents-in-law, or even to speak of common objects by words which resemble these names in sound. Thus, if your mother-in-law is called Dalu, which means “betel,” you may not ask for betel by its ordinary name, you must ask for “red mouth”; if you want betel-leaf, you may not say betel-leaf (dalu ’mun), you must say karon fenna. In the same island it is also taboo to mention the name of an elder brother in his presence. Transgressions of these rules are punished with fines. In Sunda it is thought that a particular crop would be spoilt if a man were to mention the names of his father and mother.
  Among the Nufoors of Dutch New Guinea persons who are related to each other by marriage are forbidden to mention each other’s names. Among the connexions whose names are thus tabooed are wife, mother-in-law, father-in-law, your wife’s uncles and aunts and also her grand-uncles and grand-aunts, and the whole of your wife’s or your husband’s family in the same generation as yourself, except that men may mention the names of their brothers-in-law, though women may not. The taboo comes into operation as soon as the betrothal has taken place and before the marriage has been celebrated. Families thus connected by the betrothal of two of their members are not only forbidden to pronounce each other’s names; they may not even look at each other, and the rule gives rise to the most comical scenes when they happen to meet unexpectedly. And not merely the names themselves, but any words that sound like them are scrupulously avoided and other words used in their place. If it should chance that a person has inadvertently uttered a forbidden name, he must at once throw himself on the floor and say, “I have mentioned a wrong name. I throw it through the chinks of the floor in order that I may eat well.”
  In the western islands of Torres Straits a man never mentioned the personal names of his father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law; and a woman was subject to the same restrictions. A brother-in-law might be spoken of as the husband or brother of some one whose name it was lawful to mention; and similarly a sister-in-law might be called the wife of So-and-so. If a man by chance used the personal name of his brother-in-law, he was ashamed and hung his head. His shame was only relieved when he had made a present as compensation to the man whose name he had taken in vain. The same compensation was made to a sister-in-law, a father-in-law, and a mother-in-law for the accidental mention of their names.

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