Mountain People pp. 41-42 ([1972] 1987)
Colin M. Turnbull

Ik language related to classical Middle-Kingdom Egyptian

The Assistant Administrator made me as welcome as he could, and sent for two Teuso boys who had spent the previous year at the Catholic Mission school nearby. They arrived the next day, looking like models of Mission cleanliness, scrubbed and neatly dressed, and soon showed that although their English was not even basic, it was enough to give me a start on their language without the intervention of Martin's Karimojong, which turned out to be as doubtful as the boys' English. After two days in KaaIong Martin told me that he was not at all sure he wanted to stay in Karimoja, let alone go up into the mountains. He made a brief visit to the nearby village of Kasilé, where he had discovered a relative of his was teaching, and he said his relative was going to help him get to know some of the Teuso living there and then he would be able to let me know definitely whether he would stay on or not. That left me free to work with Peter and Thomas, who got permission from the school to take time off to teach me their language. The teacher made a special visit to confirm the story, because he had never heard of anyone wanting to learn to talk like the Teuso—not even the local Karimojong could understand them. But the two boys were regular visitors, and over countless cups of sugar and tea they quickly provided me with a fine four-hundred-word vocabulary, and together we worked out the basic essentials of the grammar. It was not easy going, and to the end many of the subtleties of pronunciation eluded me. They involved implosives and explosives following hot on each other's heels, and I never developed the sheer muscular control required. Many of the subtleties I did not even hear properly until Archie Tucker, the English linguist, accepted an invitation to come up and see just what this extraordinary language was, for it certainly was not Sudanic or Bantu. Archie finally pronounced, with no little satisfaction, that the nearest language he could find to this one was classical Middle-Kingdom Egyptian! But in total ignorance of the historical importance of the language I was learning, I struggled on and found, as might be expected, that the further I got with it the more communicative Peter and Thomas became. After a week they confided in me that Teuso was not their proper tribal name at all, it was one of several names applied by the various "foreign" tribes around them. Their real name was Ik (pronounced as Eek), and the language was icietot (Eechietoht). I had begun to suspect that Teuso was not their real name, but to my direct questions they had always answered that it was, until they decided to say the opposite. I found out that most Ik share this habit. It is a kind of a game, to see how effectively you can lie and fool someone. Then when you have proven your ability you have the additional fun of telling your victim. Many a time I was to hear them say, "You don't really believe what we told you, do you?" But anthropologists have their own ways of worming the truth out of reluctant informants, and I learned to play the game the Icien way.