Arumbabya Explained

3 April 1999

The Arumbaya is a fictitious language, like Syldavian, concepted by Hergé, and can be found in a couple of books.

The Arumbabya in the English language editions is the creation of Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, Tintin's English translators. Lonsdale-Turner and Bell's creation is really 'perfect phonetic Cockney', the language spoken by my grandfather from Deptford, the cast of EastEnders (popular BBC soap opera), and practically every school child in the United Kingdom.


Rumbaba chief: Ahw wada lu’vali bahn chaco conats! Ha! Ha! Ha!
English: Oh, what a lovely bunch of coconuts! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Reference: The Broken Ear page 50
Notes: 'Oh, what a lovely bunch of coconuts' is an old music hall song sung by a fairground barker tending a coconut shy.
Avakuki: Owar ya? Ts goota meecha mai ‘tee.
English: How are you? It’s good to meet you, matey.
Reference: The Broken Ear page 52
Rigdewell: Naluk. Djarem membah dabrah nai dul? Tintin zluk infu rit’h. Kanyah elpim?
English: Now look. Do you remember the brown idol? Tintin’s looking for it. Can ya help him?
Reference: The Broken Ear page 52
Avakuki: Dabrah nai dul? Oi, oi! Slaika toljah. Datrai b’giv dabrah nai dul ta’Walker. Ewuz anaisgi. Buttiz’h felaz tukahr presh usdjuel. Enefda Arumbayas ket chimdai lavis gutsfa gahtah’z. Nomess in’h!
English: The brown idol? Yes, yes! It’s like I told ya (told you). The tribe gave the brown idol to Walker. He was a nice guy. But his fellow took our precious jewel. And after Arumbayas catch him I'll have his guts for garters, no messing!'
Reference: The Broken Ear page 52
Ridgewell: Cohrluv ahduk! Ai tolja tahitta ferlip inbaul intada oh’l! Andatdohn meenis ferlip ineeroh’l!
English: 'Cor luv a duck' (This translates roughly as 'Good grief!') I told you to hit the flipping ball into the hole. And that doesn't mean his flipping ear hole!
Reference: The Broken Ear page 52
Ridgewell: Gi' dahda vit!
English: Get out of it!
Reference: Tintin and the Picaros page 32
Arumbayas: Wotat it 'fa!
English: What a titfer!
Notes: The arumbayas are breaking into cockney rhyming slang here. To confuse outsiders (like the police), cockney rogues invented a code where they created rhymes for common words, and then only used the first half of the rhyme. For example: Apples / Apples and Pears / Stairs or Trouble / Trouble and Strife / Wife. Or in this case: Titfer / Tit for Tat /Hat.
Reference: Tintin and the Picaros page 32
Avakuki: Owzah g'rubai?
English: How's the grub, eh?
Reference: Tintin and the Picaros page 34
Ridgewell: Sum in 'ksp wivit!
English: Something's up with it!
Reference: Tintin and the Picaros page 34
Avakuki: Ava 'n ip?
English: Have a nip?
Reference: Tintin and the Picaros page 34
Avakuki: Goh' blimeh! Wa' samma ta, li li li va?... Lem eshohya!
English: What's the matter, lily livered? Let me show you!
Reference: Tintin and the Picaros page 34



Posted by: Andrew Pilcher
Date: 3 April 1999
The only thing I'm having trouble with is the meaning of "arumbaya" itself.

Posted by: Keith Buchanan
Date: 29 March 1999
It has perplexed me too. I think a clue may lie in the fact the their sworn enemies are called the Rumbabas i.e. Rum Babas a type of dessert*.

I've also played around with pronouncing it different ways, stressing different syllables: A-rum-baya, A-rumba-ya, Ar-umba-ya.

The only thing this generates is "a rumba, yeah?" -- rumba being a type of dance. I think this is stretching it a bit and don't think it's the answer. I'd be interested in hearing other people's thoughts.

*The proper name for the dessert is Babas Au Rhum, which I think is French. If I remember correctly they're sort of like a really rich doughnut soaked in rum sauce (a really crude description, I know -- my apologies to any French chefs on the list!) but it's been a long time since I've had one.

Posted by: Richard Wainman
Date: 27 April 2001
I don't think that the Arumbayas speak in any funny variation of a language in the French editions. This is the text spoken by Walker and the chief of the Arumbayas in the facsimle black and white edition of L'Oreille Cassée (The Broken Ear). It might be different in the colour French edition, but I don't have that; I only have the BW French and the colour English. Anyway, here is the text, is it an adaptation of another language

WALKER: Nokho!... Ara no pikuri klana opoh Tintin zouka da pikuri!... Wete douvan ète?...

CHIEF: Pikuri?... Moyá!... Moyá!... Pikuri toth narobo wa Walkerss, moh wana dialbah's wek woureh, Arumbayas kwout!... Hua moro bunkstîn oukwek!... Kwafêrh?... Arumbayas lûpho okh alh emoul kappaouth....

Curiously enough, in BW French, Avakuki is not refferred to by name, rather as 'The chief.' Does he have a name in the French colour?

Does this have any relevance to a language? I mean, maybe some bits of French—I'm no expert, but some of them like 'douvan', 'ète' (similar to été in French- summer, or was), 'emoul' etc.

Posted by: glimmerwigg
Date: 21 Dec 2006
I think Arumbaya may derive from swahili word for 'bad', mbaya. Hence, Arumbaya = 'are bad.'