Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shaky ground

The amount of seismic activity happening in Indonesia right now is really stunning. Check out this list at the US Geological Survey. A lot of the activity is near the Mentawai Islands, but as of this morning, according to a friend who knows people there, the damage is not too bad. I hope that's still the case.

I spent a few days in the Mentawais last year. I met these kids on the beach at Katiet.

They tried out my headphones.

They tried out my camera too.

Anyway, it's a beautiful but impoverished place, and they don't really need any more challenges right now. So cross your fingers for them -- or hold your thumbs, if you're from New England.


michele said...

those kids are adorable. I'll send my best thoughts for safety to them..

holding thumbs is a new one on me.
explain, please?

Anonymous said...

Sounds exciting over there!

kopisusu2 said...

I got "holding thumbs" from John Hoult, and I always thought it was some old (or Olde) New England thing. A little Google search, however, traces it not to the northeastern US but to nearby ... South Africa! Oops! John, are you out there? Can you enlighten us further?

Here's what I found, at

I'VE yet to meet a South African who doesn't know or use the expression, "hold thumbs", as in "I'll hold thumbs for you during the exams", meaning "good luck".

But were you aware it isn't used anywhere else in the English-speaking world? I wasn't. I thought it universal.

A phone call this week from Merrick Landry of East London made me curious. He has a grandson in Australia, Adrian Gibb, who has heard his parents (ex-SA) and grandparents use it but Australians are mystified when he does. "Why only South African, or is it?" he asks.

Well I looked up both "thumbs" and "hold" in my trusty Collins Dictionary of the English Language and there is no reference. "Aha," I thought, "we're on to something."

Then it was into the Dictionary of South African English. Nothing under "thumbs" there either, but under "hold" we hit pay dirt. This is what it says:

hold thumbs vb. colloquial equivalent of "cross fingers": a symbolic gesture wishing someone luck, hoping for the best etc. (probably from Afrikaans duime vashou; related to German halt daumschen).

elyani said...

Only one thing we can do, please DONATE, even a little bit will help!