Communication, Language, Republic of Georgia, Social Customs

Kai Gogo

I’ve been meaning to write on this for a long time. I thought about writing about the snow. Been there. Or whining about my cold some more. Done that. No, this time I want to talk about something that I’ve found very interesting in Georgia: kai gogo-dom.

Sometime in December I took a dislike to my lackluster blog name and wrote a short entry about it. I asked people to give me ideas for a better blog name. I got some very thoughtful and entertaining suggestions:

–          From Georgia with Love (James Bond tribute)

–          Greetings from the OTHER Georgia

–          An American in Georgia

–          Too Close to Russia for Comfort (a particular favorite)

–          A Year in the Life of an Idiotic Egomaniac (read the post if you’re wondering why)

–          Amy’s Georgian Rants (play on Georgian chants)

All very good suggestions that cheered me immensely. However none quite seemed to fit the ticket. Then I had a flash of inspiration: I should call my blog “kai gogo”! An expression that seemed to encapsulate my experiences to a certain extent. But then I hesitated. Why? It’s complicated.

Kai gogo means “good girl”. Kai is a shortened version of “kargi” which is “good” and gogo is Georgian for girl. “Kai gogo” has been ringing in my ears since I arrived in the village. It’s a compliment, really. I should be proud to be a “good girl”. Certainly in this situation, as a guest teacher, I wouldn’t want to be labeled a “bad girl”.

But there’s just something about it that I don’t like.

Perhaps it has to do with being called a girl. The use of “girl” can be used in a very condescending way in English. A belittling fashion. As in “don’t be such a girl” or “you hit  like a girl”. I’ve sworn off expressions that make negative statements about girls and women.

In Georgian I believe the expression should be taken at face value. There is nothing tricky about it. They are saying that I am a good girl. But maybe I don’t want to be a good girl. Maybe I want to be a good . . . woman?

Being called a woman at least would at least seem to grant higher status. Recognition that I am not a child or an adolescent. But here we could be getting into Georgian culture. When do you become a woman-grown in Georgia? When you marry? When you menstruate? When you have six children? I don’t know.

Aside from the “girl” issue, there remains the “good” part. What does it mean to be “good”? In Georgia, I am a “kai gogo” because I am generally cheerful and kind, I show up to work on time and prepared, I do my best for my students, I attend funerals, weddings, and birthday parties, etc. etc. etc. Nothing wrong with any of that. Those things say to me that I am professional in my work, respectful to my community, and neither a burden nor a bane to those around me. All “good” things.

In English the word “good” seems to me a more loaded term, especially coupled with “girl”. “Good girl” can mean a naïve, doe-eyed innocent. “Good” can be someone who in the eyes of the world is “inexperienced,” “sheltered” or, God-forbid, “chaste”. While Eliza Doolittle bawled “I’m a good girl I am” as she was being hauled off to a bath, in modern day being “good” in that way seems much less desirable that it should be.

So I find kai gogo-dom complicated. I always smile whenever it is again bestowed upon me, but I am forever trying to pinpoint what it is exactly that bothers me about it. My relationship with “kai gogo” is such that I could not in good conscience make it my blog title. Something I realized as soon as I gave it a minute of thought.

So I’m still in need a better blog name. I had a second flash of genius when I was home for Christmas. But I didn’t write it down and now I can’t remember it.


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