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Harbour boat on the back page

On the back page of The Times under the caption Post Card Perfect (December 31) was a photo of a red-coloured dgħajsa near Fort St Angelo in Vittoriosa. It is erroneously described as a luzzu, which it is not.

Any marine observer would know this is a harbour dgħajsa tal-pass, almost pencil shaped, and reminiscent of Venice’s gondola. This is not a fishing boat but a harbour boat, used to ply passengers between ship and shore, before the advent of the harbour’s new quays, which made most dgħajjes redundant. In the harbour’s heyday, with the British Mediterranean fleet, some 200 to 300 dgħajjes plied the harbour’s waters. Now there must be only 30, mostly based in Vittoriosa or Senglea.

A dgħajsa is a harbour boat. A luzzu is a deep sea fishing boat having a broader beam and often coloured in navy blue, as at Marsaxlokk . The luzzu’s name is reminiscent of the Italian luccio. The dgħajsa’s is unknown but sounds Semitic, North African or maybe even Phoenician, who knows?

Any small seacraft is a dgħajsa in Maltese, though many modern people talk of their boat: “Nitilqgħu bil-boat” instead of “nitilqgħu bid-dgħajsa”! Where is our poor Maltese language going to end up if we can and do make such simple mistakes!? We are being fooled into destroying our language: “Qegħdin toħduna bid-dgħajsa!”

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