The Maltese language is so peculiar, unique and complex that the spelling of one word can divide the nation.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of those words is maskra (or is it maskla?) which in English translates to ‘mask’.
Lovin Malta published a poll asking the general public which was the correct spelling for maskra and what ensued was a 257 comment debate on the word’s origin, how it was spelt and a whole bunch of back and forth that has left us more confused now than ever…
58% of participants believed that it is spelled maskla while 42% were sure it’s spelled maskra.
But who is right?
The answer is both… so chill.
According to the Head of Maltese at the University of Malta, Dr Michael Spagnol, the word derives from the Italian word maschera but has transformed over time to suit Maltese diction.
“The word derives from the Italian word maschera but over time ‘r’ and ‘l’ have taken each other’s place so some people say maskla instead of maskra,” he told Lovin Malta.
“Strictly speaking neither is wrong but in writing many prefer to use maskra.”
Spagnol also gave some other examples were ‘r’ were exchanged for ‘l’ in the Maltese language like tamar and tamal as well as buri and buli, tistmerr and tistmell, friskatur and fliskatur.
The debate is settled then. While maskra is the more proper term, maskla is good enough to get by, especially in spoken Maltese.
Given that Malta is a melting pot of different cultures, it’s nice to see different dialects come through in our language.
Now go put your maskra on and let’s beat this virus!