Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Words to fit the mood.....

Sometimes it takes a "foreign" word to fit the mood... Sometimes it takes a curse word, and we have all been there....but did you ever try to find just the right word, and discover it isn't of your native tongue?

I have always loved words, languages, books, and listening to other languages being spoken. I would listen to the Navajo station on Sunday mornings in New Mexico, even though I had no idea what they were talking about. For all I know it could be a commercial for dog food, but it sounded so beautiful. You could walk in some shops in Gallup and hear old men speaking in Navajo. It was like being in another world.

To really confuse the situation, my father's side of the family would speak, what I can only fathom, is a "psedo-language". It is probably only spoken by a handful of people. They would use whatever language had a word that best described what they wanted to say. It was a mixture of French, Portuguese, English, and Algonquin words (Narragansett, Pequot). It was hard to ever know what the heck was going on. The good news was that once I got to high school, I aced French. (I didn't ever hear some of the words, and I can only deduce that they were "bad" words). I remember the silly things like "Snap, crackle, pop" was (and this may be spelled incorrectly), "Klick, Klak, Klook".

The Algonquin words were picked up from the Pequot/Narragansett side of the family. The two languages are similar and are Algonquin languages, but they do have different words for some things. A Narragansett and a Pequot would be able to understand each other, probably with some hand gestures and pictures for the more difficult words. They aren't easy languages to speak, read or understand, although to me they are much easier than some other Native languages like Mohawk.

We used "papoose" for any small child. Wampum for any thing that us kids would trade each other for (there is a different word for "English" money, though the word escapes me right now). We ate succotash (cooked ironically not by my Native grandmother, but my Irish one).

I grew up where children spoke all kinds of languages, Spanish and Italian being the two most heard, but there were many others. It was fascinating to hear words and try to figure out their meaning. My Mom taught me to take the roots of the words, and most times, you could figure out the words, especially in the Romance languages. The Italian was very like the Spanish, the words all went back to Rome.

When I reached college I studied Greek for a semester. If that were not enough, I learned to read Hebrew. I now could read forwards and backwards ! All kidding aside, it was all easy, languages came easily to me, maybe from hearing so many (although the "four at once" of my Grandfather was a bit much).I also took conversational Spanish when I worked in Las Vegas.

My Native grandmother knew French too, and I am sure many Natives of the northern east coast at least understood French. So many languages.

Sometimes a word will come out of my mouth and Matt will give me a blank look. The most recent was "nosh", if you say "nosh" in the New York area, everyone knows what you mean. It is a "little snack", a Jewish slang word. Say it in Indiana , and you get a blank stare. In New Jersey when we want a big pizza, we order a large" pie ". Order a large pie anywhere else in this country, and it will most likely include cherries or apples.

But "nosh" is easier than " a small snack". One word instead of three , right?

Sometimes a word in another language is easier or more descriptive to the situation. Sometimes the word just sounds cool.

See what new word you can learn today, even if it is in English!


Peshaui Wequashimese

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