November 18, 2005

Arrive at home swimming

Who would read a dictionary? In particular, Rev. Eugene Buechel's Lakota-English Dictionary (Lakota is the language of the Sioux). This is a labour of love that was incomplete when Buechel died in 1954; his Jesuit colleagues completed it and published the dictionary in 1970.

"853 pages, and I read them all", says Ian Frazier in his On The Rez that I finished a while ago. (I quoted a little story from this book here some weeks ago). And I'm glad he did, because he is able to tell us:
    "Father Buechel's dictionary contains many words for which the object or action or condition described will probably never come up in ordinary conversation again -- that is, the word remains, but what it describes has now been forgotten or lost."

Frazier lists some of his favourite such words in the dictionary, and here are some of those:
    aca'hsu, v. To form ice on something in little drops, as on trees, grass, etc.

    cui'yohe, n. Moccasins made of old hides that have served as tents.

    glinun'wan, v. To arrive at home swimming.

    ica'konta, v. To cut a groove in, as one branch resting on another will do when swayed by the wind.

    iyu's'o, v. When a man rides through water and gets wet in spite of lifting his legs.

    kable'blesic'iya, v. refl. To rest one's mind by walking around after hard work.

    mniagla'pepeya, v. To make a flat stone skip on the water.

    opa'skan, v. To melt by lying on.

    tiyo'heyunka, n. Frost settling on the inside wall of houses or tents.

    wo'econla, v. To consider something hard work but it is not.


Anyone know similar words -- i.e. that describe something that is now lost or forgotten -- in Hindi or Tamil or any other Indian language? I'm sure those lost somethings will be as delightful as these are.

Incidentally, I mniagla'pepeya all the time. I believe all red-blooded males do. Or try to do.


Vikrum said...


I don't know any Indian languages well enough to think of any word that describes something lost in modern society. But I do find it interesting to think about words that cannot be easily translated. Here are two that come to mind (don't mean to change the focus of the article):

In Spanish, I've always liked the word "estrenar" which generally means "to wear something for the first time."

In Portuguese, a very untranslatable word is "saudade."

The Priberam Portuguese online dictionary gives a few definitions of "saudade." The first definition given is: "lembran├ža triste e suave de pessoas ou coisas distantes ou extintas, acompanhada do desejo de as tornar a ver ou a possuir"

This translates to

"a sad and smooth memory of distant (or extinct) people or things, accompanied with the desire to possess the thing lost or to see it."

Anonymous said...

I'm not a red-blooded male, I guess. :)

Anonymous said...

mniagla'pepeya -
Aw, come on Dilip! Give your gora readers a clue!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Vik, what a delightful word, estrenar. And it seems to me that saudade is a good fit for the Lakota words in this post.

Neela, forgive me, but I've got to say this up front: I am yet to meet a woman who can skip stones on water with any skill. Next time you visit the shore of a lake or river, look around. The men will be hunting for flat stones to skip. The women will be discussing ... hmm, what's the most incorrect thing I can accuse them of discussing?

Sunil said...

Dilip.......i'm one of those red-blooded males who never figured out how to skip stones on water.

All my friends make fun of me, and nonchalantly skip a stone on water, when we hike past Pacific northwest streams.

I know there's a simple technique in's in the wrist or something.......

it's like wolf whistling with fingers in the mouth.....simple, but impossible for me to master