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Discuss word origins and meanings.

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Post by Joseph » Sat Feb 11, 2006 2:36 am

WoZ, no offense taken. In fact when I read your response I was lifted up with insipiration, no joke. I felt you hit the nail on the head! I am not OVERLY sensitive to the PC culture in general. I just happen to work for a company where they pump it into the airstream. There is no escaping the oversensitive atmosphere and it is easy to become a victim because of a stray comment. I guess I am concious by default and not be design.

After I read you response I wanted to immediately reply with a "thank you". In fact after reading everybodys input I am 100% convinced that I acted from an uninformed position and simply created my own version of something I thought to be un-PC. I walk away from this a changed man!

Thanks to all...
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Feb 11, 2006 4:40 am

This place isn't called 'Wordwizard' for nothing! ;-)
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Post by JANE DOErell » Sat Feb 11, 2006 7:13 pm

It would seem to me that approaching a co-worker and broaching the possibility that a word might be politically incorrect, unless, in the unlikely event that the word is grossly incorrect and the co-worker is quite naive, is rather worse that just overlooking the use of a word that just might possibly be a bit politically incorrect.
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Feb 11, 2006 9:43 pm

.. but Jane .. the disciples of PC see it as their vested duty to save all of us lesser, incorrect, cuturally unaware people from destroying the world .. I have been in company where a PCist has raised a word as a topic of conversation just so that we could be lectured on WHY we should not use it ..

WoZ of Aus 12/02/06
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Post by spiritus » Sun Feb 12, 2006 7:32 am

WoZ,

As fickle linguistic fate would have it, in Australia at least, your opinion is considered the "political correct" one.

I wonder if this was always "pau-wau" John Howard's dream.
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Post by Joseph » Mon Feb 13, 2006 1:42 am

I just realized Wordwizard exists in GMT. As we say in eastern Massachusetts, "Light dawns on Marblehead", pun intended!
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Feb 13, 2006 8:36 am

.. spiritus me mate .. I have one word for you .. wothafuckryaonabout ??

WoZ of Aus 13/02/06
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Post by spiritus » Tue Feb 14, 2006 1:32 am

Legend has it that when the white man first came to Australia he asked an Aboriginal the name for the funny looking creature bounding in the distance. Apparently the Aborigine replied "Kangaroo" which in the Aborigine language means "I don't understand you".

So now the Land of Oz has an animal called "I don't understand you". Dinkum? I don't know, but 'Kangaroo' is the only one word response that seems appropriate to your one word inquiry.

Now, does that make me a drongo or is this just an instance of "mutually unintellibility" between dialects?
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Tue Feb 14, 2006 9:02 am

I thought the answer was, "Steve Irwin." Mind you, you're supposed to start off with,"Take me to your leader."
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Post by spiritus » Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:56 am

Say what? Uh...kangaroo.
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Post by Andrew Dalby » Wed Feb 15, 2006 7:00 pm

spiritus wrote: Legend has it that when the white man first came to Australia he asked an Aboriginal the name for the funny looking creature bounding in the distance. Apparently the Aborigine replied "Kangaroo" which in the Aborigine language means "I don't understand you".
Can any resident expert confirm or deny two other etymological urban legends?

1. Yucatan means 'I don't understand you' in the local language (which would be a Mayan language I suppose)

2. Peru is the name of the fisherman who was asked the name of the country. He wasn't being grandiose: again, he didn't understand the question.
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Feb 16, 2006 4:08 am

See the discussion at http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewto ... s=vasistas for more examples of new coinages arising through linguistic misunderstanding.
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Post by spiritus » Fri Feb 17, 2006 4:26 am

Andrew Dalby wrote:
spiritus wrote: Legend has it that when the white man first came to Australia he asked an Aboriginal the name for the funny looking creature bounding in the distance. Apparently the Aborigine replied "Kangaroo" which in the Aborigine language means "I don't understand you".
Can any resident expert confirm or deny two other etymological urban legends?

1. Yucatan means 'I don't understand you' in the local language (which would be a Mayan language I suppose)

2. Peru is the name of the fisherman who was asked the name of the country. He wasn't being grandiose: again, he didn't understand the question.

Andrew,

My “cheek in tongue” comments were meant to prompt a closer inspection of the inherent irony in our usage of the term “politically correct” to interpret a speaker’s social attitude. This, to my thinking, is different from a translation of the speaker’s word meanings. There are ‘experts’ whom could make this clearer. My expertise is in “connecting the dots”.

If we asked nicely, Phil White might explain the differences between an interpretation of “politically correct” and a politically correct translation.

It is worth noting that the word “kangaroo” and its present meaning and the legend were interpretations that did not originate within the Guugu Yimidhirr language or peoples. Long before “recent linguistic field research” corrected that interpretation, the bilingual Guugu Yimidhirr (English and Guugu Yimidhirr) had translated and provided the original meaning of ‘Guuguruu’.

Yucatan also seems to have been the victim of a non-indigenous interpretation rather then an indigenous translation:
"…because speaking with those Indians of that coast, to that which the Spaniards asked the Indians responded: Tectetán, Tectetán, which means: I don't understand you, I don't understand you: the Christians corrupted the word, and not understanding what the Indians meant, said: Yucatán is the name of this land;

Fray Toribio de Benavente, a.k.a. Motolinia, Historia de los indios de la Nueva España (History of the Indians of New Spain, written c. 1541)

It is possible that Motolinía was among the first to promulgate the legend that interpreted Yucatan to mean, "I don't understand you".

As for a translation of Yucatan it might be a good idea to attribute more validity to the claims of Mayan linguists (yes, there are such things).

The name ‘Yucatan’ is believed to be from the Nahuatl language, rather then Mayan language. Mayan is only one of dozens of Nahuatl’s varieties.
“… most Mayan place names have recognizable meanings and Yucatan does not, although there have been various attempts to explain it as a Mayan word. The reason for supposing that Yucatan is a Nahuatl word is because of the suffix -tan. The Nahuatl suffixes -tla and -tlan both indicate "the place of", although it seems that -tla indicates more precisely "the place where there is an abundance of". Both the Maya and the Spanish were not very good about writing, and thus presumably pronouncing, Nahuatl words, especially those with the tl in them. Normally the tl is turned into a t. Thus the suffix -tlan would become -tan in Mayan.

On page 63 of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel there is a line which might indicate that for the Mayan of Yucatan the word Yucatan is a foreign word: uay ti luum Yucal Peten, Yucatan tu than maya ah Itzaob lae ("here in the land Yucal Peten, Yucatan in the mayan language of the Itzas" or as Roys translates this line "here in the land Yucalpeten, Yucatan in the speech of the Maya Itza"). The word Yucal Peten can be looked at as a composite of u (collar), cal (neck), and peten (island, province, region, from the root word pet (round)). Given that yucal che, meaning "yoke", is in fact "neck wood" (u, cal, che) one could say that yucal peten is "neck region" or "neck island" which yields "peninsula", a recognition by the Maya that their land is a peninsula. Roys maintains that Yucal Peten is a Mayan imitation of the name Yucatan, but the reverse could also be true. In the Mayan language peten is not used to the same extent that the Nahuatl language uses -tlan, but they are somewhat equivalent.”

A Grammar of the Yucatecan Mayan Language
by David & Alejandra Bolles

I have come across numerous references regarding the difficulty Mayan and Spanish speakers experienced in pronouncing Nahuatl words. That may also be the case in the pronunciation of the name Uytáan, an early Nahuatl derived dialect spoken by Mayan Chontal Indians. The word for that language eventually morphed into the Spanish ‘Yucatec’.
(‘Yucatec’): "adjective. Spanish. yucateco, f. Yucatán, earlier Yocotán, adapted from a Maya name for the language of the Mayan Chontal Indians.”

OED
The Mayan-Spanish dictionary and database maintained by The University of Yucatan and accessible at their site provides plausible, but only partial support for the Oxford English Dictionary’s citation.

Accordingly, in the majority of Nahutal influenced Mayan language varieties, the equivalent lexical root for the English word language and the Spanish hablar(speak) is ‘t’aan’.
T’AAN: Lengua o idioma, palabra, dicción; hablar, pliticar. that is: language, word, diction, speaking, talking.

UY: Pronombre posesivo de tercera persona del singular: su. (possesive pronoun in third person singular: his/her)
An apolitical interpretation: Uytáan / Yucatan = one’s language .

There seems to have been a pattern of the 15th-16th century Spanish conquistadores bastardizing existing words as homonyms to their own. The word Piru, meaning 'the land of gold far south' is from the Quechua language spoken by the Aztecs and Incas. It was also the Incas regional word from Quechua for “Sun” and the patron deity of Inca culture.

The Spanish name for the land Peru, comes from the word piru, learned from the Aztecs. We may also attribute the name for Peru’s capital city Lima to the Spanish. It comes from the name of the river running through it called by the Aztecs 'Rimac'.

Joey,

It seems to me that the English created word “pow-wow” and its interpretation bears no relationship, politically or otherwise to the translation of the Narraganset word, “pau-wau”.

Edwin,

In all Aboriginal and English languages the interpretation and translation for ‘Steve Irwin’ is “head zoo keeper and unlicensed crocodile hunter”.
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Post by Andrew Dalby » Sat Feb 18, 2006 1:31 pm

Thanks, Spiritus, for that information on the possible true origins of 'Yucatan'.

If pow-wow were politically incorrect, would rendezvous also be politically incorrect?
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Post by spiritus » Sat Feb 18, 2006 9:09 pm

Andrew,

Rendezvous is politically incorrect only if used by a Native American in the presence of French Canadians, to "call a meeting".
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