Mickey Mouse has breast implants.

Here, try this one on for size.  JimDesu says “a bunch of stuff indicating that Delaware (Lenape) sounds cool.”

Jonathon, a (rare as hen’s teeth) Lenape speaker says “a bunch of stuff I can barely remember how to spell.”

So this fall, part of what I have to lecture on, is people badly misunderstanding each other in the Colonial Era.

How you think has a lot to do with what language you use.  I think differently, almost feel different, when I speak French, as opposed to Hungarian. 

Try this on for size.  Jonathon, can you comment on the linguistic difficulties involved in translating a stock phrase like, oh, “Micky Mouse has breast implants?” 

Well, the tricky part of a sentence like that is the phrase “breast implants”.

The most straightforward I can think of at the moment is “Mickey Pukwes nonalikhamal kxanuw.” Here, “breast implants” is expressed as “breasts that have been made”.

But it seems to lack the derogatory connotation of the English phrase. How about
“Mickey Pukwes n’nenakwak talamhakeng”– “Mickey Mouse has balloons in his body” ? But that’s not entirely accurate, since breast implants are not exactly balloons. How about

“Mickey Pukwes shewaninotayal talamhakeng” ? — “Mickey Mouse has bags of salt water in his body” ?

But the derogatory connotation is _still_ not there.
Maybe “Mickey Pukwes chixkwpeshuwikanal kxanuw”– roughly, “Mickey Mouse has trashy man attractors.” Guess that will have to do. You can also precede the entire sentence, whichever one, with the dismissive particle “Sa”, as in
Sa! Mickey Pukwes chixkwpeshuwikanal kxanuw.

The difficulty with Algonkian languages is that because they work so differently from Indo-European languages translation can be a real pain. All of the phrases above can mean essentially the same thing. But there are different connotations. Delaware is noun-poor, but verb-rich. As a result, what a thing is is much less a concern than what it does. To get “Trashy man attractors” one must agglutinate. “chixkwpeshwew” is a verb roughly meaning “attract ‘wolves’ (men who chase after women)” “-ikan” renders the verb an inanimate noun, and “-al” pluralizes an inanimate. Hence, “chixkwpeshwewikanal”.

This language is more agglutinative than inflected. It also has particles for both mood and tense as well as intensive reduplication of syllables. There are even a couple of instances where moderative reduplication occurs. Couple that with five “persons” and no gender but animation, and you’ve got a real headache trying to switch from Delaware to English.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you, Jonathon.  I am putting this up for the pull-quotes as discussed last night.


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