Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two stories

I recently picked up the second season of the NBC police procedural show "Life" and have been watching it this weekend. In one of the episodes a crime takes place on an unnamed reservation in the desert near Los Angeles. As I watched, I tried to figure out what tribe it was supposed to be, mostly based on the language (after all, I am a linguist). What could it be? Western Pomo perhaps? I'm not familiar with many Uto-Aztecan languages, so I attempted to look the episode up online to see what language the actors were speaking during the few non-English lines of dialog. But suddenly I caught the word wašiču, 'white man' in Lakota (which, ironically, I learned not from my Lakota textbook or dictionary, but from my wife, who has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the movie "Dances with Wolves"). This could be taken two ways. If we want to nitpick, we could get offended that the producers saw no need to use actual tribal members from the area or research the correct language for the tribe. Or if we want to be charitable we could be grateful that in a major network sitcom they actual decided to use Native actors speaking a Native language.

The second story is short, and comes from Bruce Rigsby via Phil Cash's Nez Perce mailing list. I've removed the name since I'm not sure if it would appropriate to reproduce here.

"Years ago several Old People on the Umatilla Reservation told me much the same account about ------, but it centred on the parable that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The old man meant to say quu'ys haama "rich man", but mistakenly said k'uuys haama "indecently exposed man"!"

Qeciyew'yew', Bruce, for showing us that Freudian slips don't just occur in Indo-European languages.


parlance said...

This makes me think of a comment many years ago by a friend of mine who came to Australia from Paraguay. We went to see the historical movie "The Mission", in which Jesuits try to convert Guarani people to Catholicism.

My friend was adamant that the actors in the movie were not speaking Guarani as she had spoken it.

I've always wondered whether she was correct.

Anonymous said...

Not all shlips are Fredian.