This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Nuts and Bolts: Nootka

The language Nootka is said to be 5,000 years old. It's spoken by just a few hundred people on or near Vancouver Island, nearly all of them over the age of sixty - and these people speak over a dozen different dialects.

What's so special about Nootka, or Nuuchahnulth, as it's now called? Answering that question properly would take all day, but, for one thing, Nootka is very good at getting across a complicated idea in a short space of time. For instance, the way you say to wipe the tears from one's eyes with the back of one's hand in Nootka is fib. Or, according to another source I found, t'ih.

In Nootka you can describe the physical features of a person by putting extra sounds into the middle of a word. In this way you can mark someone as a child, fat, heavy, left-handed or short.

There's now a dictionary of Nootka, and many young Nootka people are eager to learn this wonderful language and become a faafaaqsapa, that is, someone who's mastered Nootka.   

As Nootka is one of the treasures of the world, we must all wish them luck.

Thing To Do Today: put a description inside a word. You can do this in English rather the same way as you can in Nootka.

As in hippo-fatty-potamus, for instance. 

Hippopotamus by papapishu - This image was donated by Pearson Scott Foresman, an educational publisher, to Wikimedia Commons, and is thereby in the Public Domain.
Drawn by Pearson Scott Foresman


  1. A person could have fun with that!

    I found your blog via Ed at Lexicolatry.
    Love it!

    1. Welcome to The Word Den, Jingles. It's great to have someone new come to play!

      I like chimp-silly-anzee. Perhaps one could do something with names, too: Archi-stinking-flipping-rich-bald?

    2. There's a word for doing that as an intensifier, isn't there? I just can't remember what it is off the top of my head; like when you say: "Fan-flippin'-tastic!"

      I'm glad you found the Word Den, Jingles. It's a rather smashing bl-wonderful-og.

      OK. That doesn't work for everything.

    3. Thanks, Ed. I have fun!

      I think it's sometimes called an infix, though technically if it's a whole word being put inside another it's tmesis.

      The t, pleasingly, isn't necessarily silent.