Bones & Baskets

A linguistic universal (or, if it isn’t, it is darn close) is people creatively using metaphorical imagery to coin words.

One fun one in Hanis is the word for rib cage, kawolalos.  This is based on the word kawol, pack basket.  Pack baskets are large conical (or U shaped) baskets, often but not always open work twine, that people carried on their backs to pack food, firewood, etc.  So, using a word like kawolalos pictures the rib cage as a protective basket. (Or, if thinking as a hunter, a tough basket one has to get thru to get to the heart, but the bones of many animals were useful for making tools or beads, and the marrow as food or mixed with ochre and other colored clays for paint).

Other Hanis word for various bones include xu’wenos for individual rib bones, and la’mak which is generic for bone.  I have only found the Hanis word for skull recorded once, by a non-linguist named Bissell who collected Hanis and Lower Umpqua vocabularies sometime in the 1880s.  He wrote hätsh, so the word probably sounded something like hech.

(A reminder, as always for pronunciation guide, click on ‘About’.


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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