To sleep and to dream

Still wading through St Clair (who, you will remember, worked with Hanis and Milluk Coos speakers just after the turn of the last century) and am finding interesting words and phrases in his pages.  Unfortunately St Clair did not work on getting many Milluk phrases, just individual words, but the Hanis grammatical exercises are quite the treasure trove of figuring out how the language works; and not just grammar but euphemistic expressions too.

In Hanis, there are a couple of different verbs for ‘to sleep’.  The one for singular subjects (or sometimes, when referring specifically to a small number of people) is qaqahl or qeuhlqeu. For many people sleeping, the verb is tsimtsimt or tl’iixsimt.

So in St Clair I find one straightforward enough phrase:

xeke nii qauhlqau hewiiwihl = he wouldn’t let me go to sleep.  (xeke=he, she, it; nii=I not; qauhlqau=sleep; hewiiwiihl=ready=me)

Then he had a couple of other phrases where the ‘free translation’ and literally translation did not line up, and it took me a minute of staring at it sideways to figure out the literal translation:

xeke is in kwa’atis atsuu=He wouldn’t let us 2 sleep

noxkan hantl eni kwa’atis atsami=I won’t let you (singular) sleep.

These two puzzled me because at first because a)none of the ‘sleep’ verbs were in evidence and b) what the heck was the verb ‘to give’ (atsuu and atsami) doing there?

kwa’atis and gwa’atis (it’s written both ways) means ‘dream’.  So xeke is in kwa’atis atsuu is literally “He us=2 not dream he=give=us”, ie “He did not give us a dream”.

noxkan hantl eni kwa’atis atsami is “I(emphatic) will you(singular)=not dream give=you” = literally “I will not give you a dream”.  These phrases are metaphors for not allowing one to sleep.  To sleep and to dream.  Dreams were important -dreams were believed to be communications from the spirit world from guardians or spirits of luck and wealth.  But so far this is the first and only time I’ve seen ‘to give a dream’ as a euphemism for sleep.

The language just keeps getting more fun and interesting!!


About shichils

Just sharing some fun on language
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