October 20, 2005

What is so rare as a day in qiqsuqqaqtuq

Today's NYT article about changing Arctic weather conditions ("The Big Melt: Old Ways of Life Are Fading as the Arctic Thaws") has the obligatory reference to Eskimo snow vocabulary:

Across the Arctic, indigenous tribes with traditions shaped by centuries of living in extremes of cold and ice are noticing changes in weather and wildlife. They are trying to adapt, but it can be confounding.

Take the Inuit word for June, qiqsuqqaqtuq. It refers to snow conditions, a strong crust at night. Only those traits now appear in May. Shari Gearheard, a climate researcher from Harvard, recalled the appeal of an Inuit hunter, James Qillaq, for a new word at a recent meeting in Canada.

One sentence stayed in her mind: "June isn't really June any more."

In other news, lawyers for Woden asked for an injunction against unsanctioned use of their client's name in referring to a phase of the traditional Mesopotamian astrological cycle. "No license was ever obtained", said spokesman Louis Dewey. "Some bible translators just started using Woden's Day in rendering Greek originals that didn't mention our client at all." But according to a highly-placed lexicographic source, "these days no one even knows who Woden is unless they look up the etymology of Wednesday".

Posted by Mark Liberman at October 20, 2005 04:57 AM