We all know that certain first names (like Calvin, Cecilia and Claude) have rather uncomplimentary meanings. But I recently came across some Central Sierra Miwok names with definitions that blow “bald,” “blind” and “lame” right out of the water.
First, a couple of cliffhangers:
- Hultu, “bear barely touching people as it reaches for them.” Based on the word helat, meaning to reach for and barely touch.
- Lilepu, “bear going over a man hiding between rocks.” Based on the word lile, meaning up, on top of.
- Notaku, “growling of bear as someone passes.” Based on the word noteaku, meaning to growl.
If the above situations go badly, the results may include:
- Elki, “bear hanging intestines of people on top of rocks or bushes.” Based on the word elkini, meaning to hang on top of or over.
- Hatawa, “bear breaking the bones of people or animals.” Based on the words hate, meaning to press with the foot, and atwa, meaning to split.
- Kutattca, “bear scattering intestines of a person as it eats him.” Based on the word kutatenani, meaning to throw away something not wanted.
- Luyunu, “bear taking off leg or arm of person when eating him.” Based on the word luyani, meaning to shake the head sideways.
And, going beyond hungry bears:
- Puteeyu (fem.), “evil smell of deer’s large intestine.” Based on the word puseyu, meaning to stink.
- Simutuye (fem.), “pinning together tree squirrel’s abdomen with stick after gutting.” Based on the word simute, meaning to pin together.
- Teinwe, “squeezing the intestines out of minnows.” Based on the word teinwa, meaning to squeeze.
- Yutne, “falcon making nest damp by defecating on it.” Based on the word yutuk, meaning to stick on.
How graphic are those!?
All are masculine names, except where noted. I found them in a book called Miwok Moieties (1916) by Edward Winslow Gifford.
None of them explicitly name the animals to which they refer…so where do those long, detailed definitions come from? According to Gifford, “each Miwok name has an implied or actual reference to an object associated with the moiety to which the possessor of the name belongs.” Of the two Miwok moieties (i.e. descent groups), one is associated with land, the other with water. So land moiety names refer to land animals (usually bears), while water moiety names refer to aquatic/amphibious animals.
The book didn’t include a pronunciation key, so I can’t say for sure how any of the above sound aloud. (I am curious to know the difference between the single-T and the double-T in Kutattca, though.)
Can you name a culture with more gruesome names than these?