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What do you know about the words you use. Do you really know all the American language and the words that make it up. Today we present the third program in a new series on the American language by Medford Matthews. Mr. Matthews is editor in chief of the Dictionary of American isms published by the University of Chicago Press and is a lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. Today's program is on place names from the Indians. Mr. Matthews so far as I am aware nobody knows how many words first and last have been taken over from some one of the numerous Indian languages encountered by those who converted the area in the east in the United States from red man's country to white man's country. The total must run into the clouds. And while many of these have been discarded there yet remain a large number of scholars have tried to find out the meanings of many of the Indian words we have borrowed. They have had only a moderate amount of success in their efforts to come upon the
basic significance of some of the Indian words now in common use. But it is always interesting to see what results have been obtained even though these are not to be relied upon in all instances. It is often quite as valuable to find out what is not true as it is to find out why the years and wondrous of the labors of scholars in the field of Indian linguistics has been to find out that many of the motion formally hailed about the basic meanings of certain terms have to be consigned to the realms of pure fancy. Perhaps there are a few people who place any confidence in the old explanation of Kentucky as meaning dark and bloody ground. It is extremely difficult to find what the word meant to the NDA but scholars are inclined to think it is derived from some Iroquois root word signifying level. The Indian word kinda younger than God would have meant
level country. And it is possible that it was some size term as the US that in white man's lingo gave rise to Kentucky Alabama certainly does not mean here we rest though the story that it got started a long time ago and it one which like Banquo's ghost is hard to do for a long time. The phrase here we rest period on the Alabama state she. Although the fact is not generally known. The Alabama state shield carrying this motto was the result of carpetbagger a rule in Alabama just after the Civil War. The seal with this misleading motto was used for 71 years but finally in 1939 the state legislature got around to abolishing both the seal and the motto and replacing them with the original state seal of 1817.
The view that now prevails asked of the literal significance of Alabama among the Indians is that it meant think it Clarence the Indians who were known by this name having their cognomen back clearing the forest and engaging and I agree culture at least to a limited extent. The trouble with this interpretation is that all the southeastern India were think it Claire. So it is not easy to explain how one small tribe came to have a kind of vested interest in my name suitable for all album proper names of Indian origin are of course numerous in this country and sometimes a relatively obscure place our string has the most interesting name so far as its interpretation go. For instance in the southeastern part of New York there is a body of water known as tuxedo late in the course of time a summer
resort sprang up on this lake and taking its name from it was known as tuxedo. The story is told by the guests that the summer resort once warded them or a smaller pay a coat that will minus the playing fields such a coat usually have this type of denim jacket became an immediate success and took its my name tuxedo from the place of its first appear in view of the secure position and the language which tuxedo now has the basic meaning of the word as it was used by Indians becomes all the more interesting as is the case with so many words. Scholars differ in their interpretation of the actual meaning of it. One authority says that the word comes from the Delaware dialect of Algonquin. Among these Delawares Soledad account go there was a small sub tribe of Indians whose totem was the rule. On account of their
devotion to this creature these Indians were known as they but toxic people that is people the world bore the name he did something like protect cedar because he had a round foot. By this process of reasoning we arrive at will our round foot for the basic meaning of tuxedo. Another investigator has an altogether different view of the matter and explains the word as coming from the Indian term protect CPO the literal meaning of which was a crooked river creek. The laymen who come upon Minnesota's disagreements as they us soon grow suspicious of any attempt to explain the primitive meaning of any Indian word. This business of digging around in an effort to come at the root meanings of words has paid excellent dividends where European languages are involved. Greek is a beautiful
language for The Root hunters to begin with. For instance in the Greek language of old times there was a root G E N. The basic meaning of which was to beget. This whole route is seen clearly in such words as hydrogen Genesis genealogy and sorrow more but because of many regrettable circumstances the study of Indian languages has not so far been productive of such satisfactory result. In southwestern IRA Zona there is the hostile yapper river hacienda lack other place names has been so mom how about white users I have it that there is no way of telling what the original word was or what it may have meant. You might end in on one occasion explained it as meaning water that is here our water that is on a dry bed and that explanation may be as good as any. For some reason our foreign
there sprang up among the early inhabitants mannish principal in southeastern Arizona. The legend that whoever drank of the waters of the hostile gap a river could never again tell the truth in poems of local repeat this legend is mentioned. An anonymous stanza has it. Those who drink it's water. Bright red man White man blue are night girls are women boys or me I'm never can tell the truth again. Another poet Jackson has given a fuller account. You heard about the wondrous dream they call the house again. They say it turns a truthful guy into a lying scam and if you quaff it's water wants it here to prove your brain you'll never forsake the blasted stray mark tell the truth again. Clubs and societies of various kinds often desire to have names of Indian origin. The
most widely known of such organizations is Pamina in New York City. The name of their society preserves lad of a famous Delaware Indian chief the lawyer friend of William Payne whom I had with him pledges of everlasting peace and friendship on the famous treaty element sixteen eighty three. This chief's name was Tammany Pamina or Tammany word which is said to have meant affable he is described as having been him and I quote in the highest degree and that I would with wisdom virtue Prudence charity meekness hospitality insure with every good and noble qualification that a human being made to save us end quote. Family is goodness and softness of heart extended up to his head which was also where Saul Farida said of him that he sold lambs
far quote so much wampum and other goods as PM shall please to give him quote he was the first highly placed American statesman to distinguish himself by giving away his country's resources to a gang of needy Europeans. He has bared by a spring some distance west of Dostana a small village 25 miles north of Philadelphia. Another organization and one that is more favorably known than Pam and I proudly buy as an Indian like you want us this name was arrived at by a process of investigation and research. During the course of which an old Indian vocabulary compiled by Bishop Frederick Baraga a pioneer of Upper Michigan came under scrutiny and was found to contain the term he wanted us meaning to make oneself mome to impress oneself. The researcher who chanced upon this
name was favorably impressed and changing the spelling only a little. Submitted as possible my name for the new organization. It met with immediate approval and was adopted by the first of such groups in the Triad in January and I think 15. Certainly not many places have received Indian names in so romantic a fashion as did Yosemite Valley and California. The story goes that in the spring of 1851 a battalion of California mounted militia was pursuing a band of hostile Indians into the Sierra Nevada toward the end of the day. The company reached the brink of a vast castle the like of which they had never before seen their Indian guide showed them a steep trail that led to the bottom of this. Yes and they camped by a by a rushing river. In the
gathering darkness a scout went off to seek a crossing place and soon came back half drowned having fallen into the river. As he stood drying by a roaring fire someone suggested that since they had discovered this valley and one of their number had already been bad then the time was ripe to give it to me. Thereupon neighbor suffer us often profane discussion start some being in favor of a strictly English name and others being desirous of giving the place an Indian name. Paradise Valley was one of the names proposed and defended loudly ma'am from other camp by gathered a.m. and contributed their nods and sentiments to the discussion after the pros and cons of the different names proposed had then gone over a text and shouted for order and call for a vote on the names that had been suggested
since the party was in pursuit of the Yosemite Indians. That my name was uppermost in the minds of those who sang out their choices in an election that gave them my name Yosemite to the valley and subsequently to all such U-shape flat floored steep cliff Valley as of the same general Khan. It was found out later that the significance of the Indian name best bestowed on the beautiful valley was Grier's led by heirs. You have heard Mitford Mathews and I talk on place names from the Indians. This is the Third Programme in the series the American language. Mr. Mathews is editor of the dictionary of Americanisms and lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago. This program was produced in the University of Chicago radio August by Thomas the parish. This is the end I network.
American language
Further borrowing from the Indians
Producing Organization
University of Chicago
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The third program in this series, "Further Borrowing from the Indians," continues to explore the influence that Native Americans had on the way colonists spoke English.
Series Description
A series of talks by Mitford Mathews, editor of the Dictionary of Americanisms and lecturer in linguistics at the University of Chicago.
Broadcast Date
English language--United States--Foreign words and phrases--Indian.
Media type
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Producer: Parrish, Thomas (Thomas D.)
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Mathews, Mitford M. (Mitford McLeod), 1891-1985
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-8-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:36
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Chicago: “American language; Further borrowing from the Indians,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “American language; Further borrowing from the Indians.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: American language; Further borrowing from the Indians. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from