Monday, May 18, 2009

Sliding into the Unexpected

Southern Pacific rattlesnake, or Herngt, © photo by Pat Murkland
Our Serrano language and culture class meets every first and third Monday at 17 West Hays, Banning, and often veers into a world of the unexpected.
At our class on Monday night, for example, we talked about Herngt, the rattlesnake.
It’s been a very good year for rattlers and we’ve been seeing them frequently.
I told how I saw another Herngt on Sunday, soundly sleeping in a gopher hole.
Ernest Siva said: "Herngt aap kuuman mingat akiihp." 
(Rattlesnake was sleeping there in Gopher’s house.) 
Mingat is Gopher. Aap = there. Kuuman = sleeping.
Ernest said that adding the “p” onto akiihp makes the meaning “in or on the house.” Serrano is a very economical language, because Chuck then pointed out that adding the “a” in front of akiihp makes it  “his” (Gopher's) house.
I also saw a gopher snake (Qorqort) on Sunday a.m.
Ernest remembered that in the book Wayta' Yawa', Dorothy Ramon remembers Pete Ramon’s nickname was Tu'chi' Chaaqwam, for a little black lizard.
And Chilyaku', he said, a lizard, has a name derived from a Serrano phrase that refers to how the Creator made them small. The monsters, he said, all went under the earth during the Creation, except these, which were made small.

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