Friday, November 19, 2004

At a Loss For Words

It appears that the highly specialized descriptive language of people who are indigenous to the Arctic needs to be updated.

Many indigenous languages have no words for legions of new animals, insects and plants advancing north as global warming thaws the polar ice and lets forests creep over tundra.

"We can't even describe what we're seeing," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference which says it represents 155,000 people in Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Russia.


Thersites said...

Well, a culture that has hundreds of words for snow should have no trouble coming up with hundreds of synonyms for "we're fucked."

(I know, I know, the hundreds of words for snow thing is a myth... just couldn't resist the one-liner... it's my only weakness, my kryptonite, if you will... sigh.)

Phila said...

just couldn't resist the one-liner... it's my only weakness, my kryptonite, if you will... sigh.)Hey, that's what I'm here for! I'll set 'em up, you knock 'em down!

But the real question, I think, is will they be able to invent language that accurately describes the less-than-ideal moral natures of the people who are cheerfully allowing the Arctic to melt? God knows I'm having a hard time coming up with adequate words...

Thersites said...

The whole question of language and its relationship to politics and morality is I think one of the most serious we now face. In a pretty insidious fashion movement conservatives are pretty close to establishing a monopoly on moral language in the political and cultural arenas; this is probably the main reason for their success. It's a problem I've begun to think about seriously over at my not necessarily always serious blog (cough, ahem, cough, awkwardly blogwhoring but making up for the gaffe with charmingly understated manner, etc.).

NYMary said...

Did you ever read Reusch's novel "Top of the World"? It's about indigenous culture in the Arctic, and I remember vividly the scene in which they travel south far enough to get lice, so they can eat 'em. Ick. Exhibit A in why anthropologists shouldn't write novels.

And I believe they have a word for these guys, popularized by Richard Pryor. Think Oedipus.