The truth about iqualuit

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In response to my question here, an authoritative answer from Alana Johns, who was asked by Ewan Dunbar, who was asked by Bill Idsardi:

iquq means stuff hanging down around the anus (dingleberries?).  S___ says when they were kids they would tease each other by calling each other "iquq" (in English we also say "you dirty bum!")

Adding -aluk would intensify the noun 'large, impressive' and then of course it is pluralized with -it:

iqu(q )+ alu(k) _it  'many large dirty bums'  →  iqualuit

BUT iqaluit (the name of the capital of Nunavut) is

iqalu(k) 'fish, normally char' + it plural → iqaluit

For Americans, perhaps a more idiomatic translation of iqualuit would be "big poopybutts", or "major dingleberries".

Next question: is the syllabification i-qu-a-lu-it vs. i-qa-lu-it, so that the place name has one fewer syllables than the (Inuktitut pronunciation of) the wrongly spelled version?



34 Comments

  1. Cameron said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

    So, we are to understand that in the Inuktitut language the default fish is char? I take it this means the generic term for fish is the same as the word for char.

    Do other languages have a default fish?

  2. Ray Girvan said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

    stuff hanging down around the anus (dingleberries?)

    Rather akin to "dag", then.

  3. SnowLeopard said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

    I think the answer to your "Next Question" is yes: if Inuktitut is transcribed in the same way as other languages in the family, such as Yup'ik, "q" denotes a consonant distinct from the English "k" that is articulated farther back in the mouth. So "qu" in Inuktitut is not to be confused with English "qu", but is a syllable in its own right that rhymes with "ku".

  4. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

    Besides iqalu(k), another Inuktitut fish term that's come up on Language Log is tiktaalik 'burbot'. Nunavut elders suggested that as the genus name for the fossil fish discovered in the Canadian Arctic in '06 (representing a transition from fish to tetrapod, thus dubbed a "fishapod"). The Inuktikut Living Dictionary is a great resource for these fishy lexemes.

  5. Kat Tancock said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 2:12 pm

    I took Inuktitut field linguistics with Alana Johns many years ago, and yes, if I remember correctly, 'q' represents a velar stop. And your break-down of the syllables looks right to me.

  6. Emily Dunbar said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 2:36 pm

    Whoa! That's my brother's name up there… guess i shouldn't be surprised.

  7. wally said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

    '(in English we also say "you dirty bum!")'

    bum has never meant rear to me, tho I recognize that it does to some people.

    So I always took 'dirty bum' to mean unwashed hobo.

  8. Alan Palmer said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

    How many words for "fish" does the Inuktitut language have? ;)

  9. Bloix said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

    Webster's II New College Dictionary says that "bum" meaning tramp is shortened from "bummer" from German "Bummler" from "bummeln" to loaf, and that "bum" meaning buttocks is British, no etymology given. Hmm. Have to check the OED tonight.

  10. Sili said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    I think Major Dingleberries sounds rather British.

    Is he of the Worcester or the Greenwich Dingleberries, though?

    And since Zimmer said the magic word.

  11. Ray Girvan said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

    Bloix: "bum" meaning buttocks is British, no etymology given. Hmm. Have to check the OED tonight.

    Here you go:

    Origin uncertain. Probably onomatopoeic, to be compared with other words of similar sound and with the general sense of 'protuberance, swelling', e.g. BUMP n., BUMB a pimple, mod.Icel. bumba belly of a cask or other vessel, Fr. bombe BOMB. … (The guess that bum is 'a mere contraction of bottom' … is at variance with the historical fact that 'bottom' in this sense is found only from the 18th c.)]

  12. Bloix said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

    The mod Icel. does it for me.

  13. psistrom said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

    "Do other languages have a default fish?"

    Not sure it qualifies as a "default fish," but in Newfoundland restaurants (in 1985) menus identified the species of fish in each dish, except for cod, which was called just "fish."

  14. Nathan Myers said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

    "Beach bum" has a pleasing possible translation to Indonesian via the same equation "bum=bum", "pantut pantai". I never found an Indonesian who recognized it, though.

  15. Nathan Myers said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

    Oh, and by the way, John Waters claims credit for first use of "dingleberry" on U.S national television. On David Letterman, he had roll of candy by that name. It didn't last long.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VU0yJ3benb4

  16. Mary Kuhner said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

    Unspecified fish locally is generally cod: I see this in both "fish and chips" places (though if they are stingy they'll use snapper and let you think it's cod) and in a fancy Brazilian place.

    I think it's the generic fish only in a food context, though; if someone told me he caught a fish, or talked to me about fish biology, cod wouldn't particularly enter my mind at all. (Salmon, actually, for both of those.)

    Mary

  17. Tom said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 8:34 pm

    Dingleberry isn't even slightly British. "Clinker" is a much more idiomatic translation.

  18. ZubiGirl said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

    This is a very FISHY story that has no END!

  19. goofy said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

    Kat Tancock:
    "I took Inuktitut field linguistics with Alana Johns many years ago, and yes, if I remember correctly, 'q' represents a velar stop."

    uvular stop?

  20. James said,

    August 19, 2009 @ 11:41 pm

    I think that syllabification is correct. The writing system for this language suggests that CV is the typical syllable.

    @goofy and Kat

    Yes, the letter 'q' represents a uvular stop in this language.

  21. Ewan said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 12:49 am

    "Is the syllabification i-qu-a-lu-it vs. i-qa-lu-it, so that the place name has one fewer syllables than the (Inuktitut pronunciation of) the wrongly spelled version?"

    Yes.

  22. Janice Huth Byer said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 6:28 am

    In my capacity as Chief Executive Cook and President of Grocery Acquisitions, it's been my privilege to read widely in the field of retail labels, allowing me to state, with some confidence, that in the US frozen prepared-food industry, "fish" in the product name, for some decades, has meant only pollock.

    Why pollock is the fish that "dares not speak its name" except in the fine-print of listed ingredients, remains, alas, a mystery beyond me.

  23. Graeme said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 6:34 am

    Dag/gy are endearing pejoratives in Australian English (~ uncool, but comfortably so): in a nation that rode on the sheep's daggy back/rear, the connections are obvious.
    Yet dag also meant excellent or bladish, at least in the first half of the 20th century.
    Is there a connection or distinction.

  24. Achim said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 7:05 am

    In Germany, if you run into menu items such as "fried fish", you'll most likely get pollock. Everything else is made explicit to motivate the higher price.

  25. Ray Girvan said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 8:31 am

    Janice Huth Byer: Why pollock is the fish that "dares not speak its name"

    Did you see the widespread news story early in April 2009 that Sainsbury's were to rename pollack as "colin" (the French for hake) because of the embarrassing name? e.g. Store renames fish to spare embarrassment. This smelt of a poisson d'avril.

  26. legionseagle said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 8:34 am

    The default fish discussion also relates to the Terry Pratchett post above; in the Discworld curry takeaways (at least, those patronised by Death) tend to price as follows:

    Meat curry – 5p
    Named Meat curry – 8p

  27. Mr Punch said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 9:08 am

    Pollock is a "generic" (more accurately, "off-brand") fish, at least in the US and I believe the UK, because it is a white fish that may be substituted for cod or haddock, but has a grayer color and a fishier taste than those fish and is therefore considered to be of lower quality.

  28. Stephen Jones said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 9:14 am

    Dingleberry isn't even slightly British. "Clinker" is a much more idiomatic translation.

    That's what I thought but strangely enough the meaning is not given in the dictionary.

  29. James said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 10:48 am

    Some Salish languages have "salmon" as the default word for fish.

  30. Ken Brown said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 11:47 am

    Ray Girvan said: "… widespread news story early in April 2009 that Sainsbury's were to rename pollack as "colin" (the French for hake) because of the embarrassing name? e.g. Store renames fish to spare embarrassment. This smelt of a poisson d'avril."

    I smelt a red herring myself. A few days after I read the report I went to Sainsbury's and bought some pollock. Both fresh and frozen. It was called "pollock". It was very cheap. I think the journalists must've been haddocked.

    As someone said the default eating fish here is cod, in fish & chips and in fish fingers. I doubt if one Brit in a thousand has ever knowingly laid eyes on a live cod though. Most probably wouldn't even recognise one dead on a slab.

  31. Sili said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 12:38 pm

    So much for trying to make a stupid wordplay. My apologies.

    Need to reread Catch 22, I'm sure.

  32. Ray Girvan said,

    August 20, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

    My apologies.

    It wasn't unappreciated: just couldn't think of a riposte (like wondering if the Greenwich branch of the family were the ones who made clinker-built boats).

  33. Nineveh_uk said,

    August 23, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

    Re. default fish as cod in fish and chips, it depends on which part of the country. In the northeast of the UK, the default fish is haddock. Cod is the one you have to ask for.

  34. Aaron Davies said,

    August 26, 2009 @ 11:48 am

    apparently dory is the default fish (for fish and chips, etc.) here in singapore. (i wouldn't know from personal experience, as i seem to be fatally allergic to all (swimming) fish. (some shellfish seem to be ok.))

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