Tear tracks

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In doing the final work on the (first, not final, edition) of the Cheslatta Carrier dictionary, I came across a word that I have encountered only in this dialect that I just had to mention. Not only have I not encountered it in other dialects of Carrier, I'm not aware of any other language that has such a term.

The word is natsultook'ah [natsʌltuk'ah], a compound of "tears" and "tracks". It describes the portion of the face extending from the medial corner of the eye along the nose to the end of the nose. It's the route along which tears flow if not so copious that they spill out of the eye at other points. It doesn't refer only to the track left by tears, but to that portion of the face, even if no tears or traces thereof are present.


  1. Ken C. said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

    While naming a different feature, the english anatomical term "snot groove" is in some ways analogous.

  2. HP said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

    Well, Ken, I was going to mention "laugh lines," but you had to drag us into the gutter.

  3. mollymooly said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

    This rhinoplasty site doesn't name it. A quick google for "cheek nose junction" suggests the medical term is "cheek–nose junction".

  4. Eric TF Bat said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

    Didn't those great neolexicographers Adams and Lloyd call these lines the des moines? Check your Deeper Meaning Of Liff, which I'm sure will be on the shelf next to all the other linguistic greats.

  5. E. said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

    Not precisely– "Des Moines" are "the two little lines which come down from your nose". The sunken space between them is called the "philtrum", though the ridges don't appear to have a technical name.

  6. Russell said,

    December 15, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

    I think Smokey Robinson had this in mind:


  7. kip said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 11:16 am

    Surely this means Carrier speakers must be especially tuned in to sadness, depression, and crying, if they have a word for that. I'm told that the Eskimos actually have two words for that: one is for the path liquid tears take, the other is for the path tears take if they freeze up just after leaving the eye and fall as a snowflake. (That was sarcasm.)

  8. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

    But really, though, is there something special about that area of the face in Carrier culture makes having this name useful?

  9. ACW said,

    December 16, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    In Suzette Haden Elgin's novel Native Tongue (1984, I think), Dr. Elgin discusses Whorfian relativism in the context of a constructed language designed to embody, specifically, women's perceptions of the world. I'm sorry I don't have a copy available, because I'm going to screw up this recollection, but I believe that in the course of explaining the endeavor, a character proposes a word, athad, to mean "the surface of the body including the inner side of an arm, the armpit, and the adjacent side of the torso". As soon as the word is proposed, it becomes clear that everybody has two athads, and that some people's athads are attractive, and so on. The lesson is that one can bring "things" into "existence" (I use scare-quotes because I'm not really on board with this idea) by naming them.

    That's what Dr. Poser's "tear-track" story reminded me of.

  10. Aaron Davies said,

    December 19, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

    @ACW: Láadan is a real conlang, in case anyone's interested in learning more about a woman-centric language.

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