Yidzaas

Back in the rainy months, we shared the words for “raining” (nahałtin). 

Now, it’s time for yidzaas, or “it is snowing.”

If you look closely, you might recognize the word for “snow” which is either yas or zas depending on where you’re from. These words work like nouns and they aren’t dependent on their action forms to complete a sentence, and vice versa. For example, “the snow melted” and “yesterday it snowed” use yas and yidzaaz separately.

That brings us back to the verb, and its different states. You’ll notice already yidzaas is “it is snowing” and yidzaaz is “it snowed.”

Yidzas is like saying “it is snowing (all over the country)” in the sense that you’re not particularly interested in when exactly each place has snowfall – you’re just saying it’s snowing.

Nádzas is for saying “it usually snows” (nádzas łeh) or “to have frequent snows” or “it always snows (somewhere)”. In essence, it expresses repetition.

And finally, there is doodzas, which is how you express potential snowing (analogous to the “future tense”).

Késhmish

In the great collection of Navajo-ized words, Késhmish is probably the only holiday that gets to keep some of its American vocal quality.

Késhmish is Navajo for Christmas. If you remember back to the Navajo alphabet post, there is no “CH” (only “CH’-“) because “K” handles the job. There is also no direct “R” alphabet value. So lots of things had to change before it became speakable for many Navajos.

Késhmish will often refer to the time surrounding Christmas only – descriptive in the same sense that a milepost marks distance on a road. So one may use Késhmish in regular speech, without implying that he or she is of any particular faith or belief.

Baa Hózhǫ́ǫgo Nidizhchí

This special phrase is the Navajo version of “Happy Birthday (to you)”.

In the popular English tune (trivia: it’s copyrighted, amazingly) this phrase would take the place of the first line. In order to fit the tune, most high tones and nasal marks are disregarded, so it would resemble “The Birthday Song”. But, if you’re like me and you could never memorize the “correct” lyric translation then just mumble along and stick to the tune!

There are, of course, various other ways to express “happy birthday”, for example:

  • this video expresses it – “Nidizhchíiji Ánááhoolzhiizhígíí Baa Shił Hózhǫ́”
  • an unfinished entry at the Navajo wiki page says this – “hoʼdizhchínę́ęjį́ anáyííłką́”

Some of you are sure to have had a birthday recently, or will have one soon, or have one today. If not, we’re pretty sure you’ll have one in the next year or so. In which case, happy birthday to you.

Hasht’e’ nihénil

This is an example of a Navajo colloquialism, and it translates somewhat to “I set it aside.”

The understanding behind this phrase is connected to money (béeso). In this sense, it means “I saved money.” This is a form that refers to something that was done and completed.

If you were to be in the process of saving money, you would need a verb form that is of the imperfective mode, which means something has begun but has yet to be completed.

This form is: hasht’e’ niheshnííł.

An example: Hooghan ła’ nahideeshnih biniiyé béeso hasht’e’ niheshnííł. Here we’re saying: [(a) home] [one] [i will buy] [for this purpose] [money] [prepared] [i am putting it someplace]. 

Recall that Navajo statements are made in the sequence: Subject -> Object -> Verb.

In contemporary English, it could be translated to: I am saving money to buy a home. Or: I will buy a home, for which I am saving money.

This is a great example of direct translations of Navajo that don’t quite align to their intended English meaning.

K’os

In both winter and monsoon months, níyol is often accompanied by k’os, which is the Navajo word for cloud.

Culturally, rain clouds are a blessing. The dry climate of the Southwest region of the United States makes every raindrop precious. In the winter, snow clouds bring the possibility of more moisture that soaks into the ground.

In common usage, the word daak’os is also used to refer to a multitude of clouds.

There is also the word ak’os which is the non-possessive word for “neck,” i.e. “a neck.”

The body part needs shi-, ni-, bi-, etc. to form shik’os (sik’os), nikos, bik’os, etc. to differentiate it from the word for cloud.

So k’os and ak’os are separate terms!