NavajoWOTD

atsiits'iin

the head

uh tsee tseen

This Navajo word means “the head.” Or, it can also refer to something that functions like the brain, meaning that it provides the controls to move the rest of the body.

To say “my head” the word becomes “shitsiits’iin” and “your head” is “n(i)tsiits’iin” and “his/its head” is “bitsiits’iin.” You can see with these words how to use shí, ní and bí.

So if I say to the phrase, “chidí bitsiits’iin” what do you think I am talking about? That phrase is a creative use of atsiits’iin to refer to a car or truck’s engine, referring to the piston heads that drive the motor.

siláo

officer, police

sil ow

Meaning: police man. This may be a somewhat notorious word on the reservation, but it nonetheless is used constantly to refer to law enforcement. The Navajo police men and women serve in spite of their reputation in and around the reservation in order to protect Navajo people and to enforce the laws of the sovereign nation. The job is actually so unique, even among national agencies, that it has afforded its own TV show on the National Geographic Channel known as ‘Navajo Cops.’ Be sure to check it out if you have the chance.

yádiłhił

outer space

yah dih-lth hyi-lth

Today’s word is a general word for ‘outer space.’ If you were to break this word down the first part would be yá-, as in yá’át’ééh, which means ‘up’ or ‘sky.’ The rest of the word, diłhił, is understood to be ‘dark blue.’

This word fits into the different words that Navajo has for the atmospheres. Depending upon the context, this word can also be used to mean ‘the next world’ in both the traditional and religious sense.

táláwosh

soap

tah lah woh-sh

This Navajo word is also sometimes spelt ‘tálághosh.’ The meaning is the same, but some Navajo texts prefer one to the other. In both cases, however, the pronunciation is not exactly as it may seem if you were to judge purely by the vocalization of the letters. This is a subtle detail that often confuses readers of the Navajo language.

Besides that, the word itself means soap. It’s actually a reference to the suds made by the yucca root. Before Old Spice and Dove soap, Navajo people used these roots which had to be dig up from the ground. Working the root in water creates a lather that can be used for maintaining hygiene. The word is, this method is far superior than store-bought shampoos and soaps!

gohwééh

coffee

goh weh

Have it in the morning, throughout the day, or maybe not at all because it raises your blood pressure too much. Gohwééh is coffee.

Coffee grounds were among the first government issued rations given to Navajo people in the late 19th century. Bitter as is was, eating it was common because very few people actually knew how to boil it into water.

Today, gohwééh is a staple in workplaces, homes, and gatherings — along with some pastries or cookies to avoid stomach aches.

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