Monday, December 10, 2012


Q: Could you tell me whether Delsin is, in fact, an American Indian name and what is the meaning? Online the meaning is "he is so."

A: "Delsin" is a word from the Walam Olum, an 1800's book based loosely on Lenape/Delaware mythology. Although the white man who wrote it tried to pass it off as an antique Lenape document and was therefore exposed as a fraud, it does come from real Algonquian legends-- the fake part was that he pretended he had found this as a Native-authored document, when in fact he cobbled it together from second-hand sources.

Anyway, delsin is listed as meaning "is there" in the glossary, with w'dellsin meaning "he is so" or "he does so" (i.e. he behaves in a certain way.) Looking in an older Lenape dictionary, I find "wdellsowagan" meaning "behavior," which suggests this is probably indeed a genuine word of Lenape origin. However, it is definitely not a name. I think "is there" would be a really strange meaning for a dog's name, but that is a matter of personal choice!

Hope that is helpful to you, have a good day!
Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading:
American Indian names
Lenape language
Algonquian mythology

Monday, December 3, 2012

"Kwop kilawtley": What DID Jacob whisper in Quileute during "Twilight: New Moon?"

Since the release of "Twilight: New Moon" back in 2009, one of the most enduring questions we keep getting is a request to translate the Quileute words Taylor Lautner whispers during that movie. For three years we've been declining to spill the beans, in accordance with this hilariously awesome 2009 press release from the Quileute Nation:

"Out of respect for Jacob and his feelings for Bella, we are going to keep that private for now."
But now the final Twilight movie has been released, the series is over, and Jacob's romantic interest in Bella has been resolved once and for all. (He marries her daughter, for those who didn't follow the series. There's some other supernatural stuff going on too, but the bottom line is she's going to be his mother-in-law, and no Northwest Coast Native man would be exchanging any more private whispers with his mother-in-law!)

So what did he say to Bella? Well, here are two hints, see if you can figure it out: 1) Quileute, like most Native American languages, has longer words than English, not shorter. 4-5 Quileute syllables are not going to translate into a long English sentence. 2) Quileute is an endangered language. Younger people are working to learn and revitalize their native language, but the fluent speakers of Quileute are all elders. Since the Quileute teenagers at the premiere recognized and reacted to what he said, it's either something you might hear your grandparents say or something you might learn in class. And that's not likely to be "Stay with me forever" or "Team Jacob all the way."

Ready for a spoiler? Highlight the blank space below:

Yep, it's "I love you." It's kw'opḳalawó∙li, also spelled a variety of other ways (kwopkalawo'li, kw'opkalawoli, k'upkalawli, kwop kilawtley, que quowle, etc.) The different spellings are due to the fact that Quileute isn't traditionally a written language, not due to any ambiguity in meaning. kw'opa is the Quileute root for "love," -kalaw is an object suffix meaning "you," and -li is a subject suffix meaning "I."

Let's hope it works better on Renesmee. :-)

Further reading:
Quileute Nation homepage
Quileute language
Native American words