Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Malibu Moment

On a comment thread at Blondesense on Global Warming I left a comment about something I said over the New Year's Holiday while at Malibu.

First off, I don't live in Malibu. I sometimes get to work for people that do. Sometimes, they even let me stay in the big house.

What got to me here was that I'm in a gated, gaurded estate, within a gated, gaurded community. I'm watching football, doing all that American new year's day stuff and I hear my host (and boss and friend) waxing all poetic about the dangers and hardships of living in Malibu during an El Niño year. I mean, jeezus horatio christ on a motherfucking skateboard, he was using Malibu and hardships in the same goddamn sentence.

Having no reputation as being somebody who will hold his tongue, I horned in on the conversation. Saying:
That's because you guys didn't do any basic research. Didn't the realtors tell you that Malibu is a Chumash word? It is. It means don't fucking live here white man."

Even if it ended up costing me future gigs it would have been well worth it, just to see the looks on their faces. As luck would have it, I have another gig coming up with my host/boss/friend in two weeks.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings stringed one.
My flesh hasn't touched keyboard pad (non-work related) since Dec 22.
Time flies when one has both kids at home for the holidays.

My family is one that cultivates and cherishes the art of the smart ass reply.
Yours just might have been nominated as one of the year's best.
That was some very nice work.

Anyway, Happy New to you and yours.

I seem to recall you mentioning the words 'roast' and 'vegetables' and 'recipe' mixed up in a sentence with a few other words like 'after' and 'truffles'.

7:58 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yes, you did hear those two words used in concert, and along with the word "promisd." it is going to happen. i am going to be digging up some root veggies pretty quick and they will be roasted, with an elk haunch most likely. and cumberland sauce. mmmmmmmmmmm.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So - seriously - do you know the meaning of "Malibu"?

- oddjob (who applauds you for putting the dope in his place; some people really do vividly remind you how uncommon common sense is)

10:02 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i have no idea what it means. i think it's spanish but i haven't been able to find it anywhere. the chumash word for the place meant "where the surf sounds loud."

10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I looked for it on Babel Fish and came up with nothing.

Ah well......

- oddjob (who often is one of those aforementioned people........)

10:28 PM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

Originally, Malibu was named "Humaliwo", Chumash for "the surf sounds loudly".

No, I did not know this--I looked it up!

I like your definition, though. We ought to send a giftwrapped Malibu Barbie to the White House. "Don't fucking live here, white man!" No-one will get it.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

Ah, sorry, you already said that. The word malibu, to my ear, is a simplification/corruption of humaliwo. This happened a lot, though, yes? As different languages arrived on the scene in America, the Native American names were frequently mispronounced, shortened, or otherwise corrupted by people unfamiliar with the mechanics of saying something in, say, Chumash.

8:57 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

That's a very good supposition m'dear. A lot of the time the "h's" of indian languages are silent (in Apache if it begins the word it is discarded, unless the previous word ends in a vowel without a glottal stop, gad, this gets complex) And it is no great stretch to turn humaliwo to malibu especially if one throws a little spaniard in the works. A great many indian nations are known by the name their neighbors had for them. For instance, Apache means "the enemies" in the Navajo dialect. Our own lore though says that we had assumed the moniker well before the spanish arrival. In Apache the word indii refers to people who are part of our people while indaa refers to the rest of the people in the world. We never really had a need to go beyond that. It is quite easy to imagine my ancestors making a raid on the Dineh (which is what the Navajo call themselves, we call them Yudaha a reference to the murderous willow and stone clubs they tended to favor, but I digress) and hearing shouts of "Apache, Apache!" and saying to themselves "Well shit, that must be us they're talking about!" We had at that time no generic term for the Athabascan language warrior cultures, which comprise the Apache. As opposed to the agrarian, herding cultures of the Navajo and Hopi. Part of that is that Apache tends to be a very explicit and specific language, which is very suitible to hunters and warriors. We have single words that require nearly a paragraph of English to translate. We also have things that simply can't make the jump. You can get bogged down trying to explain a certain nuance that is quite plain in Apache but takes so much English to try and describe poorly it becomes frustrating.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

I love the way certain words or phrases in other languages don't translate to English. I think that speaks to the cultural closed-mindedness of the English-speaking sphere, at least to some degree. There are great swear words in Spanish (Italian, too) that don't have an English counterpart, only a similarly-filthy or potent word. An example is cabron. It means big goat, literally, but as a curse, it roughly translates to "man who is so sexually confused and inept, he can only get it up for a big goat". And even that "translation" varies from dialect to dialect, from Cuban to Columbian to Honduran. I'm only familiar with a handful of dialects. Now, what word in English means that? There isn't one; the best we can do is offer a word that's mas-o-menos equally filthy and insulting, like motherfucker.

I know almost nothing about Native languages, but I'm fascinated by the rich imagery woven through the words. I can only imagine that makes speaking them a beautiful, painterly experience.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

Ah, I forgot to tell you: the horse on which I learned to ride, back when I was eleven and we'd first moved to Honduras, was named Apache. He was half quarter horse, half Morgan. Gorgeous. And BIG! There is a photo of us somewhere; one of these days, I will scan some of my old photos and post them. Apache was slow, gentle, and very forgiving--the best beginner horse.

Then, for my twelfth birthday, my parents gave me a young gelding named Palomo. He was quite wild, having never had a bit in his mouth. The stable manager didn't know this, and put a new bridle with a curb bit on him. Palomo threw me again and again. On the actual birthday, I was riding him and managed to get him to canter (it was like a scene from a rodeo, as I remember it). Up, down, up, down, and away we went. Our teacher was late and we were all buggering about, showing off. Palomo took off on a tear, and I allowed him. Then he made a sharp U-turn. I continued going straight. Wheeee! One dislocated wrist and multiple-fractured tibia coming up.

I miss riding. I made R take me to this one stable when we were in Hawaii, but the trail rides were so tame and slow, it drove us both nuts. "Okay, if the advanced riders want to canter across this one flat spot, that's fine, but it's the only place we're going to let you run..." blah blah blah. They also made us wear these incredibly stupid styrofoam helmets. And they gave me the littlest horse in the group because I was the only one light enough. I'm fairly tall and like to sit up high. The horse--her name was Aries--was a sweetie, though, and what little cantering she did was smooth and joyful.

10:54 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

One of the best examples I can use is the translation of my medicine name Ya'tta'alli-kesh

It is a compound of several different words. An Hattallii is a medicine singer. One who does the three and four day sings to heal people. Putting the "y" in front of an already silent "h" is an intensifier. "ya" is the sound of assent. it means more than "yes" though. it is the sound of the people affirming a position. now, the problem begins. how can you bring that to English? kesh is easy. it is specifically the diamond back rattlesnake. you see, when you're out in the mountains or the woods it's important to deliver a great deal of information rapidly. kesh is much quicker than diamondback rattlesnake the same way the tinnick is timber rattlesnake or tom is coral snake. bak'u means young male black bear which is all important information. you wouldn't want to confuse bak'u with say, sash biza'he (grizzly female with cubs) now would you?

so, back to the problem of how to translate my name gracefully. there's even more nuance to the first part. by using the "y" as the intensifier it implies that this was a name that i was given, not one that i have sought. to us, that's a big difference. so rather than go deep into all of that, i usually just tell people that it means "singing snake."

11:01 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i think you and Rosalita would get along just fine.

11:05 AM  
Blogger JerseyCynic said...

MB - i feel a song coming on for your west coast friends!! -- maybe you could write a tune

ode to max mayfield!!

I got some ideas!

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you were in Hawaii which island/islands did you visit?

My favorite Hawaiian curse word is moi lepo (sleep dirty).
Because the entire o'hana slept under one roof it was considered particulary disrespectful to not bathe before settling in for the night.
Although in my circle of smart-assed friends it became more of an informal salutation than a derogatory remark.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for remembering.
I've become quite dependent on veggies. It's been key to the
**** loss of 30 lbs *****
thus far.
Sorry, can you tell I'm proud?

Anyway, I'm really really really getting sick of steamed broccoli.
Roasted root vegetables sound like a wonderful adventure about now.

p.s. Actually it was your writing about your addiction that started me reading you. It mirrored what I was beginning to realize about myself. The bonus: you're funny and have a way with the pen as well.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

litbrit, thanks for the info. on "malibu". Very helpful! Hurricane comes to English via Spanish, but originated in some language like Arawak or Taino (which of course is perfectly sensible since the Spanish sure as hell had no experience with such storms back in España and so would have had no prior word of their own!)

While what you say about English is true, it's also true of any other language. Once you make choices about expression I think you necessarily end up making choices about what NOT to express, and both of those are reflected in the language spoken, but you only learn this by learning other languages, for only then you can see what alternate possibilities your ancestors forsook.

One of the things that makes English so powerful is the way it so freely borrows from other languages (which I've been told before is certainly something that happens in other languages, but is especially noticeable about English). It doesn't make English better or worse than other languages, but that is one of its strengths. A Swiss-American friend of mine agrees with this, but also has pointed out to me that French is probably a better language in which to explain relationships because its verb structures are more elaborate, and better display relationships thereby, than English's.

My favorite example of a foreign word that has no counterpart in English and which perfectly explains something that English on its own doesn't even acknowledge is from German - Schadenfreude.

Schaden translates as "damage", and Wie Schade is the German way of saying, "How sad" or, "What a shame". Freude means "joy". Therefore, Schadenfreude is "damage-joy", and is the joy one feels upon hearing of the misfortune of another......

That word shows up in political blogging rather a lot because there is absolutely NO English equivalent - but politics is politics....... ;-)

- oddjob

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I have two Algonquin words with their approximate meanings for you:

Massachusetts - hilly lands

Connecticut - winding land

- oddjob

4:02 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

connecticut doesn't mean nutmeg?

4:16 PM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

oddjob, it was actually Minstrel Boy who provided the Malibu translation (surf that is loud); I just found Humaliwo over at Wikipedia.

Shades of Blue, we stayed on the Big Island all three times that I've visited--in '96, 2002, and 2005. Another thing I need to write about one of these days. And the photographs! It is impossible to take a bad photograph in Hawaii. Okay, I'm going to write it properly: Hawai'i.

We rode horses high above Kohala, and we could see Maui in the distance. I think if I had that much beauty around me every day, my heart might explode. Still, I want to wind up there in the next ten years. There, or Italy. I'm not difficult!

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My children were born in Hilo.
My first glimpse of the Big Island was from the top of Haleakula on Maui.
Funny cause when I saw that sight I also felt my heart would explode.
Your experience in Kohala sounds like the best, It always reminded me of the misty rolling green hills here in West PA.

Did you wander south to Volcanoes or Ka'u?
I lived off power up in the rainforest in Volcanoes but spent most of my time in Ka'u and Manuka where my fishing grounds where.
I would get a kick out of hearing your impressions, please do write.
I'll be your official nagger if you'd like.

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

connecticut doesn't mean nutmeg?


Nope, not according to the Chappiquiddic Sachem I had the chance to ask.

- oddjob

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MB, I have a question for you in one of Dark Wraith's comment threads. If you don't know the answer, you'll very much enjoy it.

- oddjob

6:48 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

answer up

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may have begun with the Brits, but the expansion of shoddy from a noun defining a particular kind of woolen cloth (one rewoven from scraps), to its modern usage as an adjective meaning substandard quality of anything came during the Civil War.

Uniform makers for the Union were awarded contracts for the supply of uniforms, which they then shortchanged the government on by not using the regular kind of wool and instead using cheaper (& less durable) shoddy to make the uniforms.

Hence "shoddy" workmanship, a meaning derived from yet another example of war profiteering at the expense of soldiers............

- oddjob (who learned that on PBS)

1:33 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

"shoddy" indeed. as i stated earlier (probably at the wraith's, i have no problem with someone turning a profit, even a tidy profit from supplying our troops. but i will always remember that the quartermaster corps, the medical corps, and most of the auxilliary branches of the service were developed because of the shameless and often deadly practices of unscrupulous civilian contractors. the "privitization" of things like medical evacuations, mess halls, and supply duties has had the effect of bringing back the same situations that winfield scott saw while in mexico. crappy food (which boosts sales at their pizza hut and mcdonalds franchises), substandard gear delivered late (by convoys of civilian trucks protected by the military). . . it just goes on and on. this is also a bullshit accounting trick. by pretending to shrink the military budget through this "outsourcing" (because we are ending up paying more in the end) this administration has continued its habit of hiding their crimes through accounting tricks and dodges that would have a civilian or non-party contributor sharing a cell with jeff skilling.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Ran into your blog looking for the meaning of Malibu. This was to see if anyone had noted that the phonic sound, Malibu, means melancholy in Hungarian. You may think I jest, but it is true. Mélabú (May-luh-boo) = Melancholy. Now, what do you make of that? One of the Universe's ironic dichotomies? Or, might that offer insight into the angst of the locals over El Nino and perhaps existence itself?

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