Language

If Bob’s your uncle …

The idiom Bob’s your uncle is commonly heard in Britain. Perhaps you’ve heard it watching British mysteries or British sitcoms.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?

Truth be told, I had always thought that “Auld Lang Syne” was some saintly old soul and it was just this year that I realized and appreciated, for the first time, the depth of meaning beneath these lyrics.

The lost camel of an ancient Persian fairy tale

In Persia, there once was a wise king with three sons. He mock-banished the young princes from his kingdom so they could go out and test themselves against the dangers of the real world. Their journey became a fairy tale known as “The Three Princes of Serendip.”

The writing’s on the wall…

They’re ookey and they’re spooky …  and perhaps one of the ookiest and spookiest of the household was Thing T. Thing, the disembodied hand affectionately known as “Thing” on The Addams Family. (Baby boomers reading this now have The Addams Family finger-snapping theme song playing in their grey matter). “Thank you, Thing” was heard often as Thing was …

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Not my circus…

Josephine explores where people started giving up their circus Send in the … elephants. I can’t help it; as a little girl I disliked clowns. And I didn’t trust them. What child doesn’t love a clown? I think it had something to do with their makeup and that I really couldn’t “read” them. And while …

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Taking flibberties with the (Widdle) English language

How do you solve a problem like “flibbertigibbet?” Unless you had a grandmother like mine, that’s a word you’d probably never heard before Oscar Hammerstein II used it to describe a postulant manquée named Maria in a musical he and Richard Rodgers wrote about a plucky family of Austrian warblers. It’s a fabulous word, especially when one pairs it …

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Here’s mud in your eye…

I had cataract surgery; you know, where they pop out your lens and pop in a new and improved one. Out with the old, in with the new and all in a matter of minutes. The thought of a scalpel in my eye was a bit unnerving—heart-pounding, actually—as well it should be. After all, we’re …

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Teslin students win national award

hàtìnas.àxh Community School won 2019 Canada’s Coolest School Trip. A photo essay shares Tlingit culture & promotes Tlingit language.

P and Q can make for some perky Saturday hookups

The last entry in this space provided a platform for a more-or-less true tale of undeserved punishment recalled (and still resented) from the mists of time. That column began with an innocent reference to the ancient wisdom about exercising care when using the letters ‘P’ or ‘Q’. While these are both perfectly serviceable, well-established members of …

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I concur: contrition may be consolatory

It’s confession time in Geezerville. I recently spent my allotted 450 words in this space musing about some of the beguiling delights to be found in the “be” section of the dictionary. Among other things, I wrote that the verb “to be” may be “substantive, copulative or auxiliary; sometimes active, sometimes passive, sometimes subjunctive.” Immediately …

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Let be whatever may befall

To be, or not to be. For advocates of plain writing, Shakespeare’s most famous monologue is a touchstone. Its opening sentence consists of nine one-syllable words in a row, followed by one containing just two (depending on whether one reads “question” as two syllables or three). It’s a simple sentence, based on a four-letter infinitive …

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Let’s learn Gwich’in: Dagoo Gwich’in Ginjik

Jesus Christ shat’in iindhan—Jesus loves me. Nichih gwanat’in—looking forward Nohjuu Ts’an—looking back Ohtsii Kwaa—Don’t waste. Ch’iitsii gwadal—hardware Taih kak zheh gwichoo—mansion on the hill Diiti’ Drin—Father’s Day Diihanh Drin—Mother’s Day Nagaadadal—patrol Aadrii K’anahtil—electrical Nijin gwitr’it t’agwaa’in—office Van Tat Gwich’in Teechik—Rat Indian Creek K’eech’igilik—dance caller K’oonitail Ch’adzaa—Hankerchief Dance Nihk’iidoo—eight couples Varandii—brandy Tr’igwaanduu vich’ilik—devil’s dream Geh Ch’adzaa—Rabbit …

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Didee & Didoo: Let’s Learn Gwich’in, Colours – Vah Ch’itr’idi’ee – Chih Ahaa

CARTOON: Allan Benjamin Colours – Vah Ch’itr’idi’ee – Chih Ahaa Jidii Zraii – Black Jidii Dagaii – White Jidii Ditsik – Red Jidii Vee – Grey Jidii Ch’ahtl’òo – Green Jidii Datl’òo – Blue Jidii Tthoo – Brown Jidii Tsoo – Yellow Jidii Dich’ik – Pink Ch’ihtak – One Neekaii – Two Tik – Three …

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Teaching language through song from Québec to the Yukon

Multilingual Quebec musicians Andrée Levesque-Sioui and Kyra Shaughnessy are in the Yukon this month for a series of workshops with high-school students. The workshops are aimed at promoting bilingualism in the Yukon and are conducted in French and the Huron-Wendat First Nation language.

Let’s All Learn Gwich’in

Let’s All Learn Gwich’in With Allan Benjamin from Old Crow Gwich’in Expressions: Gwich’in Ginjik Native Language Dinjii zhuh ginjik jihtth’ak I understand Native language Lée nizhigwiłts’īk? Are you hungry? Jidìi Niindhan? What do you want? Jidìi nid i’ii? What do you have? Jidìi Kàgwanah’in? What are you looking for? Ch’ivēedzyāa at’iinihthān kwaa I don’t like …

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Let’s All Learn Gwich’in

Gwich’in Expressions: Gwich’in Ginjik Native Language Dinjii zhuh ginjik jihtth’ak I understand Native language DZHii.  BIRDS Jidìi nah’ìn? What do you see? Jii viiʻidzèe tʼiinchʻuu. This is an Owl. Jii dachan chyāa tʼiinchʼuu. This is a Woodpecker. Jii augèh zhūu tʼiinchʼuu. This is a Snowbird. Jii chʼidzigyek tʼiinchʼuu. This is a Chickadee. Jii srūh tʼiinchʼuu. …

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Let’s All Learn Gwich’in

Vadzaih… CARIBOU Jidìi Kàgwanah’in?… What are you looking for? Vadzaih eenjit nahālzrīi… I’m hunting for caribou Ddhah kak vadzaih Tr’anah’in… We see caribou on the mountain Dinjik daang nał’in… I see four moose Chiitaii Drijahtsai’ !… It’s storming outside! Ch’itsii khał jihtth’ak… I hear a ski-doo Jii zhehgwidhòh t’iinch’ūu!… This is a tent! Lée nizhigwiłts’īk?… …

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Let’s All Learn Gwich’in

Our long time “Didee and Didoo” cartoonist and poet Allan Benjamin from Old Crow is excited to introduce his new Shoo’ii and Sheek’aii cartoons and poems. These new characters will appear in Gwich’in and English. Whenever you see Shoo’ii and Sheek’aii you can always be treated to a Gwich’in poem or Allan will simply have …

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North Words

“Exploring the Frontiers of Language” will be the theme of this year’s edition of the North Words Writers Symposium, which will be held in Skagway from May 31 to June 3. This is the eighth annual symposium since the event’s inception. It was originally inspired during a series of walking conversations between Daniel Henry and …

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Take the Gwich’in Language Challenge

Take the Gwich’in language challenge. It’s a challenge from Norman Snowshoe, the former Gwich’in Tribal Council vice president. He said, “If you learn one Gwich’in word a day, at the end of the year you’ve learned 365 Gwich’in words.” Jacey Firth-Hagen, 23, jumped to the challenge. She started a social media based movement, called Speak …

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Is That Thing Called a Knick-knack, or Bric-a-brac?

Recently, I was meandering through my trusty Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (shorter, as in not quite as gargantuan as the Encyclopaedia Britannica). This is a habit I acquired in my youth, but indulge less frequently these days, usually when I’m trying to curb my morbid addiction to Facebook. I hadn’t probed far into this two-volume …

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Calling Aboriginal Artists!

The Yukon First Nation Culture and Tourism Association is looking for artists, artisans, musicians and performers from the Yukon and abroad to be part of the seventh annual Adäka Cultural Festival, which takes place at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre from June 30th to July 6th.   “We generally reach out to the well-established group …

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Learning About Ubuntu in Namibia

My African friends think that Yukoners are cannibals. When I told them the story about the Sourtoe Cocktail I expected the usual reaction: laughter and amusement. But instead I got wide-open eyes and mouths asking me: “You did this?” they asked me. “You drank this human-cocktail?” I did my best to explain the history behind …

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Celebratory Mad Libs

Welcome to What’s Up Yukon’s first mad libs. With winter on the horizon, it’s time to renew our

Future Past

Young Alex DeLarge and his gang of droogs aren’t choosy about whose lives they wreak mindless havoc on. From the down-at-the-heels to the well-heeled, the young thugs attack indiscriminately, mercilessly and irrationally. One thing leads to another and Alex is charged with murder and sentenced to prison. He’s selected for the fictional Ludivico technique, a …

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Learning her Mom’s Language

“Dänch’á Éh ma,” I begin the conversation with my mother in a standard Southern Tutchone greeting, uncertain and nervous about my speaking abilities. “Éyigē shrō kwäthän,” she replies. “My feelings are very good.” We are closing a generational gap that transpired in the last century in Northwestern Canada, as colonization took hold in the territories. …

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Three Weeks in Iceland

Hvernig segir maður, “I’m completely lost” á íslensku?  What’s that, you say? Icelandic is one of the most difficult languages to learn? On second thought, perhaps I’ll just fall back on the old standard; hand gestures and a confused, perpetually apologetic expression. Hi, I’m Willow, a fairly well-travelled Yukoner who will be guest-writing this column …

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My Day in Court

On February 16 I picked up my roommate, Taylor Tiefenbach, from the Erik Nielsen International Airport. His flight was due to arrive at 3:05 p.m. and I was running late. Given this, I decided to park right in front of the terminal, in the area designated, “IMMEDIATE PICK UP AND DROP OFF ONLY”. Taylor’s plane, …

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A Different Type of Rendezvous

You can keep your fishnets and feathers stored for this Rendez-vous. But you don’t have to. If you can’t help but whip them out for an encore, who is to judge? Les Rendez-Vous de la Francophonie is a two-week celebration of the French language in Canada. “Everyone is encouraged to take part, Francophones and Anglophones,” …

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What’s in a Name?

In approximately 100,000 years since we began to speak, we’ve classified and described plants. Carl Linnaeus devised a system of naming using two Latin names for each plant — binomial nomenclature — which has endured as the scientific standard for all forms of life. In a time of unprecedented global travel and information sharing, binomial …

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The Font (Fount?) of Wisdom

Times New Roman, that’s how I roll. In the world of font, I know I’m backing one tired, old horse. But there’s something undeniably comforting in its blandness. There’s no impression of subterfuge or arrogance; it’s just a font that’s there to get the job done. I appreciate that. It happens to be the font …

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When ‘cool’ is not cool

Just as a reformed smoker is often the first person to complain about a hotel room that smells of tobacco, I shall now complain bitterly about today’s society misusing the word “cool.” “Cool”, as I understand and appreciate the word, originated from jazz music: the saxophone player doesn’t acknowledge the audience; he leans into his …

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Do You Speak AWG?

The Beatles forever changed our musical landscape with the simple phrase, “You say goodbye, I say hello”. This week, hundreds of visitors from across the Circumpolar North will descend upon Whitehorse for the Arctic Winter Games. Although the official language of the games is English, for many participants this is not their first language – …

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Multicultural Miscommunication

Cher Yukon, Comment ca va? Today I am not recounting a funny or touching incident. Instead I would like to share just one of the many stories of misunderstanding that can take place in the multilingual, multicultural city of Montréal. OK, it is right after Christmas and I have some pictures I want to give …

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