Monday, November 20, 2006

(60) chronology: 1520

The mnemonic/translation for 2-Flint/ome tecpatl in The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias is a European style knife. It might have been confusing for Spanish speakers that the word tecpatl can mean flint (pedernal), a knife (cuchillo), or a day or year, but not extremely confusing since there are flint knives in the Bible. The problem seems to be that whereas in a European language “flint knife” only calls to mind a vague image since knives are no longer made of flint, a tecpatl or a picture of one sometimes had a face with eyes and teeth, and looked like a fish when turned sideways. A translation into Nahuatl would have had to go from a fairly neutral word to one loaded with unknown connotations. The image in The Garden of Delights/El Jardín de las Delicias translating the glyph tecpatl to a picture of a knife is relatively simple.
On the other hand in the twentieth century the anthropologist Clyde Kluckhorn found the idea of using the same Navajo word for an old arrowhead, a new knife, and metal complicated enough to warrant a diagram with both words and pictures. (The page shown here is from the 1974 paperback edition of The Navaho.)


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