Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tlazocamatl for tomatl!

After blogging yesterday and discovering an unexpected word origin, I called my husband.

"Did you know tomato was originally tomatl?"

My husband, a native of Mérida, Yucatán, México, did not. He recognized the ending sound, though, and correctly guessed the origin as

A term applied to some members of the Aztecan or Nahuan sub-branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family, indigenous to central Mexico.

Often the term Náhuatl is used specifically with reference to the language called Classical Náhuatl, which was the language of the Aztec empire and therefore used as a lingua franca in much of Mesoamerica from the 7th century AD until the late 16th century, at which time its prominence and influence was interrupted by the Spanish conquest of the New World.

However, it also serves to identify a number of modern Náhuatl dialects (linguistic variants, some of them mutually unintelligible) that are still spoken by at least 1.5 million people in what is now Mexico.
"Nahuatl language." Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005. 12 . 2006.

Other food words for which we need to say thank you to Native American peoples include succotash, pecan, avocado, cocoa, chile, chocolate, guacamole, barbeque, and potato. My favorite though is squash, originally askootaskwash in Alonquian, meaning fruit of life.

More English Words of Native American Origin

Tlazocamatl is thank you in Náhuatl.