Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hey !

Hey ! So many young people and not a few older folks have adopted this as an every day greeting when they mean ‘hello’. For this I commend them. It brings us back, full circle, to the old language of this place. The old language is not English. No, it’s not even Dutch as some who know their town’s history might have guessed since the village was first settled by the Dutch. Indeed, the old language is ten times older than that, it is Lenape. The Lenni Lenape people were here since a time long out of memory and beyond the reach of history. They were here for even longer that some of us old history buffs first thought. We knew there was a race of wooly mammoth hunters who frequented the area as the ice age receded but we thought those hunters preceded the Lenape. However, certain findings among the archaeological artifacts have shown us that the Lenape WERE the mammoth hunters. They were here in what we call our town even before most of our own civilizations ever came into existence. So, isn’t it proper that we should honor these ‘grandfather people’, as they called themselves, by saying ‘Hey!’ when we meet. What does ‘Hey’ mean, you may ask. In Lenape, it means ‘hello’. My goodness, isn’t that ironic.

Want to have a little fun ? In this multi-cultural society we live in where we don’t really understand each other anyway, next time you stop in at Dunkin Donuts try saying this : “mili kapi” (pronounce it -MAY-lee KUP-ee).
See what you get ! By the way, it means, “give me coffee”. Or, if it’s lunchtime, you might say to your companions of the moment, “mitsitam” (may SEE tum). Which, of course, means “Let’s eat”. They will be dazzled by your wealth of knowledge, or maybe ask you what you’ve been smoking. Should you come upon a fellow who appears to be experiencing an evil moment you may say to him, “kulamulsi huch?” (koo la MA see huch), and if he doesn’t take a swing at you, you may have time to explain that it means “Are you o.k.?”

It is such a very old language, this Jersey-speak is, this language of the Lenape. You will be doing history and future generations a great favor if you remember just two or three phrases of this ancient tongue, just to help keep it alive. It would be a pity if a language handed down since the ice age is forgotten. And besides, it’s the old language of your hometown.

Well, for now, let me just say, Lapìch knewel !