A linguist, an epigrapher, and an ethnologist are in a bar, waiting to be served. The linguist says, “Did you know that Mele Kalikimaka by Bing Crosby is the most popular song featuring indigenous American language?”

The epigrapher sucks through his teeth: “sorry, but I can think of at least two far more popular songs that prominently feature indigenous Americans: (1) Olmec Donald had a farm, and (2) MicMac paddywhack, give a dog a bone, This old man came rolling home.”

The ethnologist also shakes his head. “And it’s not even the best-selling recorded song prominently featuring indigenous American language. That would have to be Buddy Holly’s:

Nahuatl be the day, when you say goodbye
Nahuatl be the day, when you make me cry
You say you’re gonna leave, you know it’s a lie
Nahuatl be the day-hay-hay-hay when I die”

Here, the barman leans over and says “Oh, and Mele Kalikimaka isn’t actually Hawaiian, it’s a transcription of ‘Merry Christmas’ into Hawaiian.”

At which the barmaid stage-whispers: “Yeah, an’ anyway, it’s a Polynesian language, not American, innit? Ponce.”

16 thoughts on “A linguist, an epigrapher, and an ethnologist are in a bar…

  1. Mark Knowles on November 3, 2017 at 10:58 am said:

    Nick: I guess you are refering to an American Voynich theory. Is that correct? Has a book been recently published expounding this theory or am I way off base?

  2. Davidsch on November 3, 2017 at 2:23 pm said:

    Oh, I thought this referred to the JFK papers, coming around Santa time, revealing the naked truth … 😉

  3. Davidsch: have no worries, I’m already working on my Voynich Christmas present to you all… 😉

  4. Cool, a low-entropy joke 🙂

  5. Rene: something like that. 😉

  6. J.K. Petersen on November 4, 2017 at 3:44 am said:


  7. Thomas on November 4, 2017 at 5:56 am said:

    Innit – is this a typo? Do you mean ‘Inuit’ like in George Gershwin’s ‘Inuit a pity’ (example taken from N.P. Ling, Remnants of indigenous North American languages in popular culture, Beijing 2017)?

  8. Thomas: I’m sure Gershwin is happily spinning in his grave right now, thanks! 😉

  9. Tlazohcamati huel miac. John

  10. Jim Shilliday on November 4, 2017 at 2:15 pm said:

    LOL2, thanks Nick!! But how could they forget Jimmy Durante’s immortal [Inka Dinka Doo](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L3cadyter8)

    BTW, “Olmec Donald” has some history. This mishearing (in reverse), figured in the trial of the newspaper heiress Patty Hearst after her 1974 abduction by the Symbionese Liberation Army and her later participation in the group’s violent acts. A witness told police that one of the SLA members had given Hearst an “Olmec monkey.” The court reporter, unfamiliar with the word “Olmec,” transcribed the phrase as “Old MacMonkey,” probably assuming it was Black, hippie, or drug-subculture slang. It wasn’t until much later that one of the prosecutors reviewing the transcript figured out the mistake, realized that the phrase referred to jewelry, and used the fact to support the argument that Hearst was romantically involved with one her captors.

  11. John Comegys: otechompahpaquilti! 😉

  12. Jim: I didn’t know that Olmec Monkey story, tlazohcamati huel miac for sharing it! 😉

  13. john sanders on November 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm said:

    Latin traces on a Voynich letter; unknown gliphics that don’t get better; and Averlino things that Pelling brings, to name just a few. Nymphs in spa pools and some weird mutations; Bunratty castle with for-tif-ications; and what the bell tower brings, confounded things; I don’t have a clue.

  14. Leonard Fox on November 4, 2017 at 3:56 pm said:

    The correct spelling of this word is “indigenous.”

  15. Leonard: *sigh*, good catch, serves me right for typing out blog posts too fast. 😉

  16. Jim Shilliday on November 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm said:

    You’re Queets Wahkiakum, I’m Shuar.

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