Today is the anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first English speaking settlement in the New World. Three ships arrived on May 14, 1607 at a wooded island island in the James River. Life was not easy for these English settlers, and they almost succumbed to the same fate as an earlier group of settlers at Roanoke. That group had landed off the coast of North Carolina in 1584 and by 1590 had vanished without a trace. The settlers at Jamestown were more lucky; in 1610 Lord De La Warr (Delaware) arrived in time to resupply the 35 remaining colonists (1, 2).
The natives peoples of what is now the United States spoke hundreds of different languages, and although English has never been declared the official language of the United States, it certainly has supplanted all native languages. There are, however, a few words from the native peoples that were adopted into English; most of these were adopted in the period of early colonization by settlers like those at Jamestown. For the most part these words are from the Algonquian dialects and reflect Indian names for plants and animals or unique artifacts and social practices of Indian life.
The word moose is one example to describe the very large northern deer. Another example is succotash which originates from the Algonquian word meaning 'cooked corn kernels.'
Today's Challenge: New World Words
Below are examples of native words in their original spellings. See if you can detect the modern English equivalents of these words.
8. mohkussin (3)
Quote of the Day: Power is sweet, it is a drug, the desire for which increases with habit. --Bertrand Russell
Answers: 1. squash 2. woodchuck 3. Raccoon 4. skunk 5. pecan 6. hickory 7. opossum 8. moccasin
1 - McCrum, Robert, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil. The Story of English. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.
2 - Flavell, Linda and Roger. The Chronology of Words and Phrases. London: Kyle Cathie Limited, 1999.
3 - Success with Words: A Guide to the American Language (Reader's Digest). Pleasantville: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1983.