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Tracks that Speak
The Legacy of Native American Words in North American Culture
by Charles L. Cutler

Tracks that Speak
"This charming book invites us to look at North America through Native eyes and to imagine a 10,000-year epoch that brought civilization to the continent long before Europeans set sail across the Atlantic. The words left behind by that epoch encourage us to link that legacy both to our national identity and to our collective future." — Fredrick E. Hoxie, Editor, Encyclopedia of North American Indians

In this foray into the words that American English has borrowed from Native American languages, author Charles L. Cutler reveals both the strong and subtle influences that Native Americans have exerted in mainstream American culture. For each word profiled in this book, Cutler explains its traditional use in American Indian society, how it was first viewed by European settlers, and how it survives in Indian as well as broader American culture today. For example, Cutler not only explains which Native American languages gave us the word moccasin, but he also explains how moccasins were made, how they varied among different regions, what advantages they gave their wearers, and how and why they were decorated. He goes on to discuss the attractions they had for Europeans and how they are sold today in shoe stores and mail-order catalogs. Such stories make Tracks that Speak a fascinating survey of Native American loanwords and their cultural manifestations in traditional and contemporary society.



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Sample Entry:

CATALPA
Indian bean tree

Scraggly and messy according to some but beautiful to others, the catalpa thrives in diverse environments from grimy cities to royal estates. Its snowy white flowers tinged with yellow and purple markings in late spring "rival the final orchid," says a naturalist. But slender, foot-long seed capsules hanging down afterward lend the tree a weirdness that turns many people off. Its resulting odd appearance has helped win it nicknames such as "Indian bean tree" and "Indian cigar tree."1

The catalpa is an American native with a northern (or hardy) species originating in the central Mississippi valley and a southern species from the Southeast. It displays a rounded crown, spreading branches, and large heart-shaped leaves . . .