Pithy Sayings


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The very name Yucatan is derived from "uic aithan" – the phrase spoken to the Spanish conquistadors by the Maya when asked what their land was called: it means "what do you say, we do not understand you".
[From Lost Languages by Andrew Robinson, 2002]

Previously [before 1587] Virginia had been called "Windgancon", meaning "What gay clothes you wear" – apparently what the locals had replied when asked what they called this place.
[From Made in America by Bill Bryson, 1994]

The name Canada comes from the Iroquoian word kanata, meaning "village." In August 1535, Jacques Cartier heard two Aboriginal youths refer to the village of Stadacona as kanata. Cartier wrote the name down in his journal as Canada.
[From How Kanata became Canada on the Language Portal of Canada website, 2014]

The very name "California" came from a phantasmal Spanish novel about rampant Amazon Negresses.
[From Fall by Neal Stephenson, 2019]

We still call a certain marsupial the Kangaroo because an early explorer asked an aborigine what the beast was called and the aborigine said 'kang a run,' which means 'buggered if I know, mate' or, in some dialects, 'I'm a stranger here meself.'
[From The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery by Kyril Bonfiglioli, 1999]

Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" was translated into Chinese as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave."
[From a list of "Ten Great Global Marketing Mistakes", published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on January 19, 1998]

That any one should pass up the well-established colloquial words of the language and have recourse to the Latin defecate, urinate, and have sexual intercourse, is indicative of grave mental unhealth.
[From Classic American Graffiti by Allen Walker Read, 1935]

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