Randy Alexander strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 30 03:03:55 UTC 2009

On Mon, Nov 30, 2009 at 7:19 AM, Jonathan Lighter
<wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
> Plural of "shaman," natch:
> 2009 Peter Straughan _The Men Who Star at Goats_ (film): Â Like shamen
> throughout history....
>  "Many shamen " and  "other shamen" get a couple of hundred RGs.

This word was screwed up from the get-go.  It is a Tungusic word that
came into English (I believe) through Manchu, but in Manchu/Tungusic
it is "saman", not "shaman".  There is a "sh" sound in Manchu that
contrasts with "s", but whoever first introduced the word must have
used "sh" and it stuck.  :(

For those interested, here's a good place to plug some work I've been
involved in.  I've been assisting a colleague from Poland in
translating the world's only originally Manchu language novel: The
Book of the Nisan Shaman.  We've only posted the first quarter of it
(very rough guess) so far.  If you're just interested in the story,
you can just read the blue parts (English).

It starts here:

It is the story of a rich man whose second son dies at 15, just like
his first son did, so he seeks the help of a shaman (shamans were more
commonly female, and this one is a young lady) to enter the underworld
to fetch his son's soul to bring back to his body for reanimation.

Incidentally, the word "Nisan" (from the Nisihai River) was also
originally transliterated wrong.  It is actually "nishan", so both
those words have their fricatives switched; it should be the book of
the "nishan saman", but tradition snowballed, and prevails.

Randy Alexander
Jilin City, China
Manchu studies:
Chinese characters:

The American Dialect Society -

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