'snake' and 'god' terms.

Rankin, Robert L rankin at ku.edu
Tue Aug 22 21:04:47 UTC 2006

> I take it from this that Biloxi "Kuhi MaNkde," God, must really mean "High Sacred" ? or some such interpretation?  I was almost thinking maNkde was related to the positional maNki (lying, reclining) as in "One Reclining Above."  (Kind of funny now that I think about it, but that pretty much matches the Christian tradition I think of God being an All-Seer looking down on us from above making sure we behave ourselves.  Of course this name probably goes back to long before the arrival of Europeans and Christianity in North America.)  Anyway, apparently this word 'maNkde' is also related to the Biloxi word for "snake" aNdesi or ndesi?  (Let's see, so (m)aNkdesi which may have been originally (w)aNkdesi?  I take it there's often some correlation/alternation between Biloxi initial m- and initial w- as in mahe or wahe, both meaning 'howl'.  I know something like this m/w alternation exists in Hidatsa, and perhaps in other Siouan languages as well?)
The bottom line is "I don't know".  There is much in Biloxi that is simply mysterious to me.  Initial labial sonorants normally are lost.  They remain in /maNki/ 'be lying' because it is tacked onto the end of other verbs as an aspect-marking enclitic.  I'd be more inclined to appeal to sound symbolism with 'howl', but who knows?  I don't know why the initial /m-/ would be retained in 'god', but "theophony" comes to mind, i.e., words for the deity are often phonologically anomalous.  Allah is supposedly the only Arabic word with an "emphatic" L.  And many Christian ministers who otherwise lack an open-O in their speech have the phoneme in "Gawd".  Who knows?  The question here is whether the area where Biloxi was spoken fell within the area in which 'god' and 'snake' were somehow related (via 'medicine'?).  I'm afraid my knowledge doesn't extend to that sort of thing.

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