Tunas and purslane

David Wright dcwright at prodigy.net.mx
Fri Nov 4 19:40:53 UTC 2011



Molina has “Tetzmitl. cierta yerua”. Since there doesn’t seem to be a noun
“tetztli”, I first thought of te + i:tz + mi:tl, but this combination should
take the form tei:tzmi:tl, considering the length of the first two vowels
and the usual patterns of elision (at least in 16th century central Mexican
Nahuatl), so I guess the first syllable must be the indefinite human
possessive prefix te:-, thus te:tzmi:tl, “someone’s obsidian arrow” or
“people’s obsidian arrow”, although I still miss the i: of i:tz(tli). The
fact that in Acatlán, Guerrero i:tzmi:tl is “verdolaga” is what most tempts
me to restore the i:.


Your tekono:xtli looks like the hypothetical classical Nahuatl word
teco:nno:chtli, (teco:ma - a)+ no:chtli (m + n > nn), “prickly pear of the
globular pot” or “globular prickly pear”. Both morphophonological changes
would be regular in early colonial central Nahuatl.


Teono:xtli as Pachycereus grandis coincides with the illustration of the
“Teonochtli” in the Codex Cruz-Badiano (f. 17v), depicting a single-column
organ pipe cactus. I suppose that would be teo:no:chtli (teo: + no:chtli) in
classical Nahuatl.


So far the strongest evidence I have that the word teno:chtli was used to
name a species of plant (other than the toponymical and mythical aspects
mentioned by Roberto) is the brief description given by Francisco Hernández
in the 16th century:

III_6_4.pdf#page=10 Other than this, the botanical use of the word seems
quite scarce throughout time and space.


(By the way, the Instituto de Biología of the UNAM put up a very functional
electronic version of Hernández’s botanical treatise last year. That’s where
the preceding URL is from; the home page is here:
http://www.ibiologia.unam.mx/plantasnuevaespana/ I’ve needed a resource like
this for years.)


Thanks again for your help. I’ll copy this to the list to see if anyone has
any more useful comments.



De:   Jonathan Amith [jdanahuatl at gmail.com]

Enviado el: viernes, 04 de noviembre de 2011 07:36

Para: roberto romero

CC:   David Wright; Nahuatl at lists.famsi.org

Asunto:     Re: [Nahuat-l] Tunas and purslane


Hi David,

In the Balsas valley of Guerrero tetsmitl is Portulaca oleracea L.
(verdolaga). There is a tetsmitl "look alike" í:tlatlá:k in Oapan, that is
an Aizoaceae, Trianthema portulacastrum L.

For the Opuntia I have tekono:xtli in Oapan, and teono:xtli (sic) for the
inside rods of a certain cactus, apparently Pachycereus grandis Rose, but
maybe also some Opuntias. .

Nahuatl mailing list
Nahuatl at lists.famsi.org

More information about the Nahuat-l mailing list