How To: Say ‘Thank You’

Posted by on Jan 3, 2011 in Download & View, Podcast | No Comments

Wel­come Fig­ure carved by Squamish artist Aaron Nelson-Moody

How To Say Thank You by Squamish­Language

The phrases in order are:

  1. Huy chexw
  2. Huy chexw a
  3. Chen kw’enmántumi
  4. Chet kw’enmántumi
  5. Chen kw’enmántumiyap
  6. Chet kw’enmántumiyap

Huy chexw a is a phrase often used in the com­mu­nity.  It’s sim­i­lar to our neigh­bor­ing lan­guage of Halkomelem who say “Huy ch q’u”.  We use it for “Thank you” often, but it does have deeper mean­ing.  First, let’s look at what each word means:  Huy (stop; fin­ish; but; ulti­mate; only; fin­ished, be), chexw (you), a (added to the end of a sen­tence, some­what sim­i­lar to “eh” in Eng­lish; empha­sizes sen­tence). But “Be fin­ished you!”?  That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to mean “Thank you”.

Huy chexw a is what would have been said in a type of cur­cust­mance.  Imag­ine we’re at a feast, you the host pour­ing soup into my bowl, and I say “Huy chexw a”.  It’s like, “Oh thank you; that is enough”.  That’s noth­ing like how mod­ern Eng­lish uses “Thank you”.  We say “Thank you” in Eng­lish as a pleas­antry, sim­i­lar to please. (Squamish lan­guage has no word for please, FYI.)

Huy chexw a became the stan­dard phrase for “Thank you” after Eng­lish became the dom­i­nant lan­guage.  The phrase itself in its mean­ing and usage has been altered, and is now used more like the Eng­lish phrase “Thank you”, then it would of been used tra­di­tion­ally.  Most under­stand the phrase as “Thank you”, not “You be finished!”.

I remem­ber my late aun­tie Yvonne Joseph, late Lena Jacobs, and my own grand­mother teach me an impor­tant les­son about the phrase “Huy chexw a”.  They told me, “That is not what you say when speak­ing pub­licly, when speak­ing on the floor mak­ing speeches.  It’s improper to use that in the floor”.  My uncle/cousin Sem­pluyan (Stew­art Gon­za­les) also elab­o­rated and likened the use of “Huy chexw a” to ‘slap­ping the peo­ple in the face’ when say­ing it on the floor.  The snewiyelh (teach­ing) being that you treat the peo­ple with respect, your guests with respect, and use for­mal lan­guage.  More spe­cific and elaborate language.

Let’s look at another phrase because there is two ways to say “Thank you” in Squamish lan­guage. The first is Huy chexw wa and the sec­ond is Chen kw’enmántumi.

Chen kwen­mán­tumi is another phrase often heard in the com­mu­nity.  Let’s look at what each word means: chen (I), kw’enmán (thank [some­one]; greet [some­one]; grate­ful), and –tumi [to you].  This seems to be a more clear phrase.  ‘I am thank­ful to you’ or ‘I am grate­ful to you’.  It can be expanded fur­ther because we have chen (I), and chet (we).  Chet kw’enmántumi becomes ‘We are thank­ful to you’.  It can be fur­ther elab­o­rated with –tumi (to you) and –tumiyap (to you all) for Chen kw’enmántumiyap (I am thank­ful to you all) or Chet kw’enmantumiyap (We are thank­ful to you all).  As through each ver­sion, cre­ated dif­fer­ent by the use of I or We, and you or you all, we build a more spe­cific phrase.  In Squamish cul­ture, at least within the lan­guage, it becomes a mat­ter of wénaxws (respect) to honor the per­son you are speak­ing to by acknowl­edg­ing who your talk­ing about and who your talk­ing to, frequently.

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