Hippopotamus in Cree: Solomon Ratt (y-dialect)

The late elder Smith Atimoyoo told me once that the Cree are never stuck. I think he meant that they’re innovative problem-solvers, regardless of the circumstances. Which means (in this case) that they use their amazingly flexible and descriptive linguistic powers to create words for “Hippopotamus” that even a hippopotamus would appreciate.

Thanks to Solomon Ratt for this video, and to Arok Wolvengrey for researching the word forms. (I owe you both for the Heather Bishop ear worm (the Canadian kids’ classic, “If you love a Hippopotamus” that I’ve been living with for the last week. I dare you to come up with a Cree equivalent of “tiptoeing hippopotamusly”.)


For those who’d like to slow it down and see how it was put together:


kihci-                           “great”
kispakasakêwi-         “thick-skinned”
mistipwâmi-              “big-thighed”
mahkitôni-                 “big-mouthed”
nîswâpitêwi-             “two-toothed”
atâmipêko-               “underwater”
pimâtakâwi-             “swimming”
kohkôs                       “pig”


“great, thick-skinned, big-thighed, big-mouthed, two-toothed, underwater-swimming pig”

This photo by unknown author is licensed under CC BY-SA

About Arden Ogg

Arden Ogg is Director of the Cree Literacy Network, launched in 2010 with the goal of creating Cree language literacy materials suitable for use by learners of all ages.
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