Play and Learn with Playing Cards

pêyakopêhikan(ak): Playing Card(s)

A recent discussion on FaceBook sent me hunting for card-playing terms in Cree. So did Dawnis Kennedy at Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre with her delight in using games to teach Anishinaabemowin. Even the simplest card game uses basic numbers and counting, turn-taking and cooperation, simple commands and physical response. Not a bad way to work on some basic vocabulary! 

Thanks for collaboration to Simon Bird who reviewed my notes and nudged me to share this little collection of terms, which also includes additions from Arok Wolvengrey, Robin McLeod, and Dr Kevin Brousseau (and even some corrections from Solomon Ratt).
(I hope it goes without saying that we’ll all be grateful to anybody who takes the time to comment with additional terms or corrections!)

For “playing cards,” the itwêwina dictionary gives three different forms:

  1. tênikanak
  2. têhamânak, and
  3. pêyakopêhikanak

In th-dialect, Simon Bird and Robin McLeod both use tîhamânak, but you can turn these y-dialect forms into th-dialect simply by changing the ê to î).

 There are three corresponding verbs (of course!) 

  1. tênikêw s/he deals (cards)
  2. têhamâw s/he plays card
  3. pêyakopêhikêw s/he plays cards

 pêyakopêhikan can be one card, one deck of cards, an Ace, or a card game. (Again: turn these y-dialect forms into th-dialect simply by changing the ê to î.) 

Cards & Playingy-dialectth-dialect
playing card(s)tênikan(ak)tînikan(ak)
playing card(s)têhamân(ak)tîhamân(ak)
playing card(s)pêyakopêhikan(ak)pîyakopîhikan(ak)
deals (cards)tênikêwtînikîw
plays cardstêhamâwtîhamâw
plays cardspêyakopêhikêwpîyakopîhikîw

Four suits:

We might expect the suit names to be literal translations from English into Cree, but in fact, the names of the suits reflect their four simple shapes. As Arok Wolvengrey explains: 

 cîpopêhikan lit., “drawn/written pointed” – a diamond is a pointed shape

pihêwisit lit., “prairie chicken foot” because of the three prongs like chicken toes. Another form for club is pihêwayasit, but it still includes the prairie chicken!

misipîk comes from Cree misi- “big” and the French word (le) pique borrowed as -pîk. misipîk probably first referred just to the Ace of spades and then was transferred to the whole suit.

wâyinopêhikan (th: wâthopîhikan) for “hearts” comes from an element that refers to “turning back around” that is variously pronounced as: wâyonî-/wâyinî-/wâyino-. It refers to a shape drawn to return back on itself. 

Here’s where things get interesting in different dialects. Robin McLeod (th-dialect) uses mâskicôs for “heart” (lit.: “a little bum”). And while this seems a little funny, Kevin Brousseau says this same “little bum” form is used in Innue for “spade.” Kevin also says that in Moose Cree (l-dialect),  the word for “spade” is borrowed from English (rather than French), as ispêt. Simon Bird says ispêt is also the term he grew up with both for the suit, and for the gardening implement (so he would literally call an ispêt an ispêt!)

Clubspihêwisit pithîwisit
Spadesmisipîk misipîk; ispêt

Face values:

Numbers should be pretty straight forward, but some communities use diminutive forms (according to Arok, and to Robin McLeod) for the face values. Robin grew up using diminutive forms for the lower numbers (one to seven): adding -s on the end, and replacing the t-sound with a c-sound. When diminutive endings are attached to nouns, they usually make things sound smaller, younger or cuter. Sometimes they can imply a pejorative or pitiful meaning instead.

Face Values y-dialectth-dialect
Two (Deuce)nîsonîso (dim: nîsos)
Threenistonisto (dim: niscos)
Fournêwonîwo (dim: niyos)
Fiveniyânanniyânan (dim: niyânos)
Sixnikotwâsiknikotwâsik (dim: nikwacwâsik)
Seventêpakohptîpakohp (dim: cîpakohp)

Actions and Counting: 

There are likely quite a few more words we could collect with card-game actions and counting, but we’ve provided a “starter set” within the table below (along with the terminology above). You can print out this post to use as a cheat sheet, if you like. But whatever you do: Just don’t cheat at cards!  

Dealtênamawêisowîpinik tiyamânak
Flip face up (lit., uncover)pâskinpâskin
Flop face down (lit., roll s.t. over)otîhtipinotîhtipin
Cut the cardskîskisokkîskisok tîhamân(ak), kîskisikî
Play s.o. (card) kîskiswêkîskiswî
Put in / Betascikêascikî
Discard (lit., abandon) wêpinikanwîpinikan
Two pairnîsôskânniswâyîk
Three of a kindnistôskânnistonikîw
Four of a kindnêwônikiwnîyonikîw
Wins big misi-otinikêwmisowîpicikîw
Rakes in the winocipicikî
Full house (lit., s/he whips)pasastêhikêwpasastîhikîw
High card (trump)nitôwinnitôwin
Short on betiskwâcamo (notâscikiw)
Flush (3 hearts) nisto wâyinopêhikan nisto maskicosak
Flush (3 diamonds)nisto cîpopêhikanaknisto cîpopîhikanak
Flush (3 spades)nisto misipîkwaknisto misipîkwak
Flush (3 clubs) nisto pihêwisitaknisto pihîwisitak
Straight (lit., counting) akihtâsowinakihtâsowin

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