Who knew that pussy willows could change species in translation?
According to Solomon Ratt, the Cree word for pussy willows is acimosihkânisak, literally, little pretend puppies.
The word includes atim “dog” with its “t” changed to “c” and an “s” at the end to indicating diminutivization. It also includes the same “-kân” suffix found in okimâkân to signify an appointed chief, or a pretend leader. At least Cree and English agree that willow buds remind us of soft things we love.
The willows themselves are nîpisiya (if the branches are red), or atôspiya (if the branches are older, and more orange. Shannon Dumba gave us audio of all three nouns, and threw in an êkwa for style (that’s an inside, Rhythm Ratt joke).
Thanks to Pearleen Kanewopasikot for finding these for us (somewhere northeast of Lubicon Lake), and making us wonder what they’re called. Thanks also to Shannon Dumba who found some, a little more advanced, in Regina. (Since I’m writing this from Nunavut, where spring has barely begun to melt the snow and nothing grows taller than fireweed, I’m really enjoying these photos today!)