Fifty Words for Snow

Of Duct Tape and Hovercraft

For several years I wrestled with the Inuktitut language. I finally had to give up in the face of the impossibility of learning a living language in a perfect vacuum. This is not exactly the realm of adult-education classes and low-priced bus fares . . . and Inuktitut movies can just about be counted on the fingers of one hand. I might have had better luck with Tocharian.

It was fun while it lasted, though.



My Hovercraft is Full of Eels

It may never have occurred to you to wonder what happens when Monty Python meets Omniglot, and they both get together and meet my brain. Currently at seven variants—

—and that’s before we even get to the afterthoughts.

ᐱᑦᑕᐃᓕᒋᑦ pair of dancers

Never Tango with an Eskimo

Never overestimate the intelligence of the record-buying public.


stranded on the ice ᓇᑲᑦᑐᖓ

They Have a Word for It

I’m tired of grammar. Let’s go visit the dictionary.



Heavy-Handed Metaphor

Why settle for Zap! or Pow! when the ultimate knockout line is ready and waiting?

My Caribou’s Nostrils are Full of Worms

. . . or, what happens when you discover an especially unappe­tizing noun-verb doublet.

Annoying Inspirational Poster

This one just painted itself.

duct tape

Duct Tape Is Your Friend

I used this line as a signature for years. Who could argue with the premise? And who could guess that the Inuktitut word for “duct tape” would prove so elusive?



These Kamiik were Made for Running

A lie can run halfway around the world before I figure out how to say “halfway around the world” in Inuktitut.


moving van

How to Beat the High Cost of Living

Transplanting a material culture from one latitude to another is never easy. Sometimes it’s impossible.

Hovercraft Redux

You can’t keep a good line down.

They Don’t Have a Word for It

What don’t they have a word for in Inuktitut? Nothing.

Fun With Phonetics

What is wrong with this sentence?

plate of glass

I Can Eat Glass without Hurting Myself

The inevitable follow-up to My hovercraft is full of eels. This time I didn’t have anything to use as a model, so I started from scratch. When you’re talking about eating glass, where else would you start?

I Can Eat Live Warble-Fly Larvae
with a Straight Face

No languages were harmed in the writing of this piece.


rat consulting dictionary

Pointless and Nasty Political Cartoon

Inspired by a hopelessly incomprehensible sketch I once saw on YouTube. In English.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

By the time you’re done with the hovercraft, it will be hard not to think of this line.

Fighting Words

Never mind where I heard this. I don’t give away everything.

Be informed.

The Book of Wisdom Returns

. . . in the unlikeliest of places.

Further afield:

territorial crest

At Home with the Hansard

The Congressional Record doesn’t hold a candle to the Nunavut Hansard.



I’ve Got a Right to See the Blues

On 1 April 1999, Nunavut had the first—and only—seating of the first session of its first Assembly. Somewhere along the line, the Inuktitut-language Hansard, the official record of this historic session, got misplaced. Maybe it never existed. Luckily someone held on to the Blues.



Our Nunacom, Our Selves
What’s In a Legacy Font?
and more

Essays from the classic Nunavut ’99 collection, transcoded so you can read them even if you’ve misplaced your Nunacom font files. It has to be a nasty shock when you think you’re getting ᐅᖃᓪᓚᐅᓯᕗᑦ, ᐅᕙᒍᑦ (Our Language, Our Selves) and instead they hit you with sc9MsyK5, s?A5. Or perhaps xt6 ckw0Jbs1m8V in place of the expected ᐊᑎᖅ ᖃᓄᐃᔾᔪᑕᐅᖕᒪᑦ? (What’s In a Name?).

dictionary splash screen

It’s About Bloody Time

Thoughts on the late, great Nunavut Living Dictionary.


And let’s not forget . . .

Uranium is your Friend

Still further:

When you start trying to write UCAS on your computer, it helps to get a grip on the difference between fonts, characters and input. Or maybe you just need to know how to get those blasted syllabic keyboards to work. This group of pages should help point you in the right direction.

ajauqtauvanniaqtugut isummiqtaunirmut angiqatigiinasuppanirmik

Does all that linguistic wrangling just seem too exhausting? Maybe you’d rather listen to some music, look at some pictures, or even do some sewing.

kilaut (inuit drum)   nine years later   pattern of atigi

Want to delve deeper into the languages of the far north? From Kleinschmidt to Peck, I’ve got them.

If you know the difference between what is real and what is not real, you may like this.

Or, then again, you may not.