Word Games

Hiak vatwe, the homeland of the Hiaki people in Southern Sonora, is just north of the homeland of the Mayo people, and the Hiaki and Mayo languages are closely related. Hiaki people often remark about how fast the Mayo talk and how fast their language sounds, and many Hiaki and Mayo words are so similar that the Hiaki sometimes tell stories and jokes about people competing to see whose language is faster or “more efficient”. For example, you might hear a story about a Mayo telling a Hiaki, “Say your word for frog”. The Hiaki responds by saying “voovok”. The Mayo, trying to make a point about his/her language being more efficient, replies with the Mayo word for frog: “vorok”. But the Hiaki, not willing to admit defeat, says, “Tell me your word for watermelon”, and the Mayo responds with “sakovaari”. The Hiaki then says his/her word for ‘watermelon’: “sakovae“.

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