Word Nerds

Intro to Handbk of Native Amer Languages Cherokee Words English-Eskimo Vocabulary
Introduction To Handbook Of American Indian Languages
Indian Linguistic Families Of America North Of Mexico
Boas and Powell
Cherokee Language With Pictures
English-Eskimo Eskimo-English Vocabulary
Compiled by Wells and Kelley
First published 1890, this edition 1982

Submitter: I was in the last part of the 400s, where people go to learn to speak another language and found these three books. The good news – they were no longer in the catalogue. Meaning at some point they either were not transferred over when we switched from Dynix to Sirsi, were transferred but then marked missing and stayed that way in the system until auto-discarded, or were discarded and someone forgot to black out the labels. The bad news is they were still on our shelves as of January 21st, 2021!

The books are problematic, of course, what with their age and the offensive title of the third book – they’re Inuit, not Eskimo. But the first one still had the cards from the card catalogue tucked inside. I wanted to save them simply because we shouldn’t forget how awful people were in the past so we can learn to be better in the future, though right now it feels like we still haven’t learned. But a gal’s got to have hope for a better world in the future, right?

Holly: I think languages is an area that is easily neglected. They don’t seem time sensitive like legal or medical books, so we just ignore them. Maybe not for 50+ years…but I do get that they have a longer shelf life than other subject areas. But they usually include culture or at least culture-related vocabulary.  When you visit somewhere you want to be respectful and use the proper terminology. At the very least, get the name of the language right!

catalog cards

Cherokee Words

Cherokee words with pictures

English-Eskimo Vocabulary

Eskimo vocabulary

Eskimo vocabulary map

Intro to Handbk of Native Amer Languages



  1. The only true race is the human race. And I’m just teensy bit not fond of it right now. “A better future”? When I was a kid I thought in the future we’d have flying cars and robot servants. Instead we’re trying to to explain to grown adults that wearing masks does not make you a brainwashed sheep, and vaccines don’t contain microchips that control your mind. You can’t control something that isn’t there, anyway. 🙂

  2. As “racist” as they may be, I wish I had those wonderful old books, especially the Franz Boaz ones. (He was not just some random guy who wrote some books about languages — in his day, he was a world-famous anthropologist!) I love foreign languages, and hate to see books about them dumped just because they happen to be considered “politically incorrect” now.

    1. From the sample provided, the first and third appear dated because of improved understanding of the languages they are about, not because of their worldview. Tom Fagan’s introduction is definitely not lauding colonization, Franz Boaz’s excerpt is mostly neutral but “invaders” (1st paragraph, 3rd sentence) isn’t cheering for it either. If the patronage of this collection will be aware that “negro(es)” is no longer a neutral term, but was at publication, I would likely keep them.

  3. > Lora:
    If you don’t like the concept of “race,” how about saying “flavor” instead? You know, like coffee, chocolate, peach, raspberry, vanilla…!

    1. Yeah, no. That’s actually regarded as worse.

      People will tolerate being called a race. Kind of insulting to be regarded as a foodstuff.

  4. Put up the Boaz one for sale; linguistic nerds will buy it.

    The rest of them, nope.

    The Cherokee one might still be okay, but who knows what outdated English terms might lurk within.

    Wasn’t “Eskimo” already being discouraged by 1980?

  5. The issues around the term ‘Eskimo’ are a little more complicated, and just using ‘Inuit’ instead isn’t any better. Not every indigenous inhabitant of Arctic North America is an Inuit. For an introduction to this interesting topic see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo

    1. Yes, as someone who works in a specialized collection that deals heavily with Alaskan indigenous language, this is a really heavily debated topic. However, unless your collection is specialized in the ways mine is, I think this book can certainly be replaced with a more current work on the subject.

  6. And most definitely keep the Franz Boas book if you are an academic library with a cultural anthropology collection!

  7. I have the Cherokee one. I haven’t read it in a while, but I don’t remember any specific racist content.

    1. One thing that has improved, is typesetting non-widespread characters. Unicode has for some time had Cherokee letters defined, so fonts that implement it are around and can be printed with.

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