Nemewgishek nagdewendemwenen

Language is such a beautiful thing. We use it to communicate our situations, our hopes, our disappointments, our surprises, our feelings, our dreams, our joys, and so many other things. I was traveling along with my family today and the thought occurred to me about idioms in the English language and how they might sound in the Potawatomi tongue.

For example, how would I express the terms, Oh my word? Or my goodness? Or Kick the bucket? Hang one’s head?

Oh my word: Hau nin kedwen! or Oh my goodness: Hau nin mnones! Kick the bucket: Degshkan i zindi! Hang one’s head: Ndegodon se iw dep!

Those are just a few things I thought on but one can see when one attempts to use them in the Potawatomi vernacular, they make no sense. We say, Watiya, or simply Teya as men, and women might say, Mamkatgemek. We might even say, ngi mamkazyan ektot o shkenwe: I am amazed at what that young man said. We might say something like, ngi mamkadendem egi zhechkewat gi nenwik: I was surprised at what those men did. Shkwenwewze is another word to register surprise, meaning he/she is surprised. Nminawenma; to be amazed by someone, or nminawendan; to be amazed by something.

Just those few thoughts today….

Here are a few examples of what English idioms look like in the Potawatomi vernacular.


Nagdon i debazimgek mine egajdeyak – Follow the straight and narrow

Noch mesgeso ngot peneshi etkwenayek, nish je peneshiyek shi mtegoskik – A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush

Nagdon i gjash Follow your nose

Gego zgebdemoken i nech eshmegwyenDon’t bite the hand that feeds you

Ebwawabmayek, ebonenmayekOut of sight, out of mind

Gete’ skongemgok wjebyewakHe’s from the old school

Meyew esek shi eje kgadzimgek.Road to riches

Ge’te ziwtagen yaweHe’s an old salt

Gego shewebdene i wjashHe has nose trouble

Mayosek mine nemoshek eshe gmowekRaining cats and dogs

Mano geshgeshnowek nemoshek nebatthekLet sleeping dogs lie.

GmyanesYou’re bad!

Nde myanes – I’m bad!

Nde myanes se i ken – I’m bad to the bone

Ni je she shpemekWhazzup?

Cho she gego apje – Nothing much.

Gwi gbe’ gotth ge’ men ngojiWe’ll just hang out somewhere

Mnekwewgemek ojeBar fly!

Nde keweziyemMy old man.

Nde demopiMy cute little old lady.

Gshate wbetot – hot to trot

Eshe bmebset o andek  – as the crow flies

Eje pkwenek shkwede shi temget – where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Bwamshe dapkwnet gwich bemades ngot dbegen she bmesen shi wmeksenek – Before you judge your fellow man, walk a mile in his moccasins

Nej nebyagewen temget shi bmetsebek – The handwriting’s on the wall

Keko gimotken bkan nene edatDon’t steal another man’s castle

Ekenid bsek wigedo shech gadeHaste makes waste

Keko shegwaskneken shi egishakwnegek – Don’t jump to conclusions

Keko zgeptemken i nej eshmegweyenDon’t bite the hand that feeds you

Mayosek mine nomoshek she gmeyaRaining cats and dogs

Eshi gyebigwet o bebishagnegweBlind as a bat

Demagmeshi bimskwegen – monkey wrench

Demagmeshi mijem  – banana

Kego moken siksek i dodoshabo –  don’t cry over spilled milk

Moyen nsheke shna gwi mo – cry and you cry alone

Shomigwe nwiyen ké gwi wich shomigwe nwim Smile and the world smiles with you

Ni wepodan i myewI’ll hit the road

Nwi o baskzan i ébmanmek I’m going to go shoot the breeze

Mbiwe shna o – he’s all wet

Gi ngeton I wdep – he/she lost his head

Kego myano doneshéken – don’t bad mouth me

Gawa she ngi ski bwe we ewi shabshkemanI just barely squeaked through

Negdosha mingoyen gego kanabdemwaken i wdonDon’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Wewene she wchemyamget shi negdosha wdonekStraight from the horse’s mouth

Kego gemaken gde bidimek bwamshe bashka’wewatDon’t count your chickens before they hatch

Éyaptepok – an old saying –  that time of winter

Mjemendem –  keep in mind (sing)

Mjemendemok –  Keep in mind (pl.)

Gda mjemendamen shna – we should keep it in mind

Kche  –  big huge large

Mojiw debewyawe  – he’s a poop head

Pejagdebewyawe –  he’s a dick head

Mgabewze  –  he/she is huge/fat

Mgabewzik  – they are huge/fat

Génokét  –   liar

Géno Yashmojet  – liar

Jo she wi chikwado jayek ni tadownenHe’s not playing with a full deck

Nebiwet kwese yaweHe/she’s a wet hen

Shegnos kajmoshi wjashikHe/she’s lying through his/her nose

Genosimgek yajmownen –  tall tales

Wge kibengwegen i dbandewen  – he/she is blinded by love

Batashen shi shpemek –  he/she is stuck up

Apje shna shpemek she bimskwenwiHe’s all screwed up

Ngi geskago embge gsedeyan –  I was caught flat footed

Ngi geskago emskwenjiyan –   I was caught red-handed

Gego shna she yawe   – he/she is something else

Gego shna gdaw  – You’re something else

Ahau i ye i etetebasiyan: Ok, that’s how I roll!

Author: neaseno

I was born on Powers Bluff in Wood County, Wisconsin, into a traditional community of Neshnabek. I was raised speaking only native languages, and learned to speak English upon entering school at the age of 6. As of this writing, I am one of 5 remaining Heritage Fluent Speakers of Potawatomi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: