usé [uˈʑe̞ˑ], inalienably possessed noun: “(one’s) name”
And now for something completely different, we start today with a series of words having to do with a major area of Mountain Folk culture: naming.
For the Mountain Folk, names are serious business. Names have power, especially people’s names. They hold meaning, and meaning can influence reality. Also, according to the Mountain Folk beliefs, names are what make humans visible to spirits, despite the spirit world and the human world being separate. Nameless people (or rather, people not named according to Mountain Folk tradition through a naming ceremony) are effectively invisible to all spirits, be they benevolent or malevolent. These two properties of names are the reason children of Mountain Folk are kept nameless until they are about three to four years old:
- An ill-chosen name that does not fit the nature of a child could stump its development and even cause it a great deal of harm, so the Mountain Folk wait until the child starts to develop an own personality before giving it a name that describes it properly;
- Babies and young children haven’t had time to build up a resistance against attacks from malevolent spirits (a main cause of diseases according to old Mountain Folk beliefs), nor have they had time to undergo the various ceremonies meant to protect them. For this reason, keeping them nameless ensures malevolent spirits cannot target them.
Nameless children are referred to in a variety of ways, and adults must actually take care of not calling children using the same word or expression more than twice in a row, as it is believed that a word or expression used three times in a row to refer to a child effectively becomes its name. There are, luckily, unnaming ceremonies meant to undo such accidental namings, and using words referring to unattractive things (like excrements!) can keep malevolent spirits at bay, at least until such a ceremony can be performed.
But back to the word itself: as one might expect, usé is an inalienably possessed noun, that is, a noun with a mandatory possessor, which appears as a suffix. The actual root of the word is ús, which implies a definite third person possessor (meaning thus “his/her/its/their name(s)”). The citation form usé actually includes the indefinite suffix -(s)e, so that usé actually means “someone’s name” (it’s the form used when one wants to talk about names in general, rather than a specific person’s name in particular). Other forms are for instance usún: “my name” and usí: “your (sg) name”.
Naming is really serious business in Mountain Folk culture, so they have a lot of vocabulary surrounding this area. We’re going to see a few of these words in the next days.
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