Monday, May 18, 2009

The Erebato River

The etymology of words fascinates me, much like a treasure hunt. One learns a word or phrase and accepts it at face value, often not curious as to why it came to have it's meaning. But how exciting is it to discover the reasons for the meaning of a word!. This could be brought about by an historical event or the introduction of another language.

In Venezuela, we lived on the Chajura River which is a tributary of the Erebato. The Erebato is a tributary of the Caura River and the Caura of the Orinoco River.

I had lived in Venezuela for several years and knew of the Erebato River, never once wondering as to the significance or the meaning of it's name. Until I moved into the Ye'kwana village on the Chajura River.

The Chajura River, literally translates as 'the place of bamboo'. This is because it is the only river in the area with a significant amount of bamboo. Bamboo is very important culturally to the Ye'kwana, as they use it to fabricate their horns, which are used in the cultural chanting and dancing. Other villages would travel for days to our region for the sole purpose of acquiring bamboo to be used in this way.

After a time, when my ear was a little more accustomed to the Ye'kwana language, I began to notice that they referred to the 'Erebato River' as the 'Dede Watö River'. I knew the meaning of the two words and could not understand why or how a river would come to be called by such a name.

The word 'Dede' in Ye'kwana is 'Bat'.

The word 'Watö' translates as 'excrement'.

This makes the name of the Erebato River to translate as, 'Bat Poop River'.

Why would a tribe of people choose to name a large river such a thing?

Come back tomorrow to find out!


Anonymous said...


redneck preacher said...

We have places with mysterious names also.

Take DC. Many people think it means the District of Colombia. Not so. Actually the D comes from an old Indian word Dia’k meaning spine and the C is from Cgluto meaning dissolve. So DC really means “spine dissolver”. At least that explains things for me.

Good post.


Tammy said...

This I gotta know.

Thursday's Child said...

Oh, you're really going to make us wait?! I'm guessing there are a lot of bats and they like to use it as a toilet?

Anonymous said...

I hope you didn't drink out of that river!

Liz said...

Hmmmm.. I guess there are lots of bats around the river, and everybody knows what they do when flying around!!!

Charles said...

This post grabbed my curiosity. So I googled Erebato River, and Bat Poop River. SURPRISE !!!

Jungle Mom is the number one & number two reference in BOTH cases.

Is there a hidden meaning to that ?

Or is it that Jungle Mom is the ONLY person to write about this.

You always on the cutting edge.

Can't wait 'til tomorrow

Jungle Mom said...

Charles, I would be cited as an expert on the subject of bat Poop!

Anonymous said...

Rita the Laywer thing Is a long story so I deleted the comments about it lol. I think Pam knows so. BTW is their any other way to message other than in a blag?