what went wrong

(Image credit: TheDailyQuotes.com)

From the Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary:

ikta-qʰata ‘What’s wrong?, what’s the matter?; something gone wrong, fouled up, haywire.

Example: “yaka ‘man wik-ɬúsh” – “íkta-qʰàta?” (EP remarking:) “Her husband isn’t well” – (CR responding:) “So what’s wrong?”

This was among the first colloquial expressions I learned in Chinuk Wawa, about 20 years ago. It was a great feeling to encounter Jargon as people used it everyday, not as all those old books portrayed it (which was mostly just lists of words).

Meaning, I didn’t recognize it from anything I had read.

Now, check this out:


     Fraidi <22> Shun. Alta nsaika drit skukum
Friday 22nd June. Now we are really im-

haws: wik kata nsaika wiht komtaks ikta
prisoned: we can’t tell anymore what’s 

kata kopa klahani. 
going on outside.
(Kamloops Wawa #198 (September 1901), page 83)

You saw that right. Confirmation of the same expression, from hundreds of miles north, 116 years ago!

Bonus knowledgeikta-qʰata has an obvious negative connotation. If you want to ask more neutrally ‘what’s happening?’, ‘what’s going on?’, you can use the verb cháku (literally ‘to come’): ikta cháku ‘what’s happening?’, ‘what happened?’

(If you have an acquaintance with French or Spanish, you can compare this to their way of expressing ‘happen’ with a motion verb ‘to pass by’ qu’est-ce qui se passe? and ¿qué pasó?)

Best of all: you can put together the negative and the neutral expressions for some nicely expressive Jargon. Look at this fine example from the Grand Ronde dictionary, where the apostrophes before the words show extra emphasis:

álta ‘íkta ‘qʰáta ‘cháku ‘Then something goes horribly wrong’ “(literally, then SOMETHING HAYWIRE HAPPENS)”

I’m going to claim that as the latest installment in our Halloween-related theme this month 🙂

Going forward with all this: If I was out trick-or-treating, I might tell the person who answers their door on October 31st, “pálach t’sí-mə́kʰmək, pus wík cháku íkta-qʰáta!” 🎃 Know what I’m saying?