In Quechua, the word for boyfriend/girlfriend is yana. Yana means servant. It’s also the only language I know where that word is genderless.

There is no word for thanks in Quechua. “We don’t need it,” my professor says, “we have reciprocity.” No word for hello, either, or for good morning. “No rhetorical language, just concrete stuff.”

The greeting in Quechua used to be something along the lines of “Don’t be a robber, don’t be a liar.” That fell out of practice after the Conquest. “And we got what was coming to us. These ethics used to be the essence of the Andean man, now all of our leaders are robbers and liars.”

Quechua as a name is actually a historical accident; Quechua is a region. They refer to their language as Runa Simi: “human speech.”

Language, my friends. Never just grammar, is it?

Published by Catherine Addington

I am a translator from Spanish to English and a writer on saints, myths, and icons in both religious and secular contexts.

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