Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 21, 2014 - 8:17 am

Did you hear the one about the muskox? Read on, in Inuktitut

GN releases collection of funny stories to encourage Inuktitut literacy

DAVID MURPHY
Iglarnaqtut encourages readers to read Inuktitut, for a laugh.
Iglarnaqtut encourages readers to read Inuktitut, for a laugh.

The Government of Nunavut is trying to tickle your funny bone in an effort to improve Inuktitut literacy.

The GN’s Department of Culture and Heritage launched a comedy book called Iglarnaqtut as part of this year’s Inuit language weeks.

It’s written entirely in Inuktut — the GN’s word for all Inuit languages — because they want to encourage people to read in their native language.

It’s also because Inuit humour doesn’t always translate well to English.

“Inuit humour is much different,” said Tocassie Burke, manager of Inuktitut affairs at the GN.

“When you’re out on the land, you know how it feels. You know how it smells like. You know how people react when they’re hunting. Just that environment when you live up here — we understand this. 

“It identifies who we are and how we see things and how we understand things and how we explain things,” she said.

Burke’s read all 10 stories featured in Iglarnaqtut and her favourite is Annie Audlaluk’s piece about hunting muskox.

A man and his wife shoot a muskox, Burke explained, but the baby calf gives them a hard time when they try to butcher it.

“Every time he bent down to butcher the muskox, the calf would knock him down. And kept doing that,” Burke said.

“So he started screaming at the calf, saying, ‘if you do that one more time, I’m going to shoot you!’” Burke said, with a fit of giggles.

“It’s just hilarious. It’s hard to translate in humour. I find you lose it.”

It’s why this book of humour should remain entirely in Inuktut, Burke said.

“It makes you curious. Because you want to laugh. You want to hear other stories. And literacy — we need to catch up in Inuit literacy,” she said.

“And more books are being created, which is wonderful. But you know just 10 years ago there were not many [books], especially for adults.” 

Hilarie Makpah is the author of a story called “Kangiqliniq” in the book.

Makpah said she can’t tell the difference between English and Inuktitut humour.

But she has wondered why her son’s girlfriend, a qallunaat, doesn’t laugh as much at his stories when he tells them in English.

She said when her son tells stories in Inuktitut, the family laughs every time.

“We’ll just all laugh about it. We just laugh about what he’s telling us,” Makpah said.

Makpah’s story is a tale her dad once told her about a trip on the land with snowmobiles.

“The bunch of them were heading to the lake to go fish. And my father was one of them, the others were in front of him,” she said.

Her dad was trying to catch up to the group on the snowmobile, but he was driving against the wind, and in low visibility.

“He noticed he didn’t seem to get any closer to the other people. He wondered, like, why it was taking him so long to get over there?”

That’s when he put his foot on the ground and realized he wasn’t actually moving.

“He thought he was going, but all that time he was just in one spot,” she said.

The GN has distributed copies of the book every library in Nunavut but you can also download it online for free here.

The Inuit language weeks continue until Feb. 28.

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