Intetlahuehuetzquiticahoan

Contributed by Camden Andersen



As far as your goals are concerned, which is to designate the allotted word or words, for jesters and clowns and their various activities throughout the cultures of the ancient world, I would say you're in a great deal of luck! Without the Florentine Codex, reference to such information just could not take place. The Nahuatl word, which was compared with the English word 'jester,' in Book 8 of the Florentine Codex, is spelled like this: INTETLAHUEHUETZQUITICAHOAN, and pronounced like this: IN-TETLA WAY-WAITS KWEET-TICAY WOAN. This is the official Aztec/Nahuatl word for jester, and I will explain.

From Francis Karttunen's work, "An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl," I have some of the various pieces of information to interpret the syllables involved in the construction of the Aztec word for jester. First, the prefix syllable of "IN," within the Nahuatl etymology, often is translated as simply meaning, 'the'. But in this case, it may be intended as a kind of binding syllable, meaning, 'those', referring to a number of people. Officially, the word INIHQUEH means "those." Secondly, the word/syllable, 'TE,' which Karttunen denotes as a ' non-specific human prefix,' means "someone." Paired with the word/syllable, 'TLA,' which means "something," the word/syllable TETLA is created which I suppose, is a kind of compounded noun which unites 'someone to something', as in the case perhaps of a person related to and identified by their field of endeavor. For instance, the word, TETLAMACHTIH, means: "someone or something that enriches or gives joy to others." Simply by adding the suffix of 'CAN,' to that word, it comes to mean: "place of recreation and enjoyment."

The next syllables, which consist of HUEHUETZ, are the most important syllables, which pertain to the career and purpose of jester's all throughout history. The Nahuatl word, "HUEHUETZCA," means, ' to laugh a lot,' and a variant on the pronunciation of that word's syllables as in, "HUEHHUETZCA," means to smile. Thus, uniting the syllables of the words of TETLA, and HUEHUETZCA, a meaning is created which is carried out like: "someone or something which makes one laugh a lot." The following concluding syllables in the Nahuatl word for jester, are a bit more complicated, and less accessible in my references.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of consistency with regards to the precise meanings of the various syllables, and the available notations of my references, I am here being forced to guess quite a bit on these last two or three syllables which constitute, "QUITICAHOAN." It may be that the syllable of QUITI, could be related to word, "QUITELMATI," which specifically means, 'someone competent.' Searching for clues, I have found that the word "CAHCAYAHUA," means specifically, "to mock or deceive someone." Merging these two words together would amount to something like this: "mocked or deceived by somebody competent." I'm sure you would agree, that this seems to be right along with the ancient jester's line of work! Thus, for a complete interpretation of the Aztec/Nahuatl to word for jester, I would be inclined to read it like this; INTETLAHUEHUETZQUITICAHOAN: "MOCKED AND DECEIVED BY THE INTELLIGENCE OF THOSE WHOSE BUSINESS IT IS TO MAKE ONE LAUGH."

I cannot guarantee, with absolute certainty, that this is the precise definition of the combined Nahuatl word for jester. However, it seems in itself to have enough thorough consistency to account for the definition of a jester, as well as to account for the meaning of the various syllables involved. If you are in fact interested, in denoting the names of jester's throughout the ancient world, I would highly recommend this for your Mesoamerican/Aztec version of the universal jester, in your list of names.


Thanks so much to Camden for his trouble in providing all this info - you can read more of his contribution on ancient Mesoamerican jesters in the Legend and Reality: South America section.





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