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Old 05-19-2005, 11:47 AM
snorlax snorlax is offline
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Native Americans and the word "heap"

Here in the UK I have noticed that the word "heap" figures quite prominently when someone is imitating a Native American for comic effect. It seems to be a synonym for "very" or "very much" - as in this example from Monty Python:

"Me heap want see play. Me want play start heap soon."

What's the origin of this? Is this done in the US as well or is it specific to the UK?
Old 05-19-2005, 12:03 PM
TellMeI'mNotCrazy TellMeI'mNotCrazy is offline
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While I don't know its origins, I do know that I've heard it plenty of times in the US.
Old 05-19-2005, 12:07 PM
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BwanaBob BwanaBob is offline
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Well a heap is a "big pile", so it's not a stretch to misuse it to mean "a lot".

I've heard it used in American westerns.
Old 05-19-2005, 12:14 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
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I did a cursory Google search, and found it referenced in the 1912 novel "Good Indian" by B.M. Bower. Don't know how much older it is. There was also a 1919 Harold Lloyd movie "Heap Big Chief."
Old 05-19-2005, 12:38 PM
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John Mace John Mace is offline
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Could simply be a mistranslation or poor translation of the Lakota word tanka, meaning big. It's used in all types of compound words*:

Wakan Tanka (The Great Spirit)
Pta Tanka (large bull bison)
Sunk' Tanka (horse, literally "big dog")

*Note: adjective comes after noun, similarly to Spanish
Old 05-19-2005, 12:59 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Posts: 21,379
By the way, the Master has addressed the question of why Indians are portrayed as saying "how", but doesn't discuss why they're portrayed as saying "heap big". Doggone it, this is really starting to bother me.
Old 05-19-2005, 12:08 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Posts: 21,379
It's definitely an Americanism, and has been used in, e.g., novelists' attempts to portray "Indian lingo" for at least a hundred and fifty years.

Originally it was probably a genuine translation of some Native American word, but I don't know what.


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