ho-e-ga

I’m sure something similar has happened to you.

Last night I was sitting quietly at home when I decided that I simply had to find out what the Osage word for “circle” is. The Osage were the dominant tribe of First Nations people in my part of the continent.

So I betook myself to the main branch of our library and headed straight for the reference shelves where, an earlier online search told me, an Osage to English dictionary was. Except that it wasn’t. There was a gap in the books where my quarry should have been.

The reference librarian suggested that it was no longer a reference book but that it was now part of the circulating materials. So I pointed my feet in that direction. I found the Navajo dictionary and the Cherokee dictionary, but the Osage was AWOL.

Daunted but not defeated, I found a book in the collection about Osage culture, and with a little quality time at a quiet desk, I managed to find the word “ho-e-ga,” which translates several ways depending on context but can be a quartered circle, the earth’s surface, the snare of life, and places where little animals are snared. Perfect!

I am continuing to make notes for a story in which circles have an important role. I want to set it in a small town with a town square, around which my character walks as she contemplates her options. And I wanted to name the town with the Osage word for “circle.” Except I didn’t know that word, and I wouldn’t have been able to rest until I did, so I took myself to the library and accomplished my quest. How serendipitous it was that the various meanings of the word will fit nicely with the theme of the story.

Like I said, I’m sure this sort of thing has happened to you too.

Also, while I was there, I stumbled upon a quote from Virginia Woolf that fits perfectly with the denouement of Finnegans Deciphered, so I’m going to find a way to put the quote in. Serendipity.

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3 Comments on “ho-e-ga

  1. Annam Says:

    I love when that happens!

  2. Sonje Says:

    I can’t think of an instance offhand, but I know I’ve had the experience when I wanted to put something into my story and then found out that it has connotations I hadn’t thought of before, and learning about that thing ends up deepening my story. It’s pretty awesome.

  3. Averil Dean Says:

    I’ll confess, that’s something I would do. If I need to know something, by god I will dig up the information somewhere. And the reward for this diligence is usually some bit of happy serendipity–the library gods smiling down upon us.


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