One of the very first things I learned in Quechua was paqarinkama, which means “see you tomorrow,” one of those words you pick up when memorizing initial dialogues that is encoded as a phrase of itself and filed away without further understanding.

But that was months ago, and as I’ve gone on, I’ve begun to take the word apart. I learned –kama, until. “Until paqarin,” then, I’m left with, so presumably paqarin is how you say tomorrow.

Almost. Then I learned possessives. –n is third person singular. “Until his/her/its paqari,” I had, which made no sense at all.

And then yesterday my teacher told us how to say our age. “The verb for to be born is paqariy,” he said.

That’s when I put it together. Paqarinkama, “until tomorrow,“ literally means “until it is born.”

Or is it rather that paqarinkama does just mean “until tomorrow,” and when I speak of my birth I say “my life dawned”? Both translations are right, of course, because the verb is the same. It is only in English that there is a difference.

I mentioned this to my teacher, and he said, you know, it had never occurred to me that there would be a difference, because in Spanish it is the same with amanecer and nacer.

I suppose there’s no reason for the day to have a different verb than I do for its birth.

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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