“‘Rammaytush?’ Is that some sort of Hindu prayer?” So I thought to myself as I spotted the title of the plaque on King Street, one block away from the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark (today, Saturday, was the 2013 Fan Fest day; pitchers and catchers report on Tuesday!). I stopped for a closer look; as you can see from the photo below, no one else stopped for a look:
Others came before us. Others before us called the San Francisco Bay Area their home. Of the various peoples who once lived here, nothing remains of some of them except for 104 word of their extinct language, Rammaytush (spelled with only one “m” in Wikipedia). With only these words surviving, one takes a big risk trying to deduce what mattered to them most by what words remain, but my imagination keeps wandering back 1,500 years. Please don’t consider this journalism or scholarship, this is only my wonder at work.
Evidently, foodies have always lived in Mission Bay.
We have to add an adjective; they had a single word to mean “older brother.” What does this imply about family relationships, how these people defined and valued them? Perhaps nothing special; perhaps “takka” is just a word. Perhaps it meant everything.
They had separate and significantly different words for “star” and “morning star.” Why the apostrophe in their word for the latter? What was ‘awweh to them? Venus? How important was it?
These tiles set in the sidewalk remind me of the smooth stones and plaques of metal one sometimes sees in European churches that date back centuries. These smooth stones and plaques once bore the names of the ancestors who had worshipped at these churches, their dates of birth and death. Parishioners were supposed to remember their deceased family members as they entered church, heads down. But their own footsteps gradually wore down the stone and metal until the names disappeared along with their memories. Whomever lived and died there–nothing remains. As pedestrians and San Francisco’s steady winter rains bear down upon these plaques over the decades and centuries, so too will these words wear down to nothing. Will someone replace these plaques? Or are words worn down to nothing and forever forgotten the whole point?
Vonn Scott Bair