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#426796 01/05/12 09:06 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
OP Offline

If you have ever wondered about using the word "Maya" vs "Mayan", here is a brief explanation of the correct usage....

Inevitably, the subject of Mel Gibson's new movie, Apocalypto, will arise at the dinner table. Here's a short primer on how to be Mesoamerican chic with your adjectives and nouns.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but will when opportunity arises. I have nothing to say about the plot, except that a group of hunter-gatherers who speak Yucateca is highly improbable. Yucateca is a Mayan language, and any group speaking it would be farmers, cultivating maize. No matter, it's Hollywood.

The annoyances thus far stem from the seemingly random decisions by reviewers about when to use the words "Maya" and "Mayan."

This morning's Washington Post provides an example:

Our hero is no city Maya, however. He is one Jaguar Paw (brilliant, supple, expressive Rudy Youngblood), of an indigenous forest people.

So far, so good. The protagonist is a Maya.

But, the reviewer inexplicably changes the plural to Mayans:

One morning -- the portents have been over-dramatic -- the Mayans arrive in force.

One is a Maya, two or more are Mayans?

Well, no. Here's the convention used by Mesoamerican archaeologists. Always choose "Maya" unless referring to a language, in which case the word is "Mayan" (there are at least two dozen living Mayan languages.)

The people are Maya, not Mayans. Our reviewer writes of "a Mayan urban center." Those in the know would say "a Maya urban center." He speaks of "Mayan culture." Nope. Say "Maya culture."

You'll find that academics who've written popular works on the Maya adhere to this convention (Michael Coe who wrote Breaking the Maya Code, Linda Schele who authored Maya Cosmos, etc.) The word "Mayan," improperly used, will grate on the ears of anyone who's read much at all about this civilization. You can't go wrong with "Maya."

Daily Kos

Marty #426807 01/05/12 10:48 AM
Joined: Jul 2010
Posts: 1,465
This is good to know and I'll practice being correct in the usage. However, does this now make our Mayan Ruins Maya Ruins? Our Mayan Weddings Maya Weddings? Or did I misunderstand?

My friends call me Judyann
Marty #426811 01/05/12 11:41 AM
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 8,880
And what of the Mayan Princess Hotel?

A fish and a bird can fall in love, but where will they build their nest?

Marty #426814 01/05/12 11:58 AM
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 3,677
I might assume the distinction here is that Maya did not refer to a country, but rather a race of people?

So, while I am an American instead of an America, I am also a caucasia versus a caucasian. Semantics is soooo confusing.

Question. How do the current Maya feel about the issue? The people, not the academics.

Been there, done that, the washing machine ate the T-shirt

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