Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Unbreakable Code: Developing the Code

By the end of the first day they had devised the alphabet. They repeated it until it was committed to memory, and fell asleep repeating it to themselves. They had to come up with words in English that had Navajo counterparts. Most letters had two or three words, such as ant, apple, and axe for A, badger, bear, and barrel for B, and so on. Only V, W, X, and Z had one word only. The word for W is weasel and the Navajo word for weasel is gloe-ih.

After the alphabet they created 211 Navajo words to substitute for military terms that were nonexistent in Navajo.
Commanding General=War Chief
Major General=2 Star

Organizations were more difficult, so they substituted Navajo clan names for many of them.
Battalion=Red Soil

Substitute words for aircraft were much easier. Birds seen on the reservation prvovided easy to remember substitutes.
Dive Bomber=chicken hawk
Fighter Plane=humming bird

Navajo names of fish and water mammals were chosen for ships.
Mine sweeper=beaver

Terms frequently used in battle needed Navajo synonyms.
Confidential=kept secret

Some substitutes were chosen for shape or resemblance.

Countries took on names with special meanings to the Navajos.
America=Our Mother (loved this one)
Japan=Slant Eye

Because the Navajo did not measure time as the Americans and Europeans did, their language had no terms for months of the year. They chose words that described the season or the events that took place at that time of year.
March=Squeaky Voice
April=Small Plant
May=Big Plant

The Navajo words cannot be pronounced as they are written. The English alphabet alone cannot produce the pronunciation or the true meaning. Many accent and phonetic marks are needed to represent the tone and pitch of each syllable and the gutteral sounds so unfamiliar to the non-Navajo. Even a Navajo would need to know which dialect was being used. 

Next: How the Code Was Used

1 comment:

  1. You should write a NF book! How about one for kids? Or ... use this info to write a mystery for kids. So many possibilities.