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Setting the Record Straight About Native Languages:
A Good Day To Die

Q: Somebody I know serves in the army and says that "Opahey" is Cherokee for "This is a good day to die." Is that true?
A: Well, no. Actually, "Opahey" is a corruption of "Hokahey," which Hollywood believes has the meaning "It's a good day to die!" in Sioux. That isn't true either--"Hokahey" is a man's exclamation in Sioux, similar to the American expressions "Let's do it!" or "Let's roll!" The reason people think it means "it's a good day to die" is that the Lakota Sioux leader Crazy Horse famously exhorted his troops "Hokahey, today is a good day to die!" Which meant something like "Let's go men, today is a good day to die!"

So "Hokahey" was, in fact, used rather similarly to the way the white soldiers are using "Opahey" today--it's a manly, assertive, take-charge kind of word. It just has a different pronunciation, different meaning, and comes from a different language than the people who are using it think.

Q: What about "Bia tsimbic da-sasua"? I read in a novel that this means "Today is a good day to die" or "Live your life so that if you die today you will have no regrets" in the Crow language.
A: No. It means "talking about your mistress" in Crow. (Literally "naming a married woman.") Evidently Crow warriors, like medieval knights, used to like to dedicate war honors to their illicit girlfriends, and that's what the phrase referred to. I have no idea who this lazy author is, but he or she apparently just picked a random phrase out of an anthropology book about the Crow Indians and lied about what it meant. You can't always trust novelists.

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