But They Do Have 100 Words for Snow, Right?


Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska senator who is implausibly running as a maverick write-in candidate after losing the Republican primary to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, recently roused a crowd of supporters by declaring:

I was reminded by a friend of mine from St. Paul Island that there's no word for impossible in the Aleut language. So for the next 45 days, we're going to think like Aleuts. There is nothing that is impossible.

There was a problem with her message, and it wasn't just that the anti-establishment theme did not quite jibe with a Senate career that began when Murkowski's father passed his seat on to her like a family car after he was elected governor. The New York Times explains:

It was a deft play to the state's strong sense of identity and a direct appeal to native communities, whose support could prove crucial. It was also inaccurate. The word [for impossible] in Aleut is haangina-lix.

"It's very clear that you can say 'impossible,'" said Gary Holton, the director of the Alaska Native Language Archive. "Clearly, she wasn't checking her facts."

Maybe Murkowski can depict her blunder as Reaganesque.

The answer to the question posed in the headline: not quite.

Note: For the benefit of readers who speculated that Murkowski did not literally mean there's no word for impossible in the Aleut language, I've revised this post to include a direct quotation from her speech.