Alaskan Glossary

Al-a-ka-ket interj.     What you promise to do to your neighbor’s dog if it comes onto your property and tears up your garbage one more time. <Alakaket with mah Bunny Boots, then Ah’ll shoot et!>

Am-bler n.     A bull caribou that is taking his time coming within range while your muscles begin to spasm from holding your bow at full draw.

A-nuk-tu-vuk Pass n.     A flirtatious overture from your Inupiat co-worker, Anna Ktuvuk

Arc-tic En-try n.    

1.  A small vestibule built onto the front of an Alaskan house intended to provide a buffer zone between the subzero temperatures outside, and the warmth within.  Usually full of Bunny Boots, bottles of Heet, parkas, and 37 thousand pairs of frozen socks. 

2.  A hole cut in the ice to accommodate contestants in the Polar Bear Plunge.

At-tu adv.     A consenting reply to the clerk at Sportsman’s Warehouse when he asks you if you need to buy a new scope for the rifle you just purchased. < Sure, I’ll take attu.>

Bar-row n.     What you have to use to wheel your Matanuska Valley cabbage to the Alaska State Fair.

Break-up n.    

1.  The annual season between the time the snow melts and the forest fires begin, when every square inch of ground outside is transformed into a bottomless quagmire, and every square inch of floor inside your house resembles a New Orleans basement after Katrina.

2.  What your spouse does to you when you spend her Permanent Fund Dividend on a backpack and a new fly rod package.

Bush Pi-lot n.     What you become when a grizzly bear charges you, and you fall off a cliff in your haste to escape, but you land in a bush on your way down only to have the bush come out by its roots.

Cant-well aux v.     An expression used to explain to your wife why it is difficult for you to open a jar of pickles in the aftermath of a monster Northern Pike turning your hand into cole slaw while you were trying extract a treble hook it had swallowed.

Cache n.    

1.  A storage shed that looks like a miniature log cabin on stilts designed to break a trapper’s neck when he falls while ascending the ladder while balancing a caribou quarter on his shoulder.

2.  Strips of green paper used for currency, of which there is a never enough to purchase the necessary equipment to properly enjoy the Alaskan wilderness.

Chee-cha-ko  n.      

1.  A person who has recently moved to Alaska.  Typically identified by such naive behavior as failing to wear clothing appropriate to the climate, inquiring about the location of the nearest shopping mall or golf course, licking hoarfrost from metal surfaces, or walking in the woods without a gun for bear protection.

2.  The larval stage of a sourdough.

De-na-li n.

1.  A mythical mountain that materializes out of the clouds above the Alaskan range only once every hundred years.  According to folklore, it is the highest point on the North American Continent, and the tallest mountain in the world, base to peak.

2.  The clever, vivid, computer-generated photographs of Mt. McKinley that appear in every travel brochure, atlas and gift shop.  Many of these are only able to be distinguished as hoaxes by the cloudless blue backdrop of sky, and the fact that the entire mountain is actually visible.

Haines n.     A high-falutin’ clothing accessory worn by tourons and cheechakos.  Haines are abandoned for Long Johns upon graduating to sourdough status.

Ho-mer n.     What Barry Bonds of the Alaska Goldpanners used to hit all the time.

Hy-da-burg v.     What you do on the Labor Day cookout at Quartz Lake, when your wife asks you if that isn’t your sixth hamburger, and if you’ve forgotten the promise you made to start dieting.

Ice Fog n.

1.  A thick winter fog made of suspended ice particles that leaves the trees coated with ice crystals and obscures visibility at every intersection in Fairbanks.

2.  A description of one’s mental acuity after catching hypothermia from ice fishing too long without warming up.

Ju-neau adv.     A question normally asked by a nosy person in an attempt to extract inconsequential information which you had no reason to commit to memory.  The proper response is “Yes, but I’m bound by a non-disclosure agreement not to divulge that information.”

Ke-nai n.     A necessary physical attribute in order to be able to spot Dall Sheep high upon a mountain.

Ko-yuk-uk interj.     What Santa Claus’ laugh actually sounds like.

Mo-squi-to n.     The Alaska State Bird.  Squadrons of between 30,000 and half a million will typically conceal themselves in a square yard of sphagnum moss or low-lying vegetation.  When an unsuspecting pedestrian happens by, they burst suddenly from their ambush and attempt to drain him of all body fluids before his body hits the ground.  Useful for chasing away tourons, environmentalists, and real estate developers.

Muk-luk n.     The gamble you take when you drive an ATV into a bog.

Mus-keg n.     The smell of an omelette that has been left out of the refrigerator all week on a stack of books in a University of Alaska freshman dorm room.

OSB n.

1. Oriented Strand Board.

2.  A popular siding for Alaskan homes.  In fact, the only official siding approved by the Alaska State Builder’s Association.

Pot-latch n.

1.  A ceremonial feast among natives of the Pacific Northwest in which gifts are distributed, speeches and dances are made, and vast quantities of dead animal parts are consumed.

2. A fastener on a honey bucket, designed to keep the fragrance contained until time to transfer the contents to the outhouse.

Skag-way n.     A driveway that has been torn up from excessive snow machine traffic.  A skagway may be deeply grooved, or even rutted from the impression of the steering skags on the bottom of the skis.

Snow n.    

1. Crystalline sunshine. 

2.  The substance most often used for groundcover by Alaskan landscaping contractors.  <Just shovel some snow over that pile of rusty car parts, Pete.  No one will see it till breakup.>

3.  A prerequisite for many Alaskan sports such as mushing, skiing, snow machining, and hypothermia.

Sol-dot-na adv.     A regretful reply in response to your neighbor’s inquiry regarding what ever became of your old mining claim. <Sold.  Oughtn’ta.>

Sour-dough n.    

1.  A delicious form of bread made from a fermented, stinking glob of goo that lurks in a crock on the back of the stove.

2.  [from sour < A particularly obnoxious body odor, and dough < the texture of a potbelly] A seasoned Alaskan resident.

3.  The mature adult form of the Cheechako.

Ter-mi-na-tion Dust n.     The first snow of the year to whiten the tops of nearby mountain peaks.  Usually spotted two days after the last of the previous winter’s snow had melted off of the same mountains.

Tok v.     An activity that Senator Gary Wilkins must have participated in just prior to reading the Alaska State Constitution’s position on Borough formation.

Tour-on n.     Similar to a cheechako only worse.  A touron is a dangerous species of tourist incapable of comprehending the vastness and rugged, pristine wilderness of The Last Frontier.  Tourons may perform such mindless acts as attempting to feed a grizzly bear, fishing in a gravel pit, complaining to the Park Service about allowing the mosquitoes to become so aggressive, or inquiring about the best time to see the Northern Lights on June 21st.  A touron can be identified by the camera permanently attached to its hand, the Alaskan souvenir T-shirt it is wearing, and the motor home it has parked in the middle of the road on a hairpin curve while it wanders about picking fireweed or trying to cuddle a moose calf whose mother is approaching at full charge.

Valdez n.     A great deal that you found at Value Village, consisting of an old ammo box full of metal parts shaped like a capital D which you can use to make T junctions in dog harnesses.

Wasilla n.

1.  A spicy beverage prepared by leaving your Sarsaparilla soda sitting on the picnic table until a wasp crawls in it.  For maximum flavor, it must be drunk before the wasp drowns.

2.  The sound one emits shortly after ingesting a big gulp of Wasilla.

Whittier n.     What a sourdough fancies himself to be in comparison to his roommate when they find themselves exchanging puns while locked deep in the throes of cabin fever.