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wila

wila n. a surreptitious note (sent by or between prisoners); a kite. Editorial Note: Pronounced “WHEE-lah.” Etymological Note: This is an Anglicized or Spanglish spelling of the Mexican Spanish güila or huila, that, according to this 1998 Varilex survey of Spanish speakers, is one of many words for kite, a light-weight paper-covered frame flown in the wind. In the use documented here, güila or huila is a calque of an English slang meaning of “kite” dating to at least as early as 1859, “a note or letter, as sent between prisoners or smuggled out of prison.” The online version of the book Diccionario Breve de Mexicanismos (“Concise Dictionary of Mexicanisms”) states that güila and huila come from güilota or huilota, in turn from the Náhuatl word huilotl ‘dove,’ referring to the species Zenaida macroura or mourning dove. The Dictionnaire de la langue nahuatl classique (“The Dictionary of the Classic Náhuatl Language”) confirms the Náhuatl word. (source: Double-Tongued Dictionary)

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  • Nahuatl has long vowels, that is some vowels are held for a brief period longer than normal.  the word for dove has these.  Using the : after the vowel to signify this the word is: hui:lo:tl (Karttunen, F., _An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl_ p. 90)  The word was collected in the 16th cen. by Fr. Alonso de Molina in his Vocabulario (1577) and glossed as “paloma” pigeon or dove (f. 157v)

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