There are few fuzzier, more zoo-friendly public relations ventures than holding a naming contest for a polar bear cub.
That is, unless the shortlist of names includes a purportedly Inuit word that is not really an Inuit word at all. Then it becomes a small public relations disaster.
The contest, typically a feel-good exercise, descended into controversy late last week when Piita Irniq, former commissioner of Nunavut, detected something amiss with one of the prospective names for the Toronto Zoo’s three-month-old crowd-pleaser.
Searik, included among a half-dozen possibilities, was defined on the zoo’s website as “Inuit for beautiful.”
This left Irniq scratching his head because, as he told the Star, “There’s no meaning, absolutely no meaning to the name.”
“I put it on Facebook and . . . nobody understood what it meant either,” he said. “None of the Inuit who read the post understood what it means.”
Things got worse when Iqaluit-based Nunatsiaq News reported Friday on the zoo’s initial response to the apparent blunder. A spokeswoman told the newspaper the zoo had done research “to confirm the meaning was correct,” and referenced a Wiki Answers page.
“There are lots of knowledgeable Inuit to ask . . . (why) then would a reputable organization like the Toronto Zoo use Wiki Answers as an authoritative source?” one Nunatsiaq commenter wondered.
Others maintained the whole concept of naming a polar bear is out of touch with Inuit culture.
How do you say "idiotic" in Inuit?As Minnie Napartuk, an Inuktitut translator at Avataq Cultural Institute, explained, “I don’t think you should name an animal unless they are pets.”...