A more common spelling of the Yucatan wildflower is “xtabentun.” This is also the name of a liqueur from the region. When I was doing my research I found several old books that showed the word ending in “m.” I asked a number of experts on the Mayan language and learned that at the end of the 1800s a group of prominent people decided to standardize the writing of Mayan words in the Spanish alphabet. One controversy concerned words ending with a certain sound that was somewhere between a Spanish “m” and a Spanish “n.” The group chose to spell these words using “n,” but to this day if you hear Mayan speakers say the words the sound is closer to “m.” This is the case not only with “xtabentun,” but also with “Yucatan.” So in the end I decided to go with “Xtabentum,” both because it sounds more like how Mayans say the word and to avoid any confusion with the liqueur.
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Published on July 19, 2011 21:56 • 670 views • Tags: xtabentun

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