In 2008 PBS broadcasted a documentary called “Minik: The Lost Eskimo” which chronicles the journey of a few Eskimos from Greenland to New York City in 1897. The film describes the immense cultural difficulties that one of these immigrants, Minik, faced as he struggled to adapt to a new land.
Cutting to the chase, Minik the Eskimo did the same thing that many strangers in a new land have done (including the Nephites). He applied words he was familiar with to objects he was unfamiliar with. This phenomena has been documented very well. In the case of Minik, the unfamiliar object is the horse (link):
A New York Times reporter accompanied Minik on a tour of Central Park. “The sight of a bicycle man made him howl with glee,” he noted, “and he was amazed at the size of the ‘big dogs’ as he called the horses he saw in the driveways.”
Mormon apologists have been laughed at for suggesting that the Nephites may have dubbed the unfamiliar Mesoamerican tapir a “horse”. I suppose they believe that Minik the Eskimo was a desperate Mormon apologist as well.