Chinook Jargon use by English-language speakers

Chinook Jargon use by English-language speakers

British Columbian English and Pacific Northwest English have several words still in current use which are loanwords from the Chinook Jargon, which was widely spoken throughout the Pacific Northwest by all ethnicities well into the middle of the 20th century. These words tend to be shared with, but are not as common in, the states of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and, to a lesser degree, Idaho and western Montana.

Chinook Jargon words used by English-language speakers

* Skookum — The most versatile — is "skookum", which was used in the Jargon either as a verb auxiliary for "to be able" or an adjective for "able, strong, big, genuine, reliable" - which sums up its use in BC English, although there are a wide range of possible usages: a "skookum house" is a jail or prison ("house" in the Jargon could mean anything from a building to a room. "He's a skookum guy" means that the person is solid and reliable while "we need somebody who's skookum" means that a strong and large person is needed. A carpenter, after banging a stud into place, might check it or refer to it as "yeah, that's skookum". Asking for affirmation, someone might say "is that skookum" or "is that skookum with you?" "Skookum" can also be translated simply as "O.K." but it means something a bit more emphatic.
* Chuck, saltchuck — Other Jargon words in BC English include "chuck", originally meaning water or any fluid but adapted into English to refer to bodies of water, particularly "the saltchuck" in reference to salt water. In combination with "skookum" the compound word "skookumchuck", meaning a rapids (lit. "strong water"), is found in three placenames although not used with its true meaning in ordinary speech. "Chuck" and "saltchuck", however, remain common, notably in local broadcast English in weather/marine reports).
* Iktus — "stuff" in Chinook Jargon, also pronounced "itkus" with 't' and 'k' reversed. Occurs in English usually in a derogatory sense of junk, as in "We haven't got itkus."
* Muckamuck, high muckamuck. — The most famous of these words, and probably the most popular still There's also "high muckamuck" and even its proper form "hyas muckamuck" (pronounced "high-ass", and in English carrying that connotation), and the variant "high mucketymuck"; "high mucketymuck/muckamuck" has spread far beyond the Pacific Northwest, and meaning a big boss, while literally meaning "big feed" or "important banquet", potentially meaning even a fullblown potlatch, in English it has a sense of "the guys at the head table" since "muckamuck" or "a feed" is in the same vein in non-city BC English as "grub" or "a meal/dinner".
* Potlatch — in Chinook Jargon is a ceremony among certain tribes involving food and exchange of gifts, nowadays sometimes used to refer to a potluck dinner or sometimes the giving away of personal items to friends.
* Quiggly, quiggly hole — refers to the remains of an old Indian pit-house, or underground house, from "kickwillie" or "kekuli", which in the Jargon means "down" or "underneath" or "beneath".
* Siwash — (SAI-wash) properly a First Nations man, but sometimes used for women as well. Nowadays considered extremely derogatory but still in use, typically with the connotation of "drunken no-good Indian". Historically it did not necessarily have this connotation and was the generic term for Natives to the point where some writers thought there was a "Siwash tribe" in the region. The origin of the word is from the French "sauvage". When pronounced Sa-WASH, with the rhythm of the original French, it is used by modern speakers of the Chinook Jargon in Grand Ronde, Oregon with the context of meaning a Native American, or as an adjective connoting connection to same (the SAI-wash prononciation is considered offensive in Grand Ronde).
* Klootchman — in the Jargon meaning simply "a woman" or the female of something - "klootchman kiuatan" (mare), "klootchman lecosho" (sow), "tenas klootchman" or "klootchman tenas" (girl, female child). Still in use in English in some areas and with people of an older background to mean a First Nations woman, or to refer to the wives/women attached to a certain group in a joking way e.g. "we sent all the klootchman to the kitchen while we played cards". Unlike its male equivalent "siwash", "klootchman" does not generally have a derisive tone nowadays (when used).
* Masi — In northern BC and the Yukon, and used in broadcast English in those areas, the Chinook Jargon adaption of the French "merci" remains common, i.e. "mahsi" or "masi", with the accent on the first syllable (unlike in French).
* Tyee — leader, chief, boss. Also "Big Tyee" in the context of "boss" or well-known person. In Campbell River and in the sport-fishing business, a really big chinook salmon (Campbell River) is a Tyee. In the Jargon Tyee meant chief, and could also be an adjective denoting "big", as with "tyee salmon" or "tyee lamel" (boss mule). A "hyas tyee" means "important/big ruler/leader", i.e. — king, big boss, important ruler, and is also sometimes used in English in the same way as Big Tyee. e.g. "He was the undisputed hyas tyee of all the country between the Johnstone Strait and Comox" This was also the common title used for the famous chiefs of the early era, such as Maquinna, for whom it was applied by Captain Vancouver and others in the context of "king". The "Hyas Klootchman Tyee" — "Great Woman Ruler", roughly "Her Majesty", was the historical term for Queen Victoria. The word tyee was commonly used and still occurs in some local English usages meaning "boss" or someone in charge. Business and local political and community figures of a certain stature from some areas are sometimes referred to in the British Columbia papers and histories by the old chiefly name worn by Maquinna and Concomly and Nicola. A man called hyas tyee would have been a senator, a longtime MP or MLA, or a business magnate with a strong local powerbase, long-time connections, and wealth from and because of the area.
* Hiyu — less common nowadays, but still heard in some places to mean a party or gathering. From the Chinook for "many" or "several" or "lots of". The Big Hiyu (also known as "The July") was a week-long joint celebration of Dominion Day and the Glorious Fourth in the Fraser Canyon town of Lillooet, featuring horse races, gambling, a rodeo and other festivities. A "tenas hiyu" (small gathering) was on a much smaller scale.

Notable non-natives known to speak Chinook Jargon

*Francis Jones Barnard
*Francis Stillman Barnard
*Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie
*Iona Campagnolo
*Sir James Douglas
*Sir Richard McBride
*John McLoughlin
*Theodore Winthrop

See also

*List of Chinook Jargon placenames
*Chinook Jargon

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