Chinuk Wawa and Me

I was wandering down a language chain, minding my own business, learning about the ethnic and linguistic subgroups of Iran, and somehow ended up (via an excursion through Turkic languages – spoken in part of Iran – to Korean and Japanese that may be distantly related in an Altaic language group) at a Word List used to show language affinity.

The word list was cooked up by a linguist studying American Indian Languages (especially one with a tendency to string more consonants together in one lump than even an Arab could speak – more on that below…) and found myself face to face with the fact that my day to day speech includes a couple of words right out of a Lingua Franca spoken from British Columbia down through Washington and Oregon and with bits into California.

Little did I realize…

I learned the words early and never thought they might not be universal English. For one of them, it likely IS (nearly) universal now. But, it would seem, it was not always so…

For me, when someone is talking on and on, I’d sometimes way they were “wawawawa” Often done in two stages. Wawa Wawa. Turns out wawa is the word for “talk” in Chinook Jargon or Chinuk Wawa. ( It can also mean tongue and language). Talk Talk.

As a small kid, we sometimes had a “Potlatch” at the Church. Some folks called it a “Pot Luck”. I slowly tended to always say potluck and shied away from “Potlatch”, yet remember it. In Chinuk wawa it is a potlatch…

While I never used it much, I remember folks saying something was skookum meaning an affirmation or strength. A skookum potlatch was a good one… and folks would wawa about it.

The local bigwigs were called muckamucks or sometimes MuckityMucks (that I changed into Lord High MuckityMuck for emphasis). In Chinuk wawa a muckamuck is big boss (though also a big feed, so a muckamuck potlach was expected to be skookum too… )

The wiki even suggests that moolah might be from Chinuk wawa moolah meaning a mill. I’m pretty sure we all know what moolah is nowdays, but I now have my doubts… Is it really used in England, Australia, New Zealand? Or only known from some old American movies? Or am I wawa non-cognito?

On the list I also recognized Big Tayee or big boss, but thought it was an honorific applied to a particular couple of locals in my home town as a ‘pet name’. Now I see it’s a part of something bigger.

Then there is Quiggly Hole or just Quiggly that means a basement or home built underground and is thought to come from kekuli or kickwilli that means down, underneath or beneath. Brings a whole new dimension to “Quiggly Downunder” doesn’t it? I remember someone using kickwilli, but never made the leap to Quiggly…

So now I’m wondering if any OTHER words I’ve used, perhaps not in a long while, or perhaps frequently, might not be English either? There’s several I’ve run into over the years. I’ve ‘always used them’ and just have no idea if they are English, American, my own invention, or now I must add Chinuk wawa… “Scrody” (pronounced like Sk-row-dy) meaning very messy or unkempt. The car was all scrody after we went camping. “Cruft” and “Crufty” I think are computer geek specific, but now I wonder, maybe not? Code that is full of left over bits and ‘dead code’ and generally messy is “crufty code” and cleaning it up is to ‘get the cruft out’.

So here I am, wondering. What DO I speak, anyway? As a child, we had a ‘moggy’. A term my Mum explained was a house cat that mostly lived outdoors and came to visit. Basically, an alley cat that adopted you. That bit comes from cockney, I think. I was as likely to say ‘tadpole’ as ‘pollywog’ and now wonder if I need to grab the OED and find out what languages THEY come from. We went fishing for “mudcats” and “Yellow bellied mudcats” a kind of catfish with a very sturdy character that would live in shallow muddy creeks and could survive a 20 minute walk out / drive home out of water… Are THOSE proper names of any sort? We caught crawdads, crawdaddys, and ‘mudbugs’… and I later learned these were called crayfish or crawfish by some folks.


At the start of the evening I knew what language I grew up speaking… Now I’m not so sure.

OK, the links and backing out to the background from this end point.

There is a wiki on Chinuk wawa:

(Could you, up until recently, have ever expected that that would make sense?
“There is a wiki on Chinuk wawa”?)

It has a list of wawa that made it into English (at least in some areas) along with a discussion of the history of, well, of “my area and north” and the usage of the language therein.

Chinook Jargon (also known as chinuk wawa) originated as a pidgin trade language of the Pacific Northwest, and spread during the 19th century from the lower Columbia River, first to other areas in modern Oregon and Washington, then British Columbia and as far as Alaska, sometimes taking on characteristics of a creole language. It is related to, but not the same as, the aboriginal language of the Chinook people, upon which much of its vocabulary is based.

Many words from Chinook Jargon remain in common use in the Western United States and British Columbia and the Yukon, in indigenous languages as well as regional English usage, to the point where most people are unaware the word was originally from the Jargon. The total number of Jargon words in published lexicons numbered only in the hundreds, and so it was easy to learn. It has its own grammatical system, but a very simple one that, like its word list, was easy to learn

My home town was just a couple of hundred miles south of Oregon and my Uncle had a farm near Medford Oregon (where we went each summer and sometimes in other seasons too). Don’t know if the wawa made it to me, or I went to it, or some of each.

After European contact, the Jargon also acquired English and French loans, as well as words brought by other European, Asian, and Polynesian groups. Some individuals from all these groups soon adopted The Jargon as a highly efficient and accessible form of communication. This use continued in some business sectors well into the 20th century and some of its words continue to feature in company and organization names as well as in the regional toponymy.

In the Diocese of Kamloops, British Columbia, hundreds of speakers also learned to read and write the Jargon using Duployé shorthand via the publication Kamloops Wawa. As a result, the Jargon also had the beginnings of its own literature, mostly translated scripture and classical works, and some local and episcopal news, community gossip and events, and diaries. Novelist and early Native American activist Marah Ellis Ryan (1860?-1934) used Chinook words and phrases in her writing.

According to Nard Jones, Chinook Jargon was still in use in Seattle until roughly the eve of World War II, especially among the members of the Arctic Club, making Seattle the last city where the language was widely used. Writing in 1972, he remarked that at that later date “Only a few can speak it fully, men of ninety or a hundred years old, like Henry Broderick, the realtor, and Joshua Green, the banker.”

Jones estimates that in pioneer times there were about 100,000 speakers of Chinook Jargon.

As I was on the edge of it, at best, I have to wonder if folks in Seattle or British Columbia have even more surviving words of it, cut adrift in a sea of Modern English. The Peanuts cartoon used “wah wah wah” as a ‘fill in’ for folks talking when you had no idea what they were saying. Turns out that, though born in Minnesota, Charles Shultz moved to northern California (from the wiki):

They then moved to Sebastopol, California, where Schulz built his first studio. It was here that Schulz was interviewed for the unaired television documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Some of the footage was eventually used in a later documentary, Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. The original documentary is available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

Schulz’s father died while visiting him in 1966, the same year his Sebastopol studio burned down. By 1969, Schulz had moved to Santa Rosa, California, where he lived and worked until his death.

So perhaps even his use was facilitated by some indirect exposure to the Chinuk wawa…

Santa Rosa is about 150 miles from where I was born.

Speculative? Yes. But not by much. Chinuk wawa was surviving in places with lumbermills long after fading in common use, and in the early years there was lots of timber being cut in Northern California.

The Native American language that has the load of consonants is Salish or the Salishan languages of the British Columbia / Washington State areas.

The Salishan (also Salish) languages are a group of languages of the Pacific Northwest (the Canadian province of British Columbia and the American states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana).[1] They are characterised by agglutinativity and astonishing consonant clusters — for instance the Nuxálk word xłp̓x̣ʷłtłpłłskʷc̓ (IPA: [xɬpʼχʷɬtʰɬpʰɬːskʷʰt͡sʼ]) meaning ‘he had had [in his possession] a bunchberry plant’ has thirteen obstruent consonants in a row with no vowels.
The Salishan language family consists of twenty-three languages. Below is a list of Salishan languages, dialects, and sub-dialects. This list is a linguistic classification that may not correspond to political divisions. Many Salishan groups consider their variety of speech to be a separate language rather than a dialect.

Most of those languages with only a few speakers left alive. Then again, I can’t see a lot of folks signing up to learn a language with a dozen consonants in a row without vowels or a breathing space…

And that linguist who made the list of words to compare? (Or, rather, several lists…)? Swadesh

So now you can ask the question:

Does the Swadesh list of Chinuk wawa have a wiki?

And will anyone understand that sentence outside of this posting?…

Finally, what started me down this chain was an ethno-linguistic map of Iran:

Iran ethnic map

Iran ethnic map

From this article

It shows an Arab band just about where folks attacking / defending the Strait of Hormuz would be. It also shows a large Sunni area south. From the map, the center of Iran looks to be sparsely populated. All interesting bits. Iran is more of a melting pot than one might imagine from outside…

And that is how my wanderings tend to go.

I set out to learn Something That Matters, related to some important News Of The Day, and end up saying “Oooh! That looks interesting!” and then “What, it’s connected to what?” until I end up at “No!? You mean I’ve had wawa words my whole life, even if not skookum Chinuk wawa, and no muckitymuck told me at the potlatch? I had to learn it in a wiki? I feel so in the quiggly about that… ”

Oh, what my 9th grade English Teacher would say about that …

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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21 Responses to Chinuk Wawa and Me

  1. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. Chifio, you always impress and amaze me with the range of your interests!

    English, of course, is a creole language, an amalgam of many different bits from many different sources. For someone who desires richness and nuance, this is a blessing, but for someone who desires order and regularity (think “Sanskrit”, “Classical Greek”, or any of the very heavily inflected and declined languages) it is maddening!

    Speculating a bit here… You have discussed both language and genetics over the years. In a very interesting sense, language is to culture what genes are to phenotypes. Just as our genetic sequences define the particular characteristics of the “genome space” that our body will track through as it develops, our language defines the particular characteristics of the memetic space that our culture will track through as it develops. Language does more than just define memes; it allows us to place quick markers on memes so that we can manipulate them more efficiently, and also, so that the memes themselves can more easily reproduce. Physics would be a good example of this; we develop certain models for physical processes, and then by naming them, expand our ability to utilize them, both in an abstract sense, and also in practical engineering ways. The down side of this process, is that once named, we also restrict our ability to modify those memes when we run across conflicting data. How many times have we heard people say “That’s impossible! The Law of Fill-in-the-blank prevents it!”

    I suspect that the creole nature of English, and the broad range of words which it is made of, is one reason why the English/American/Oz culture has been so enormously successful in the last few hundred years. It is one of the factors which has made our culture so widely adaptable and generalized.

  2. Ian W says:

    You have found the power of the ‘English’ language it was always a heterogeneous mix of different languages. The original Saxon plus Norse and German then the enforced French all breaking down when French ceased to be the ‘language of the court’. Then the various trading companies bringing back words from the middle and far East such as bungalow, khaki, curry. And as with wawa, they can all be used inside English without problems as there are no concerns about case, gender etc.

    This makes the language more resilient to change than other more rigidly specified languages such as French with L’Académie française where only the approved words can be called ‘French’. It also allows semantic use of many synonyms that is very powerful in adding nuance to the language.

  3. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: I hope that you are saving all your articles for an eventual publication in a book. It´s impressive your creativity.
    BTW: Wawa (GooahGooah, means Baby in Quechua language).
    You made me remember of I. Velikovsky, as language can tell us the story of mankind, its migrations, its joys and sufferings on the planet earth (and its upheavals).
    In Peru, for example, the pacific coast is full of chinese toponyms (name of places), but not only these but ceramics portraying chinese people.(Vicus culture).
    The first chinese writing was the QUIPU (KEE-POO), a knot writing found also in Peru, South America:

    where the root Ki (“kee”, or “chi”, means “energy” in oriental cultures, where the seat of such an energy is to be found at the “Hara”(Harah), the navel, the center of gravity of the human body……
    Summarizing: The Greek cabalah (different from Qabbalah), from “caballus”: (horse): The technique of studying the hidden meaning of words.

  4. Pascvaks says:

    An O/T, mostly; probably a very common observation by most parents too;-) My son seemed to have his own mini-language as a toddler (I didn’t pay much attention to my daughter, our first, I thought everything she did was special and didn’t have anyone to compare her to.) He had his own “words” for any number to things, a full vocabulary that only my wife knew what he was saying; example “Yah-yah” was “Water” and ‘Yah-yah-mellon’ was, obviously, Watermellon. Not saying that this has anything to do with NW Americans in the past 150 years, or SW Canadians, just throwing it out there as an “observation”. I was a Navy Brat, we bounced around and picked up a number of words and ways of speaking them. For the most part, we were quite adapt at ‘fitting’ in with the locals; as were the other Brats. We spent a number of years in the South, then California, and then the Old Man retired and we ended up in the Northeast, his old stomping ground. I guess because I then had so many cousins living around me when we finally stopped transferring around, that I spent more than a little time paying close attention to the way they got to be the way they were, and said the things they said, and how they spoke; in the past, with others, I didn’t think about it, I just adjusted to it all. FWIW, kids from Philly speak funny. (So do kids from NYC, Baston, etc, etc;-) I always thought my brothers and sisters were “normal” and it was just everyone else who had an accent and sounded ‘funny’. The more I heard over the next few years, the more I realized that different parts of the city had different ‘sounds’ too. In a nutshell, things were a lot different way back then in the Good Old Days; before everyone started watching so much TV and sounding “different”. There were millions of folks who spoke and sounded ‘different’, and they were really cool, neat, strange, and special too. TV Sucks!

  5. Andrew says:


    I love it…(and since this posting IS what it IS I shall leave it up to you to figure out what ‘it’ is referring to)

    Having spent countless hours of my 40 some odd years on this little speck we call the Earth on ‘piscatorial pursuits’ of the local anadromous species that eventually ‘pollute’ our local waterways up here in the PNW….I have some perspectives…(huh?)

    Translation…I do a lot of fishing in the rivers of Washington State. I have caught many ‘Chinooks'(king salmon)…many with a ‘Chinook'(a friend)…you see the Bureau of Indian affairs does not recognize the ‘Chinook’ tribe, so Chinooks are allowed to affiliate with other local tribes, if the tribe is willing to accept them. The remaining Chinooks are kind of a people without a home, but they are all citizens of the US. Unless they are the aquatic kind, then they could be Endangered or possibly extinct. Which opens up another ‘can o worms’ because then the EPA and NOAA are involved…Confused yet? Me too.

    The fly fishing chat room that I sometimes visit uses the term ‘an S river’ to describe a somewhat secret spot on a local river…without revealing the actual location. Between Mt Vernon, Washington and Seattle, approximately 50 miles you will find the Samish, Skagit, Sauk, Suiattle, Stilly (short for Stilliguamish; google Rodrick Haig Brown for some amazing stories from the 30’s and 40’s) Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and the Skykomish, It must be pointed out that some of them have forks.

    “If you come to a fork in the road…take it.” Applying Yogi’s logic…I fished ’em! I have caught Chinooks in all of them, and many times in late summer you can feel the Chinooks blowing…high pressure from warm Eastern Washington being drawn to the low pressure center sitting off the Washington Coast can whip up warm winds in the upper river valleys, just like the Santa Anna winds of Los Angeles.

    The Chinook winds signify the arrival of the Chinook salmon for the Chinook people. The Chinook salmon is the largest pacific salmon, some reaching over 100 pounds. It was because of these fish and their predictable arrival every year, it allowed the tribes to drop their nomadic life and build permanent structures. They adorned their Long Houses with Totems. Travel and trade between tribes was made easier with the rivers and relatively calm waters of Puget Sound. When the neighboring tribes gathered together they called it a Potlatch.

    A Chinook salmon might begin its life in the gravel of a small stream on the Snake River in Southern Idaho near the border of Utah, swim down the Snake into the Columbia, the same path taken by Lewis and Clark. Once the fish hit the Pacific they take a right turn and head for Alaska for a year or two. They get big and fat (actually 98% get eaten along the way) and return to the exact same spot to have sex and die. The entire return trip upstream, up to 6 months and 900+ miles, is done without food. They live off their fat reserves so by the time they are ready to ‘git busy’ they are literally half rotten. Not worth eating at that point, but their rotting carcasses move millions and millions of tons of nutrients from the middle of the Bering Sea up the rivers as far as Shoshone Falls.

    I have a BBQ apron that says ‘There is no Nookie like a Chinookie’…but having witnessed ‘Chinookie’ in person this past summer just east of Chinook Pass on the Bumping River, I can assure you ‘fish porn’ ain’t pretty!

    Let me attempt to make a point that may be germane this thread…

    The Chinook People were traders, the Chinook Jargon was used by all the tribes as the trading language. Iran has been at the center of a trade route for millenniums. Conflicts arose before Mohammad was even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. Likewise, linguistics has played an important role in this region since…the early days of Babylon…

    …and since I am known to babel on…I better shut up and go try to be productive…my 2 cents…


    A minor in Anthropology…a few grand…
    Rods, reels, gas, flies, and other accouterments acquired over the years…way more ‘grands’…
    The ability to whip out a 700 word comment off the top of my head…priceless…or worthless…I guess it depends on ones perspectives.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    I once heard English described as “German, after the French got through with it.” ;-)

    But looking inside Germanic languages we find they show symptoms of being an amalgamation. (Most likely of a semitic language and a highly inflected indoeuropean one).

    Then there was that whole Viking / Germanic-English collision in Britain that dropped case endings as they conflicted.

    (Then the French…)

    Now the melting pot of America disposing of “ought” (replaced with “should”, so ‘were to’ has had to fill in for it…) and adding “gonna wanna” and burger and …


    Well, they are archived, but if wordpress evaporates I’m not sure how to get them back. A “someday project” is to print them all to PDFs (fixing broken links in old articles along the way…) and save those…

    Per Asians in S.America: There is an interesting connection to Japan, too. On a date when a volcano blew up, a bunch of Japanese left. About the same time a Japanese pottery style that matches that area shows up in, IIRC, Peru… along with matching genetics…

    @Ian W:

    There is a theory of linguistics that highly inflected languages sometimes become agglutinative, then over time the agglutinations get absorbed as ‘endings’ or prefixes and the language evolves back to inflected. That tends to break down once writing is involved…

    So English lost case endings for things like genitive case. Instead we get words like “To John” and “From John” and “Of John”. But when are those no longer separate words, but inflections? Tojohn… Fromjohn… Ofjohn?

    It’s all in the timing of speech, and in the spoken form the spaces go away over time…

    So we’re on an oscillator…

    FWIW, the acquisitive nature of English is not unique. Some south Asian languages use Sanskrit the same way we use Greek and Latin (as roots for words and source for neologisms).

    Reading the history of Persian showed it to be an Indo-European base, but with lots of “loan words” from Arabic. The kind of Turkish spoken in those language areas (Azerbaijan Turkic) has loads of loan words from both Persian and Arabic. That tendency to soak up and use is more commonly a property of all languages. Though the highly inflected ones are more ‘conservative’ as you must cook up a set of inflections…

    Even the French Academy has not been able to purge “Le weekend” and other Americanisms… And as Spanglish shows, it goes both ways. (Listening to the local Spanish radio stations is interesting. Sometimes whole sentences in English, sometimes just a random word… Wah Wah Wah Greatest Hits! Wah Wah… Bailar este weekend at Jose’s Bar… No, yo no me gusta French Fries de Burger King… and over on the Gringo station it’s Taco’s and cerveza at Jose’s Bar, dance to Mexican tejano music …

    Frankly, it’s that universal tendency for people to ‘just share’ that shows up in languages around the world that gives me hope… Foods, words, drinks, dances. These things are just shared around along with parties and good times. As long as we can do that, there is hope.


    There is another ongoing debate on languages. To what extent are they learned and to what extent does each child ‘invent new’ (and lately, to what extent are they pre-programmed). My wife is a twin. They had a ‘twin language’ when infants. They still will both talk to each other at high speed fully interleaved. ( Yes, I went =No, on Tuesday?= to the store and got =Not with her, I can’t.= a new dress…) It’s maddening to me to listen, but they just do full bidirectional, often on different topics.

    My daughter called Yellow “lello” for years. There were “pet words” for other particular things, too.

    I had “feeter mannamers” when I was small. (Pajamas with feet in them)

    Some of it is just adapting to limitations of mechanical reproduction. Other bits are personally created once the idea of language is learned. (And that, IMHO, leads to conflict with English Teachers world wide as we start to say “eated” instead of “ate”… yet others like “he dragged it” are OK, while the much more smooth “He drug it” get deprecated… Languages become more ‘regular’ over time, especially if a lot of new learners join the language.

    But yes, English seems to absorb other language bits with complete abandon and doesn’t care what language base you use for making your new words. Alcohol and algebra anyone? And a tomahawk cruise missile is now known widely. As is squash…

    I’m reminded of that scene in Blade Runner where they are speaking a City Speak creole each time I go out for sushi and ask for extra wasabi…

    In Florida I had the odd experience of ordering in Japanese and having the Sushi Chef pause just a bit too long. Twice in two different restaurants. One was Chinese, the other Vietnamese… They new the particular food items, but not the conversational bits around it… We are adopting the Japanese words for various sushi items, but not the numbers or conversational bits. “Two maguro sashimi with hot saki” is understood…

    The more I think about it the more I wonder what I actually do speak.

    The base is Germanic, but the vocabulary is largely reprocessed Latin and Greek (with a French flair) while we’ve glued on all sorts of other stuff from all over the world.

    Then locally we’ve seasoned heavily with Mexican, and stirred with Japanese. ( I have no other word for dojo than dojo… I can use a phrase “Karate practice studio”, but no word… and what is the English for hamachi? )

    And I’ve got my own internal ‘odd bits’. I learned sign language some decades back, so occasionally I’ll just visualize a gesture… “Bad, tastes bad” is a hand taking from mouth as the tongue pushes forward with frowny face and turns palm down open finger spread. Much faster to do than to describe. Coffee sometimes is the right hand making a grinding motion above a left fist – yes, an old coffee grinder. “Coffee now” is a quick ‘grind’ and then the ‘now’ motion. “Lets leave now” is a ‘neologism in sign’ that my spouse and I use. Two “G” index letters, rotated forward… Kind of looks like “snapping your fingers” but with the index finger near, not touching, the thumb. (And the spell checker tells me that “frowny” is not a word it knows…)

    Sometime I find I’m tossing in a sign as I speak a verbal sentence. In a way it ends up like an Italian speaking with a lot of hand motion… Sometimes it’s just a facial expression that carries a word… Stylized, but there all the same. (Some expressions are normal American cultural things; others are part of formal sign, but adapted. A formal ‘head tilt’ for questions. A particular kind of grimace for ‘don’t like’… )

    In the end, I find that formal English is a production process, not what I think or use for my internal processes. (Some of which are symbolic non-verbal anyway… How do you translate an image of a dog with feet pointing strait up? [ “four paws to the moon” or ‘dead puppy’.. meaning something is dead; though it may be a ‘four paws to the moon idea he had’… as a logogram of the 4pawsUp and image of the person’s idea…) I sometimes see the Chinese character for ‘gate’ when thinking of doors or gateways (one of the few Chinese characters I ever learned…) It all ends up in one big pot, symbols / words pulled out as needed based on what works / fits best at the moment.

    Then I wonder if “that’s just me” or is it the same with everyone and I’ve just had a broader exposure to ‘odd bits’…

    Then I found out I’d absorbed a word or two of Chinook and didn’t even know it. Oh well, keeps things interesting I guess…

    “tap rt index to top lt wrist, G-roll fingers” or “Time to go now…”

  7. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. BTW you have to write on those flint tablets your are going to write in case of GWrs. succeed in destroying our planet, an English dictionary before it becomes spanglish…or kenyanglish :-)

  8. Andrew says:

    …and just for laughs, I had an aquaintance that taught elementary kids swear to me that he had a student once named Lemonjello. I don’t really care if its true or not, its pretty damn funny. Besides stranger things have happened…

  9. E.M.Smith says:


    If *I* write it, it is already too late to not be Spanglish ;-) Comprende?

    (What is the English for lariat, rodeo, chaps, lasso, chili verde, burrito, salsa, natchos, jalapeno, tortilla, arroz con pollo, comino, tomatillo, serenade – yes we mangled the ending, guitar -yeah, we dropped the last ‘ra’, castinet, gaucho, chaparral, arroyo, pronto, adobe, albino, burrito, burro, barracuda, barbeque, bandoleer, banana, booby, armada, alfalfa, bravo, tobacco, tamale, tango, tequila, vigilante, vanilla, tuna, vamoose, cargo, cannibal, canoe, canyon, canary, cafeteria, caldera, chocolate, coco, cocaine, chili, cinch, corral, desperado, fiesta, coyote, creole, galleon, hammock, hurricane, hoosegow, jerky, llama, key- as in Florida Key, machete, machismo, jaguar, mano a mano, negro, peccadillo, peso, palomino, pimento, oregano, mustang, mesquite, matador, margarita, and probably a whole lot more … )

  10. Pascvaks says:

    Names are another devilish field of quicksand, muck, and mire to slog through. Today, in the uninhibited world of Western Excess, some things once ruled by convention know no bounds. I have this funny feeling that we’re approaching the same point our extraterrestrial ancesters did 10,000 years ago, not sure what they called it, some today call it the Tower of Babel, Mumbo-Jumbo, Cut-a-Chogie, Get out of Town, Sienara, Aufweidersaehen, Tah-Tah, Arievaderchie, Aloha Muchacho, Chears Charlie Moment.

  11. Andrew says:

    @ E.M. Smith…

    You could write and ‘ese’ about that stuff!

  12. Halfwise says:

    And logically there would be some links back across the Bering Strait, too.
    Interesting that the Innu (“the people”) in our Arctic and the Ainu on Hokkaido have such similar appelations.

    The word “skookum” is a coastal word; it is not heard just across the Rockies, based on my experience of living in both BC and Alberta.

  13. Andrew says:

    @ Halfwise

    Having fished in Skookum creek as well as the Skookumchuck river, I would suggest you overlay your migration patterns of people from East Asia with that of the Chinooks.


    I would have thought someone would have explored this idea, so something might be out there, but let me just throw out a hypothesis if I may.

    I doubt there were bands of nomads on the Siberian Steppes waiting for the ice to melt enough so they could race to Wasilla or something…

    There has been enough DNA work done regarding the anadromous fish of the Northern Pacific to be able to paint a reasonably clear picture of how the fish repopulated the rivers as the ice retreated.

    The Coastal Tribes had it pretty easy. Just look at their lifestyle. It doesn’t take much to live off the land on the Olympic Peninsula. Think about it. A temperate rain forest, it rarely freezes at sea level. You have protein than you know what to do with; salmon, clams, oysters, mushrooms…the seals follow the salmon…way upstream…its safe for them cause the Orca’s won’t.

    Cedar is abundant, and easily split for shelter. The biggest red and yellow cedar in the world are out here. Not to mention the biggest spruce and fir.

    The people followed the fish. Its was a food chain thing.

    No doubt some displaced nomads shot through…probably heading for Florida or something, which would explain Kennewick Man.

    I bet there is something to all that…

  14. Judy F. says:

    My grandmother was born in Southern California,( where the family settled in 1847) and although she didn’t speak spanish, she would pronounce Los Angeles, with a hard G, which is the more spanish pronunciation.

    I too grew up in Southern California and I have always pronounced coyote as ky-yo tee. When I moved to to Colorado I found that the locals pronounce it ky-yote.

    My mother in law has some Irish background. To this day she has to put on her wraps so she can take a walk down the lane. It sounds more romantic that way, instead of saying she has to put on a coat so she can walk down the road.

    We grew up knowing the words potluck and muckitymucks, so they made their way “down south”. I do wish that some words used by my French Basque great grandparents were still in the collective family memory, but the words apparently didn’t make it “out west”.

    @Andrew. I had to laugh. When I taught catechism and was teaching little kids their prayers, I had one little boy who prayed “Hail Mary, full of grapes”. I never could get him to understand correctly.

  15. John F. Hultquist says:

    Starting with the double use of words:
    This place is now one of the most vocal but smallest wine regions in the State of Washington. Walla Walla —

    I live in the Kittitas Valley – a subpart of the Yakima River {see note below} drainage basin. We are in a direct line of travel of the early natives as they moved north and south on seasonal hunting/fishing/gathering. The local indians were aware of an outcropping of white “rock” near a crossing of the Yakima River just south of the town of Ellensburg. Apparently the local indians and the valley take the name from this physical feature as named in their language. There is not a stream or creek called Kittitas even though we have “The Kittitas Valley.”

    Below: I’ve heard this lady talk. The local university has honored her and many Yakamas {note the spelling – the Tribe uses a second “ a ”} have attended the university and a couple of other local colleges.

    A good friend grew up in the Yakima area with deep exposure to the Tribe and their culture. He has interesting tales and tells less than he knows.

  16. Ralph B says:

    In the Navy there is a word taken from Hawaiian…puka (pronounced poo-ka) which is a small space you can store stuff in. On a submarine we filled every little puka there was with supplies (used to walk on large canned goods as the passageways were stuffed too). Anyway in my travels I found that in some SW Asian country’s pooky is the word for female genitalia. Just something linguistic that I found interesting.

  17. Ralph B says:

    Oops I meant SE not SW…a bad pun could be generated here but I won’t go there

  18. northernont says:

    Wawa in the North American Native peoples language of Ojibwe means “goose”. Incidentally, there is a town in Northern Ontario Canada called Wawa which is where I am from.

  19. Halfwise says:

    Andrew you are right, Skookumchuck in the East Kootenays would qualify as across the Rockies. Not all the way out of the mountains but far enough from the coast.

    Still don’t hear Albertans saying “skookum” unless they are flaunting their BC connections…

    Linguistics on the west coast point to an old migration across the Bering Strait, then people pushed south out of Alaska by ice and then resettling Alaska from the south, post glacially. In other words, a closer relationship to east Asian linguistic roots farther south on the coast than farther north, which is hard to explain without referring to harsh conditions that emptied the north.

  20. Andrew says:


    Hah, well…one river I have yet to fish…but very much want to…is the Wallowa. It flows out of the hills in NE Oregon (hills = 4,000-7,000 ft in elevation…for everyone east of the Rockies, lol…)…very few roads…lots of rattlers…it then flows into the Grande Ronde, no doubt named by some French Canadian fur trapper with ties to the Hudson Bay Co…

    The Grande Ronde flows into the Snake, near Walla Walla, then on to the Columbia. The Snake, named after some misunderstanding between the local tribes. I guess the word for ‘River’ and the word for ‘Snake’ are similar in Shoshone.

    The Columbia was named by George Vancouver, a few years before Jefferson bought it from the Russians and sent Lewis and Clark on their adventure. The Lewis and Clark diarys are online somewhere, its a fun read. Those interested in linguistics….will note the words and spellings. Many ‘English’ words had yet to have defined spellings and the same word is often ‘spelt’ many diferunt wayz so it will challenge ur fonetic skillz, lol.

  21. Andrew says:

    @ Halfwise

    I did look up the word the other day. Skookum is Chinook for ‘strong’ and ‘Chuck’ means ‘Whitewater’.

    So as I see it…Skookum Creek and The Skooumchuck would be misnomers as neither are very ‘strong’ and the ‘chuck’ don’t have much ‘chuck’…particularly compared to the ‘Whitechuck’…now that is an aptly named river. It cascades down off the Whitechuck glacier, (I wonder if Patchy has an opinion on its size…) and during the summer melt, the Whitechuck, is raging, milky white and VERY ‘chucky’!

    All this makes me wonder…about the Hawaiian State bird, the Ne-ne (Branta sandvicensis). The names, are interesting, both the native name and the scientific name. Also from a genetics point of view…I am guessing some Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) got lost spotted The Sandwich Islands and said ‘screw this migration thing, we are staying put! No snow, tons of food, no predators…Aloha!

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