Tapahote! Hilu mayka shim!

My friend George Lang’s book “Making Wawa” (UBC Press, 2008) presents the exciting contribution of a previously unknown early Jargon manuscript.

Pages 78-80 are photos of the “Ms. 195” wordlist, tentatively attributed to the Fort Vancouver schoolmaster John Ball and dated around 1831.  Read George’s book for the full story!  I’m going to focus on just one word:

TAPAHOTE

It’s translated as “shame”.

You probably know the Jargon word for “shame”.  Hint–it comes from English 🙂

But at this early date, there seems to have been another word for it in use.  Where the heck did it come from?

Here’s my guess.  Does it match yours?  Metis French.

In tapahote I’m able to see (with some squinting, by which I come honestly thanks to 20/100000000 vision) the informal French expression “t’as pas honte“, an exclamation “You have no shame!” / “Shame on you!”  In standard French that’s “tu n’as pas honte”.

I can’t definitively prove my etymology, but will you let me show why I think it’s a strong one?

  • The “h” of “honte” is pronounced, not silent, just as we’d expect from at least certain Canadian dialects–as opposed to standard French.
  • The vowel “on” is de-nasalized, exactly as we find in other Chinuk Wawa loans from French.  (Think of lita from “les dents” [teeth], and lemolo from “le marron” [wild, runaway] [itself a distinctly New World form, no?].)

What’s really unusual about tapahonte is that it would be a super-rare example of a whole French clause (or sentence) becoming a single Chinuk Wawa word.  I mean, Jargon has plenty of French definite article + noun units borrowed as single words, but that’s almost predictable, because those articles are never even said separately from a noun.  But here we’re looking at a French subject + verb + negative + object, a much more phonologically and syntactically complex unit.

Cool!

What do you think?

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