In which Jesus has his henchmen score some “moolah”

[Edited 04/23/16 as I learned more about mules and donkeys.]

Not to be an ass, but here’s the spoiler: an interesting word for “mule” gets used in the Kamloops Wawa‘s first telling of the Palm Sunday story.  (This is issue #21, from 10 April 1892 on the front page which is technically called page 81.)


Starting at the colon (sorry, another ass joke) on the first line, we have this narration:

Pi msaika nanish iht klushmin mula kanamokst
iaka tanas: Tlus msaika mamuk shako [NULL] iakwa: Pus klaksta
wawa ikta kopa msaika, tlus msaika wawa: “Nsaika taii
tiki raid kopa ukuk mula, pi iaka wawa kopa msaika
aias tlus. Klaska mamuk kakwa ShK wawa kopa klaska,
pi klaska mamuk shako ukuk mula kopa iaka pi klaska mash klas[ka]
kot kopa ukuk mula: pi ShK iaka raid kopa ukuk mula pi

So the burden of the Chinook is like this:

“And you folks will see a female mule [SIC] with
her foal: Drive [them] here: If anyone
asks you anything, tell them: “Our boss
wants to ride on this mule [SIC}, and he says to you that
it’s all right.[“]  They did as Jesus told them,
and they drove that mule [SIC} to him and they put their
coats on that mule [SIC]: and Jesus rode on that mule [SIC] and[…]”

(I’m striving for as un-beastly a translation as I can give.)

Why am I braying about this donkey business so much?  What’s so interesting here?  (Besides the SIC misuse of a word for ‘mule’…typically only donkeys are capable of having babies…although maybe this is a hint of another Jesus miracle.)  



If you’re like most Chinookers these days, you learned your Chinuk Wawa one of two ways: (1) via the successful network that the Grand Ronde folks have gotten set up, or (2) from Duane Pasco’s “Tenas Wawa” materials.

tenas wawa

For Grand Ronde, “lemula”, with a Bay Center variant mula, means “mill, sawmill, machine”.  The same goes for Tenas Wawa, whose “colorful serial saga” has “Moola John” (Sawmill John) for its main character.

When I check with my reliable if blurry copy of Samuel V. Johnson’s dissertation, I see in his entry for MULE.1 that “moola” indeed was the Chinook name of this animal in the southern interior of BC.  (Johnny B. Good has it in his 1880 word list.)  It’s also in the 1924 dictionary that Father Le Jeune, the writer of Kamloops Wawa, issued.  I don’t see this form for “mule” given for any other region, and instead “moola” is the usual word for a “mill” in essentially all sources.  So that’s cool point #1 — mula is a distinct word of BC dialect in Jargon.

Cool point #2 — the Grand Ronde word for a “mill”, with its le- from the French definite article clitic (linguist geekery there, pointing out that le is not actually “a word” in French), is a dialect word too.  It’s not listed in S.V. Johnson’s huge collation of a ton of old sources.

Cool point #3 — back to the animals again: S.V. Johnson could’ve given himself more glory if he had split up his entry for MULE.1.  Because it actually contains at least three distinct forms:

  1. lamil (I’m showing it in the spelling of Grand Ronde, where it’s also used)
  2. le mulet (I suppose this is phonetically ləmuléy)
  3. moola (also moolo which could be just one of JB Good’s many typos)

Each of these comes from a separate source.  That’s my reason for saying each deserves its own entry in a dictionary, which Johnson actually does with many lexical items.  For example, he also has an entry MULE.2 which is mule from English, known from Le Jeune’s 1924 documentation.

Lamil goes back to French la mule, a female mule, as the Grand Ronde dictionary rightly points out.  Le mulet correspondingly traces to the French for a male mule.

But moola/moolo?  If those don’t trace back to French…

jesus garcia

Jesús García

Cool point #4 — moola may very likely be one of the rare words of Jargon that comes from Spanish.  There is excellent reason to believe this.  Packers, that is transporters of goods overland on horse- and mule-back, were often of Mexican extraction in the southern interior of BC.  One who you’ll hear plenty about in the vicinity of Kamloops is another mule-riding Jesus, the Sonora native Jesus Garcia who became a prominent citizen of Merritt, BC and is mentioned several times in Kamloops Wawa.  

These Hispanic packers left their linguistic mark on BC’s cultural landscape in other ways that we already know of for certain.  An example is the Dakelh (Carrier, Dene) word for “canvas”, mandah , from Spanish manta, a (saddle-) blanket.

The Spanish for “female mule” is mula.  And “male mule” is mulo.  So go figure…maybe JB Good didn’t make a typo with his moolo, and we have words for both genders in regional Chinook Jargon.

We got a lot of mileage out of Jesus’ mule, huh?  I think we’ve all learned something today.