From mulishness to jackassery

hee haw

Thus my website improves 🙂

I’ve written about how Chinuk Wawa words for “mule” include some of the rare Spanish loans into this language, mulo and mula.  The kinda hard to use, but deeply valuable, resource of Samuel V Johnson’s 1978 dissertation in fact has more words for mules than even he realized.

SVJ, however, shows no word at all for “donkey”.

I remember mentioning on the old CHINOOK discussion list that I didn’t know the difference between donkeys and mulesToday I found out: donkeys are a species of their own, and mules would be the occasion for Kamloops Chinuk Wawa speakers to use their word hafbrid.  

Well, I’d expect people at the time of ‘peak Jargon’ to have been familiar with the difference.  So there ought to be Jargon words for donkey.

It turns out that yes, there were.  (Also, it turns out I’m not alone in being confused by donkeys and mules; read on.)

Hayu masi kakwa kwanisəm kʰapa shawash-iliʔi, thanks as always to Grand Ronde, for the first “donkey” I want to show you: the Chinuk Wawa program there made me aware of an expression from that region, yúłqat-q’wəlán kʰíyutən — literally ‘long-eared horse’.

That word didn’t make it into the published GR dictionary, but I was able to trace it to Father Louis-Napoléon Saint-Onge’s manuscript dictionary.  And guess what?

St O’s MS gives us 2 more words for “donkey”!  This is getting good.

He has chakas as in English “jackass”.  This he shows as being used in compound expressions, such as chakas-klai, literally “jackass-cry”, for “bray”.  (You know, the sound represented by the names Hee-Haw and Eeyore.)

Far from asinine, the astute Father St Onge throws in an especially cool donkey word that he says he knows from Yakima-area usage:  mowich-kiutan, literally “deer-horse”.

What else do we have?  Kamloops Wawa‘s Bible History made its appearance in at least a couple different versions.  One that the evidence suggests was composed by an unworldly KW editor Father Le Jeune actually misuses the local word for “mule” to mean “donkey”.  (The proof being that it talks of a female “mule” and her foal; mules are normally sterile, although I won’t argue if you say this is another of Jesus’s miracles.)

Bishop Paul Durieu’s original text of the same Bible story — Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem that people now commemorate with Palm Sunday — is more accurate with this wording:

iawa msaika tlap as pi iaka tanas
there you folks will find an ass and her foal

Interestingly, the word as is underlined in Durieu’s published text.  I believe that’s an editorial flourish by Le Jeune; he sometimes would visually highlight unfamiliar words for his readers’ benefit.

It would be mean of me not to acknowledge that Parisa’ Le Jeune redeems himself when he shows that he’s tuned in as usual to the speech of people around him.  In issue #127 of April 1895 (page 52), he mentions a gathering at Spuzzum, BC, where

iht tanas man chako kopa Shak As Mawntin, wik saia Kifirs Stishon
a young man came from Jack Ass Mountain, near Kiefers Station

And I would well-nigh wager $5 that my memory is solid about having seen a word donki at least once in Kamloops Wawa.  But I can’t find it at the moment.

So I’ll have to be contented with having taught you folks an ass-load of words that fill in some cracks in your Jargon dictionaries.

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