Three Mox places, or, I digress

river fork

river fork (lure)

In a comment to my post about Molalla-area pioneers, Sara Palmer raised a question about an Olympic Peninsula place name:

We see “Mox Chehalis” here in the south Sound as a road and watercourse name over west of Capitol Forest, between McCleary and Highway 12, so I think that’s a spelling that had some currency in the region at one time. I can’t imagine it’s anything but chinuk, but I haven’t had a reason to research it yet. I do drive it pretty regularly when I’m on that side of the forest….

Sara, thanks for raising this.  I’ve been told by locals that “Mox Chehalis” is indeed Chinook Jargon, and that it means “Two/Both Chehalises”, i.e. Upper and Lower, i.e. Oakville-ish and Shoalwater Bay.

This leads to something else interesting.

William Bright’s book on Native American placenames tells a couple of similar names: Mox Chuck “two streams” in Grays Harbor County and Mox La Push “two mouths” in King Co.

Bright goes on to say the latter connotes “two forks” of a river. (Compare mox la-boós “the forks of a river” as a phrase in J.K. Gill’s 1884 edition of his Chinook Jargon dictionary, which could suggest that the phrase was in some kind of wide use.)

If anyone is in need of 2 more cents to pay their taxes, I’m happy to point out that especially if it’s White folks that coined Mox La Push, there’s a reasonable chance that they (also) (amusingly) had in mind the Jargon word for the eating utensil “fork”, la-poo-shét in Gill’s 1884 spelling.

I say Whites because it’s in their languages of course that you have the metaphor of a fork for eating food and a divided watercourse being similar to each other.

Do you think my theory, um, holds water?

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