Suckling from Mother Kamloops Wawa
A constant source of sustenance for your curiosity: The motherlode of Chinook Jargon words that nobody seems to have researched before. Here’s a new one. (Warning: offensive language.)
< 3o. > Iht iht tanas klaska drit ayu
Some babies really
krai pus liplit mamuk wash klaska: klunas iaka
cry a lot when the priest baptizes them: maybe it’s
ukuk tanas lili wik klaska tlap tit kopa
those ones that for some while haven’t gotten the breast to
klaska mamuk. Pus wik saia liplit mamuk
work on. When the priest is about to
wash klaska pi klaska mama patlach tit kopa
baptize them and their mother gives a breast to
klaska, klunas wik klaska ayu krai kakwa.
them, maybe they won’t cry so much.
— Kamloops Wawa #207 (December 1903), page 121
There’s zero element of surprise in discovering that turn-of-the-century Kamloops Chinook Jargon borrowed the word tit to use instead of the older tutúsh.
And naturally it’s a street English word. That’s how pidgin languages, an animal that researchers have observed seldom has much to do with writing and reading, roll. You notice they didn’t borrow the more formal “breast”.
Also, conforming predictably with what I’ve pointed out to you folks countless times, new English loans into KCW usually had meanings that are more specific and narrow than the old Jargon words they bumped out. In this case, a tit is a tit is a tit. Whereas ye olde tutúsh, as a lot of you know, replicated the polysemy of the corresponding words in many Pacific NW Indigenous languages — “breast(s); milk” and with modifying adjectives, “cheese” and such.
Maybe less known is the fact that both of these words make prominent appearances in PNW place names. We know of a number of locales called Tatoosh…as it’s usually spelled…and sources are unanimous that “Tatoosh Wilderness, Tatoosh Buttes, Tattosh Creek, and Tatoosh Hills” and such all derive from the Jargon. (The important exception is Tatoosh Island, named for a Makah chief.)
Also recorded plainly in our region’s history are places known as Tit(s) this-or-that. Mark Monmonier’s delightful book “From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame” puts it right there in the title. In our recent well-intentioned efforts to remove potential sources of offense from the map, some of these are getting rechristened. Monmonier calls a misguided prude a misguided prude when he shines the spotlight on the land features now called Squaw Butte, Squaw Mountain, and Squaw Tip!
Whatever you feel about all that, I can contribute a shiny new 2-cent piece…well, metaphorically. To my knowledge, nobody has ever pointed out that some of these Tit names may have originally been Chinook Jargon. The BC traditional village name Squawtits, as egregiously as it smacks the modern ear, can be seen as a compound of two known CJ words. It may well have seemed such to the white folks like the McKenna-McBride Commission who recorded this as its official spelling while formalizing Indian Reserve boundaries; they were doing a lot of their business with the Indigenous communities in Jargon.
(You should be made aware that this name, now officially spelled Squatits, is actually Stó:lo Salish. Brent Galloway’s awesome 2009 dictionary of that language tells us that it’s Skw’átets, deriving from a verb kw’átem so that it literally means ‘trickling water in the back’, in Stó:lo. None of which needs to be interpreted as having prevented outsiders to that community from hearing it in Chinook Jargon.)