Four eyes

Edited 10/16/2017 to add: Coincidentally in the local Salish languages mús means both ‘four’ and ‘eyes’! Could that have influenced the Jargon expression by making it humorous? (If puns are funny.) Did local people joke around about musmus ‘cows’ and eyeglasses? Did they know that “four eyes” was already an English idiom? My head hurts. Back to your regularly scheduled program:

four eyes

4 eyes

(Image credit: ClipArtGuide.com)

“Four eyes is more eyes than your eyes”, we used to say in the neighborhood. Did you realize it’s a Chinuk Wawa expression too?

T.N. Hibben publishers of Victoria, BC have the same expression in their Chinook Jargon dictionary: Lakit seahhost (literally ‘four eyes’) ‘spectacles’.

In another fun 19th-century translation, Father St Onge’s dictionary manuscript gives us loket-siaĥost literally ‘four-eyes’ (as well as tala-siaĥost* literally ‘dollar-eyes’) as ʹlooking-glassʹ.

I take this not as contradicting Hibben, but reinforcing the notion: is this an early way to express ‘binoculars’? ‘Looking-glass’ had multiple meanings in those days, most prominently ‘mirror’ — as in Through the Looking-Glass: And What Alice Found There. From 1853 I’ve found an interesting sentence:

In constructing binocular eye-glasses, I use, for lightness, and economy, four pieces of common looking-glass, instead of prisms.

dollar eyes

$ eyes

(Image credit: Mogicons.com)

* Tlingit seems to have anticipated the Age of Emoji, borrowing the alternative Chinuk Wawa metaphor with its wakdáanaa ‘eyeglasses’ according to the Sealaska dictionary. My understanding is that is the Tlingit pronunciation of the Jargon dála / tála ‘money, dollar’.

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