Big, tall, Salish?

growing up tall

(Image source: Healthline)

Short and sweet 🙂 

JK Gill’s Chinook Jargon dictionary contains in its 1909 edition < tahl > ‘big’.

It’s the only source I know of for this word — in its Jargon usage, that is.

But I think I know the source of the word.

Once again, Southwest Washington Salish rears its head above the shoulders of the madding crowd.

(Mixed metaphors much?)

Lower Chehalis, to name the language from that group that consistently shows up as a contributor to CJ, has táw for ‘big; tall’. It’s an ancient root word for ‘(small and) growing up; child; young person’, going back to Proto-Salish and still recognizable in far-flung Salish languages. For example, Spokane has it in ttw̓ít for ‘boy’ (which gets shortened to the delightful nickname w̓íteʔ ‘sonny boy’).

Its use in a sense like ‘tall’ gives away its SW WA source, because it’s only those 4 languages that have evolved its meaning away from ‘growing’ and towards ‘big’.

And that “W” at the end? Well, my friend, it just so happens that Lower Chehalis has a variation between “L” and “W” at the end of words. So táw can sound like tál.

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