“Savash soap” & valuable new old phrases

Drawing_of_Fort_Vancouver_1851

Fort Vancouver, 1851, drawn by George Gibbs (image credit: Wikipedia)

A little-known manuscript by early Chinook Jargon expert George Gibbs opens our eyes to some actual usages…

It was published in two parts, nearly a hundred years after it was written, as the following:

George Gibbs’ Account of Indian Mythology in Oregon and Washington Territories

[ed. by] Ella E. Clark
Oregon Historical Quarterly
Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec., 1955), pp. 293-325

Part II: George Gibbs’ Account of Indian Mythology in Oregon and Washington Territories

[ed. by] Ella E. Clark
Oregon Historical Quarterly
Vol. 57, No. 2 (Jun., 1956), pp. 125-167
Several expressions that Gibbs reports in the manuscript may be new to you, especially if your exposure to Chinuk Wawa comes mainly from dictionaries.
Dictionaries of any language have a tendency to focus on isolated words to such an extent that you miss out on how the words interact with each other.
Chinook Jargon dictionaries especially have suffered from that traditional practice of lexicographers, in that you can say CJ’s primary means of vocabulary creation is the recombining of individual root words.
So, in the interest of documenting how the Jargon was actually and fluently used, let’s put these on record:
  • mameloose illahee I;316 [míməlust-íliʔi (already known to us as ‘cemetery’): land of the dead; the afterlife]
  • Elip Tilikum II:130 [ílip-tílixam: the first people; our long-ago ancestors]
  • savash soap II:131 [s(h)áwásh-sóp: urine used for hairwashing]
  • stick Indians II:133-134 [stík-ínjən (in Melville Jacobs’ 1930s representation): tall, ‘wild’ Indians who wander the forests and use the sleeping places of animals rather than build houses]
  • skookum sticks II:137 [skúkum-stík (not *skukúm… since Gibbs writes that word for supernatural beings as < skookoom >): powerful spiritual implements of carved, decorated cedar]
  • kamass stick II:141 [(la)kamas-stik: digging stick, implement for harvesting that root]
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