Fictional Chinuk Wawa resulting from bad research

chinook revolver.jpg

“Chinook mammoth ivory”-handled revolver (Image credit: 1911forum)

I know, I know…those 19th-century book titles…you’ll marvel at this one.

And at this claim made in it:


To shoot in Chinook is pu an a revolver is called sixpu.

— “The Romance of Savage Life” by George Francis Scott Elliott (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1908), page 280

Um, the above is not true.

It’s a sloppy misquote from (and/or misunderstanding of) the following:


The Chinook Jargon of North West America uses the phrase mamook poo (make poo) for a verb “to shoot,” and a six-chambered revolver is called tohum poo, i.e., a “six-poo.”

— “Primitive Culture” by Edward Burnett Tylor (London: John Murray, 1871), page 184

Which traces back to an extremely reliable source:

tohum poo, a six-shooter

— “A Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon, or, Trade Language of Oregon” by George Gibbs (New York: Cramoisy Press, 1863), page 21

Which is based on Gibbs’s actual experiences in the preceding 14 or 15 years among the Native people of the Pacific Northwest. His spelling tohum poo corresponds to the words now written in the Grand Ronde Tribes’ spelling as táx̣am pú.

Nice example of how you shouldn’t take previous “authorities” at their word…you have to think, sometimes more than they did!