lápʰusmu, from Mississippi Valley French


apishamore (image credit: The Free Dictionary)


Another in my series on documenting French sources of Chinuk Wawa words…

lápʰusmu ‘saddle-blanket; sitting-blanket; bed’ in the Grand Ronde Tribes 2012 dictionary comes with a note on its ultimate origin as an Ojibwa word, and a comment identifying its initial l- as a French sign of a historical fur-trade role in bringing it to the Jargon.

I’d just add that the noun stem itself is definitely known in North American French varieties that played such a prominent part in Chinook Jargon’s development.

For example, the “Glossary of Mississippi Valley French” by McDermott (1941) tells us —

apichimont, apishimeau, Ind., n. A covering made of skins (Wisconsin Historical Collections, XVII, 116 and n. 1). In Townsend’s Narrative of a Journey (145) the word appears as apishemeau, which Thwaites, the editor, explained as “mats made of reeds, used for building wigwams, carpets, beds, coverings of all sorts.” Thwaites added: “The early Algonquian term was ‘apaquois.‘ ” Ruxton, however, described apishamores as “saddle-blankets made of buffalo-calf skins” (In the Old West, 102).

Notice that McDermott doesn’t decide which gender it is in French! He only describes it as “n.”, a noun. Normally in a word’s entry, he follows that with “f.” or “m.” The omission could signify something of interest:

  • Less so if it just means he got the word from folks’ isolated dictionary-style citations, such as those given in the entry.
  • More so, to us Chinuk Wawa people, if it indicates the word was typically spoken with the gender-indeterminate definite article l’ just as we find in Jargon. 

Qu’est-ce que tu penses?
What do you think?