‘Thing’ = ‘genitals’: a Chinookan metaphor

its your thing

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Full credit to Sarah, Tony, and Henry for noting this Indigenous metaphor. It’s their thing.

This Chinookan etymology of ikta originally appeared in an academic paper that most of my readers won’t have seen before, although many recent learners of Chinuk Wawa will know it from the Grand Ronde dictionary.

From “Chinook Jargon Etymologies” by Henry Zenk, Tony Johnson, and Sarah Braun Hamilton (International Conference on Salish and Neighboring Languages, 2010):

ikta 01

ikta 02

…The meaning ‘genitals’ appears also to have a Chinookan precedent: wá-kdi ‘vagina’ (literally, her property), i-č-kdí ‘my penis’ (literally, my property) (Wasco-Wishram [Chinookan]…)

What isn’t specified in the above or in the 2012 dictionary is that Chinook Jargon has a phrasing that continues the distinction made by the gendered wa- and i- nouns of Chinookan.

As I recall it from conversational usage (and, readers from the community, please correct me freely), modern-day Jargon says mán-íkta and łúchmən-íkta.

I can add that this Aboriginal metaphor does seem to be specifically Chinookan. The other major Native source of Jargon material, Southwest Washington Salish, does use a single word that means both ‘what’ and ‘thing’, as well as ‘property, belongings’ (especially clothing and accessories), but has separate words for genitalia.

It’s really interesting how some of the Jargon’s Indigenous metaphors can be traced to one language versus another, while others are shared across a larger region!

What do you think?
qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm?

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