Roses are…poo?!

roses are poo

(Image credit: AntWorkStudio blog)

I meant to write this in time for Valentine’s Day, sorry, honeypot! A little-known Chinuk Wawa noun is tsix-tsix ‘rose bush’, spelled < tsih-tsih > in its original documentation by Father Lionnet.

This may be a previously unrecognized early C.W. creolized word.

As the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary points out, it’s pretty surely derived from a Chinookan-language particle tsəx, which in Kiksht (Wishram) Chinookan means ’cause a sharp pain’.

Now, those Chinookan “particles” are stressed words, so I’d say that’s more properly tsə́x there, giving us a presumable *tsíx or *tsə́x in Jargon, meaning, we’d guess, something like *’to poke / scratch / hurt’.

Chinookan particles often got borrowed into Chinuk Wawa as verbs.

Verbs in C.W. can be repeated (with the second occurrence unstressed) to make an expression that suggests “doing an action all over the place / repeatedly” — thus tsíx-tsix or tsə́x-tsəx,with a literal meaning like *’pokey all over’.

In Samuel V. Johnson’s 1978 dissertation that tried to collect a lot of Jargon vocabularies into a single list, < tsih-tsih > is erroneously filed under ‘sweet’ (t’sí).

Our ‘rose-bush’ word is a far better match for Jargon ‘split’ (t’sə́x̣) and its relative c’húx̣ ‘chipped, scraped’. This whole set of words fits what we know of Chinookan-language consonant alternation patterns that expressed size or degree differences.

Could < tsih-tsih > also reflect Jargon tsíx ‘sharp’? Yes, yes it could. The Grand Ronde dictionary assigns an identical etymology (the ’cause a sharp pain’ particle) to ‘sharp’.

Which brings out a, to say the least, unexpected association.

Because Chinook Jargon also has tsíx-tsix ‘diarrhea’ — from the exact same source word!

The idea having been apparently one of pains all over the place, in your guts…

Which describes romantic love, in a certain light…

So my friends, there’s your Chinuk Wawa Valentine from me to you — some new news about roses, and the weirdest homonym pair in any language you know!

I end with a comment — I haven’t found any (pre-Chinuk Wawa) word for ‘rose; rose bush’. But in the “Clackamas Texts” collected by Melville Jacobs, there is a mention in English of ‘rose hips’; the Clackamas word will need to be tracked down. I haven’t found a sign of relevant words in Lower Chinook, Kathlamet, or Kiksht/Wishram; in Salish languages and Sahaptin, words for ‘rose’ are very different from anything we’ve discussed today.

Soon I’ll write about another rose-related Jargon word.

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