Sin as a Jargon word (kinda the opposite of ‘sin’)


J.A.D. Ingres, “Study for The Martyrdom of St. Symphorien” (image credit:

Not a word most of us would use every day, but it reflects a certain reality…

Very far back in the documentary record of Chinuk Wawa, there’s a word for ‘saint’, of all things.

So this is a trade language, huh??

Father Demers’s 1871 dictionary / religious instruction manual, based on 1830s Fort Vancouver-area speech, has < saï >.

That, of course, is from French saint, having been run through the Jargon rendering process that squeezed out all the oily nasal vowels. If you’ll allow me a strained Northwest Coast metaphor.

(Other examples of that — lamətay ‘mountain’ from la montaigne, lima ‘hand’ from la main / les mainsliblo ‘sorrel colored, brown’ from le blond, and the common Kamloops-area men’s name < Silista > from Celestin.)

Of added interest, saint seems to have gotten re-borrowed into Jargon a half-century later, up in Canada.

Around Kamloops, we find the spellings < sin > and < sa > in the Chinuk pipa writing.

And this ‘saint’ word is not just another literary loan used in Bible teaching — which makes it a different animal from Kamloops < Shakob > ‘Jacob’, < Pos Pilat > ‘Pontius Pilate’, and so forth.

The evidence that folks actually used < sin > and < sa > in daily life comes from some frequently seen personal names, such as:

  • < Poria / Polia > is an often mentioned local man baptized with the French saint’s name Symphorien, from a longer version written < Saforia >, evidently understood by local Chinuk Wawa-speaking Indigenous people as < Sin Poria > ‘Saint “Phorien” ‘. (This took me 20 years to figure out…)
  • Everyone in the First Nations communities called Father Le Jeune of Kamloops Wawa fame < Parisa >, which was their version of the French père saint ‘sainted/holy father’. (< Pir > (père) was the usual BC Chinook Jargon title for a priest.)

So you see why Chinook sin is the opposite of ‘sin’!

Kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?