Why not pork? Or lard?


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Why don’t we find (le) porc ‘pig’ from French in Chinuk Wawa?

I seem to discern a preference for the synonym cochon in North America.

Laverdure & Allard’s 1983 Michif dictionary consistently gives < li kwa(w)shoon >  for the animal ‘pig’ (a pronunciation of le cochon) and <li lawr > for the meat ‘pork’ (from le lard).

Speaking of le lard, we can recall the well-known frontier expression mangeur(s) de lard — is it significant that that’s de, not du, giving us an indefinite noun? — “a pork-eater, a novice, a greenhorn”, so called because a beginner “regrettait souvent le pain et le lard de la table paternelle” (‘was always missing the bread and pork of the home table’), acording to McDermott’s 1941 “Glossary of Mississippi Valley French”!

This brings up the further question of why we don’t find traces of lard in Jargon. Well, you definitely wouldn’t be carrying fatty cuts of meat around with you on long transcontinental brigade voyages! Here we can also point to Chinuk Wawa’s circumlocution kúshu-iłwəli ‘pork; bacon’, literally ‘pig-meat’.

McDermott’s data overall are in line with Michif, I suppose, since I find cochon at least in cochon de bois ‘opossum’ (lit. ‘pig of the woods’), but no trace of porc.

Valdman’s 2010 Dictionary of Louisiana French, as I understand its data, echoes this imbalance. Its cochon has several related entries and subentries, whereas porc makes only a one-line, unelaborated-on appearance. (Lard is given meanings ‘lard, pork fat’ only, in this dictionary.)

Summarizing — cochon looks to have been way more frequently said than porc by the kinds of French-speakers who influenced Chinuk Wawa’s development.

A postscript on that point: In Algonquian languages that many of the French-Canadians were familiar with, the word for ‘pig’ looks like it could be borrowed from this same French cochon. Plain Cree has kohkôs ‘pig’, which I suspect may be a partial reduplication. Eastern James Bay Cree has the equivalent kuuhkuush ‘pig’, also interestingly meaning ‘salt pork’ — see my speculation above. Ojibwe has gookoosh for ‘pig’ and again ‘pork’.

What do you think?