A Chinookan etymology for ‘mirror’

looking glass creek

Looking Glass Creek, chinook salmon habitat (image credit: CRITFC)

A super-charming Clackamas Upper Chinookan recollection tells of the people using the first frying pans they were given as mirrors…

Here is a great passage from it, in English and in Clackamas:

mirror english

mirror clackamas

In the first line, the word


ančx̣ilúkšdima ‘we used (them) for looking’ sure seems related to an early Chinuk Wawa word for ‘mirror’, known as early as Demers-Blanchet-St Onge’s 1871 [1838-early 1840s data] < shilakom > / < shilakompe > ‘looking-glass’, and still found in dictionaries made from 1860s data.

Some Jargon word lists represent this noun clearly with a “CH” rather than a “SH” sound, matching up with at least the č (and probably with the sequence čx̣) in the Chinookan word above. (A correspondence with čx̣ is perfectly probable; compare how virtually all old dictionaries wrote chxi ‘new’ as < chee >.)

My project of learning Chinookan-language grammar is ongoing, so I don’t yet have an analysis of the literal meaning of < shilakom > / < shilakompe >. But I can find the root in the word, -kšt / -kst ‘to look’ (as opposed to -kəl ‘to see’). Maybe it contains -x̣ Reflexive. Maybe the < -pe > at the end of the longer variant is the Locative suffix -pa. Maybe the literal meaning in Chinookan is roughly ‘you look at yourself in it’.

Fun bonus fact:

Also in early contact years, there appears to have been a Lower Chehalis Salish word for ‘mirror’ that meant literally ‘device for looking at oneself’. It got loaned into neighboring Salish languages (incuding in ‘spectacles’, literally ‘eye-mirrors’!). That pattern recurred with a number of newly introduced items. In other words, not only Chinuk Wawa but also one of the tribal languages of the “Chinooks” supplied a chunk of vocabulary for new trade items way back in the day!

What do you think?