kopa tolo: An endless enigma

I sure enough don’t know everything there is to know about Chinook Jargon; just look at this example!

An old expression from the early-creolized, lower Columbia River world of Chinuk Wawa, is

< kopa tolo >

I can say with confidence that that would be represented in modern Grand Ronde spelling as kʰapa túluʔ.

But I’m totally mystified by this phrase!

Its literal meaning is ‘to (the) win’ — except, túluʔ is never used as a noun, in my experience of the Jargon. Only as a verb.

And to my knowledge, the language’s generic preposition kʰapa isn’t used with verbs. Only with nouns.

Plus, I can’t find any examples of this phrase being used in sentences.

And yet, Fathers Demers and Blanchet (and St. Onge, their editor) made a point of sharing their circa-1838 fluent knowledge of this expression with us.

A lesson you learn, if you do enough good research: not everything is knowable 🙂

What do you think?