Mamuk is a killer?

Add this to our collection of awful translations of Chinook Jargon.

Another orca with a Chinuk Wawa name that’s translated, er, creatively into English…

mamuk killer

Mamuk may seem to be a strange name for a whale, but it actually means Killer in the Chinook dialect of the Eskimos.

— from the Baytown (TX) Sun of February 22, 1978, page 11, column 7

Strangely, I kind of get the “Eskimo” element there, since Mamuk sounds like well-known stereotypes about Inuit people such as the 1922 film “Nanook of the North”.


But what kind of ignorance is being encouraged when we’re told that Chinuk Wawa is an Inuit language, and that mámuk means anything other than ‘do; make’?

It’s a lonely job, trying to correct the historical record 🙂

On the other hand, this 1973 occurrence is a really early use of the now-popular US English metaphor “killer” for “wonderful”.

What do you think?