Shoalwater Bay English & Tenis Illahee

Go read “Coast Weekend Road Trip: Chinook and Naselle” for a great getaway idea; I’m just going to excerpt 2 words from it…

baby island

Baby Island (image credit: DiscoverOurCoast)

...and those words are < Tenis Illahee >, quoted as the Chinuk Wawa name of Round Island in Shoalwater (Willapa) Bay. 

The article tells us that this translates to Baby Island. From other sources, we hear more specifically that that’s what locals call it in English.

These facts suggest one of those cases where you have covert Chinuk Wawa influence in local speech.

I conclude this because < Tenis Illahee >, i.e. tənəs-íliʔi (literally ‘little-land’) is just the normal “Jargon” word for ‘island’. It has been so since very early days.

We hear this view stated with regard to Round Island’s CW name, as I recall, in the field notes from Emma Luscier taken down by researcher JP Harrington in the 1940s.

And yet it’s far from stunning that some local folks might look out this adorable little islet that they all knew as < Tenis Illahee >, and conclude that the name involves another meaning of < Tenis >, ‘child’.

I’m sure you can see the sequence of historical developments in local thought and speech that I’m getting at here.

By the way, I have an impression that Shoalwater Bay communities have  quite a number of “local-only” place names and expressions in English. If this is accurate — and it really should get researched by linguists — it may reflect that fact that that little corner of Washington is among the very oldest continuous Settler populations in this state…

What do you think?