Getting drunk with the Canucks etc.

pʰáɬlam (< patlum > in BC spelling) is a famous old Chinuk Wawa expression…

rum bottles

19th-century “rum” bottles (image credit: Pinterest)

It came about by folks literally combining pʰáł + lám ( < patl + lum >) (‘full of’ + ‘alcohol’) into a single word.

Evidence of its unitary status: as the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary explicitly discusses, this expression has a single stress, as does each word of CW.

Furthermore, that stress is on a different syllable from where we’d expect it to be, if this were a 2-word expression. That is, the way I hear Jargon being spoken, if you meant to literally say ‘full of alcohol’, you’d say pʰał.lám.

Interestingly, lám ( < lum >) as a word for ‘alcohol’ was uncommon in BC by the time this news story was written, with wiski being the usual term.

And yet < patlum > continued to be the word for ‘drunk’ – no one said *patl wiski*! 

So the original metaphor of ‘being full of liquor’ faded away for many or most speakers of the language. 

Remember Theodore Winthrop’s condescending (and probably deliberately so!) 1863 misinterpretations, such as “potations pottle-deep ensued” (page 25), as if to imply that his < pottlelum >, even though he spelt it as a single word, meant ‘a bottle (pottle) of liquor’.

Funnily enough, he makes it clear that in Jargon, Indians were calling bottles < lumoti >, a variant pronunciation of lapotʰáy, from Canadian / Métis French la bouteille. He also observes that the way folks asked for a drink of booze was to request a < lumoti >, a fact that I reckon helps explain his reinterpretation of the word for ‘drunk’. 

This goes into a capillary of connections:

A lot of the Native people Winthrop was dealing with spoke Coast Salish languages that had taken in the Chinuk Wawa word lam and Indigenized it. Thus the local word for ‘bottle’ in Klallam Salish is sxʷ-ləm-áy (literally ‘for-alcohol-container’), sounding pretty similar to Winthrop’s < lumoti >, eh? (We’ve also seen a Salish-derived word < lamala > for ‘bottle’ on the upper Columbia River.)