A tribute to the Online Etymology Dictionary

The best user-friendly source of information online for word origins is the Online Etymology Dictionary.


(Image credit: Online Etymology Dictionary)

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I want to pay tribute to etymonline, as they’re also known, by showing you 7 entries where they’ve done inspired, excellent, original work relating to Chinuk Wawa. I’ll put a small comment after each of the quoted entries.

name for a group of related native people in the Columbia River region of Washington and Oregon, from Salishan /činuk/, name of a village site [Bright]. The name was extended to a type of salmon (1851) and a warm spring wind in that region (1860). Chinook jargon was a mishmash of native (Chinook and Nootka), French, and English words; it once was the lingua franca in the Pacific Northwest, and this sense is the earliest attested use of the word (1840).

(I really appreciate seeing dates for the earliest known (so far) uses of this word in English. I can contribute an observation coming from my linguistic research on Lower Chehalis Salish — I propose that ‘Chinook’ is a LCS word meaning ‘(at the) neighbors(‘ place)’. — DDR)

Canuck (n.)
U.S. word for “a Canadian,” especially a French-Canadian, 1835, perhaps a cross between Canada and Chinook, the native people in the Columbia River region. Often, but not always, more or less slighting. As an adjective from 1853. The NHL team in Vancouver joined the league in 1970; the name had been used by a minor league franchise there from 1945.

(A neat observation, if true — ‘Canuck’ as primarily a US word. — DDR)

cayuse (n.)
“horse, Indian pony of the northern Rockies,” 1841, American English, said to be a Chinook (native Pacific Northwest) word; also the name of an Indian group and language (1825), of unknown origin.

(This is one of those words that have always been said to be Chinuk Wawa but that we don’t easily find examples of in actual CW speech. — DDR)

muck-a-muck (n.)
“(self-)important person,” 1912, short for Chinook jargon high muck-a-muck, literally “plenty of food” from muckamuck “food” (1847), which is of unknown origin. Also mucky-muck; muckety-muck.

(I note that the first known occurrence of the supposed CW ‘high muck-a-muck’ isn’t documented here. — DDR)

double talk (n.)
“deliberately unintelligible speech,” by 1938, from double (adj.) + talk (n.). Old English had a similar formation in twispræc “double speech, deceit, detraction.” An analysis of Chinook jargon from 1913 lists mox wawa “a lie,” literally “double talk.”

(Etymonline has to be the only dictionary that connects ‘double talk’ with Chinuk Wawa! Here I advise caution, as the source that’s quoted is W.S. “El Comancho” Phillips, a notorious tall-tale teller. His “mox wawa” is surely just his own translation from English slang. — DDR)

1926, in jazz slang, in reference to the effect on brass instruments made by manipulating the mute; of imitative origin. Later also in reference to an electric guitar effect. As an imitation of the sound of a baby crying, it is recorded from 1938. Wah-wah pedal is recorded from 1969. Compare Chinook jargon wawa “talk, speak, call, ask, sermon, language;” Cree (Algonquian) wehwew “goose,” Lenape (Algonquian) wava “snow goose,” all probably of imitative origin.

(Let’s be clear that Etymonline is only saying that many languages have similar-sounding words for noise-making, not that CW or other Indigenous languages are the source of this English word. — DDR)

potlatch (n.)
1845, among some American native peoples, “a gift,” from Chinook jargon pot-latch, “a gift,” from Nootka (Wakashan) patshatl “giving, gift.” Later (1865) in sense “An Indian feast, often lasting several days, given to the tribe by a member who aspires to the position of chief, and whose reputation is estimated by the number and value of the gifts distributed at the feast” [Century Dictionary, 1895].

(The dating to 1845 in English sounds about right to me; this was one of the first CW words to gain pretty wide circulation in print. — DDR)

What do you think?