hílu-tə́mtəm from Lower Chinookan

Coyote’s turds are always insulting him…


Shooby dooby doo! I’m your trusted adviser! (Image credit: bear-tracker.com)

…In Q’lti’s (Charles Cultee’s) stories, when he poops them out in order to get some advice from them.

They keep saying in Natítanui (Shoalwater-Clatsop Lower Chinookan) níkšt tmíx̣atakux̣ ‘you have no sense’ (literally ‘not your.mind’) Boas 1894:92 (English translation on page 101).

This is paralleled in the other Lower Chinookan language, Kathlamet: nišqí ɬáx̣atakʷax̣ ‘they have no sense’. I haven’t managed to find traces of it in Upper Chinookan languages.

While I’m exploring the subject, as I have done lately, of Chinuk Wawa phrases and idioms that have roots in the old tribal languages, this one looks like a good candidate to focus on.

This níkšt tmíx̣atakux̣ corresponds word-for-word with CW hílu-tə́mtəm ‘lacking sense, as a simpleton or mentally deficient person; lacking in principles or character’ —

— I’m not so sure about the Lower Chinookan expression having any tie with the third sense given in the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary, ‘exhausted in spirit; lifeless’, which may have a separate inspiration.

I do strongly suspect that it’s Lower Chinookan (and perhaps other Indigenous languages that I haven’t been able to check yet) that supplied this way of expressing the idea in Jargon. I have not noticed traces of this metaphor yet when I examine expressions of ‘foolish’ and ‘stupid’, and ‘mind’, in the historically important CW source languages Lower Cowlitz and Upper Chehalis Salish.

Compare the Natítanui expression of assent to a request, máika tmíx̣atakux̣ ‘Willingly’ (literally ‘you your-mind’) Boas 1894: 69 (82) — sort of ‘as you wish’. Or, since it’s the opposite of níkšt tmíx̣atakux̣, we might take this as ‘you have a mind’ or even ‘you’re right’.

(Which is similar to certain Romance Indo-European metaphors, such as French tu as raison ‘you’re right’ (literally ‘you have reason / a sensible mind’), but I hasten to tell you that there’s scant reason to imagine the Natítanui phrase is any kind of French-Canadian loan.) 

I’ll be writing further articles based on this tactic of moving beyond individual CW “words” (lexemes), which have been the main focus of study for 2 centuries, and into the realm of multi-word expressions, metaphors, and such, very many of which have ancient cultural roots.

What do you think?