At last, an explanation for the idiom mə́kʰmək ‘resent, envy’?

This will be just a quick morsel.

love to eat

(Image credit: Targé)

In northern-dialect CW as used in BC, we have found many occurrences of mə́kʰmək (literally ‘to eat’) for ‘resent, envy’ somebody. 

I’ve long wondered about this expression. It’s not in any of the old standard dictionaries. But then again, lots of BC CW is previously undocumented by those sources. 

It’s such a strange expression to me, I’ve wondered if it was an old Indigenous metaphor. However, I haven’t yet found any suggestive evidence for that idea.

Could it have come from a Euro-American idiom like ‘eat your heart out’? If so, why wouldn’t it include tə́mtəm ‘heart’? I don’t know.

Well anyways, it now occurs to me that the known instances of this idiom appear to have been written (in BC’s unique, endangered Chinuk-Pipa alphabet) by a French speaker from France, Father JMR Le Jeune. Why do I mention that detail? 

Possibly mə́kʰmək ‘resent, envy’ could’ve come from Le Jeune’s francophone-accented English. Maybe his CW dictionary was failing him as he did some sermon writing, and he asked some local Tk’emlups friend, “How do you say ‘hate’?” — but his pronunciation was (like I’ve heard from some of my Québécois friends) “ate” [ét] ~ [éyt]?

Because in that case, he would be told, mə́kʰmək!

(I know some of my readers will swear this is another example of Indian humor…)

And I’ve just gone back to my draft dictionary of BC CW as written in letters by Indigenous people — and there is no trace of this idiom among them! (They must have marveled at Le Jeune’s way of talking, sometimes.)

Qu’est-ce que tu en penses?