‘Whole wheat’ in CW … a Métis-ism?
Is there some easily searchable full-text archive of historical French-Canadian newspapers that I don’t know about?
Round wheat? (Image source: De Warme Bakker)
In the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary of Chinuk Wawa, you’ll find a “regional CW” expression — i.e. not noted from GR elders, but documented in the creolized southern dialect — lúʔluʔ saplél for ‘whole wheat’.
This expression is known at least as early as George Gibbs’s 1863 dictionary of Fort Vancouver-area Jargon, with his < lowullo sapolill >.
Both spellings represent the words meaning ’round/whole wheat/flour/bread’. That is, both words in the phrase are polysemous.
- Apparently lúʔluʔ could indeed mean ’round’ in this connection, to my surprise, as some types are said to have this shape of kernel. But also the idea of ‘whole wheat’ is that you’re removing less material from the grains before milling, thus the ‘wholeness’. (Also lúʔluʔ can mean ‘a pile of’, etc., but I’m going to rule that out in this context.)
- The saplél conceivably could’ve been meant as either ‘flour’ or ‘wheat’, or even ‘bread’ as I’m about to show you.
English obviously says the words ‘whole wheat’, pretty straightforwardly indicating the entire wheat kernels that get ground into a particular kind of flour. As far as I can tell, this has always been the English phrase for the concept, back to before any known existence of the Jargon. Therefore, the English of England or Scotland (the usual origins of British fur-trade workers in the Pacific Northwest), or of whatever US employees were around Fort Vancouver’s wheatfields, could’ve supplied the model for Chinuk Wawa’s lúʔluʔ saplél.
Now, dictionary French says blé entier/complet, which also is literally ‘whole wheat’, like the English phrase. Also note pain entier (literally ‘whole bread’, which is another of the possible readings of CW lúʔluʔ saplél) for ‘whole-wheat bread’.
But we’d really like to know how Canadians and Métis people (Mitchifs) have historically expressed ‘whole wheat’. I have the devil of a time finding many printed occurrences of the above French phrases in connection with Canada.
However, one big fat clue comes to us in Laverdure and Allard’s 1983 (Southern) Michif dictionary from the Turtle Mountain, North Dakota community: < toonroon li blee >, that is, their pronunciation of tout-rond le blé ‘quite-round the wheat’ — i.e. ’round wheat’, as in the CW expression! (An example sentence given is < Nimyeushpitow li paen’d toonroon’d blee > ‘I like wholewheat bread’.
That’s not only the best evidence available to me at this moment for Canadian use, it also of course reflects Métis speech and is thus relatively likely to resemble what Francophone fur-trade workers called whole wheat during CW’s frontier glory days. (Might they have also said *kánawi-luʔluʔ saplél* ‘all-round wheat’, in an even more exact translation of the Michif expression? I’ve seen kánawi- used in ways similar to this, sometimes.)
This subject causes me to wonder if CW lakamín, from a Canadian/Métis word for ‘coarse flour’, la gamine, meant effectively the same thing…?
Because it’s quite interesting that we haven’t seemed to find any Jargon speakers saying lúʔluʔ saplél since Gibbs heard it in the 1850s. Lakamín however is everywhere, not just within southern-dialect Jargon but borrowed into numerous Indigenous languages spoken adjacently!
And if one expression for ‘whole wheat’ came to Chinuk Wawa from several likely French Canadian phrases, why not two expressions from even more phrases?!