McArthur’s “Oregon Geographic Names” (part 5 of 8)

PART 5 of this mini-series on CW place names from McArthur’s important book picks up with a name that might sound as if it were from Florida or Ohio…

…but it’s really Jargon. We’ll also see a Jargon-looking name that’s not…

(Image source: Waymarking)

…And we learn some genuinely old toponyms in this language.

Page 489’s < Miami > River (Tillamook County) is said have been called by Tillamook Salish Indians in the frontier era < Mi-me Chuck > or < Mime Chuck > (máyʔmi tsə́qw ‘downstream [body of] water’) “meaning a tributary creek or river [that is] coming in downstream” in Chinuk Wawa. This explanation holds up, in my view, as this northwest corner of Oregon was part of the earliest known CW-speaking area, where the Chinookan word máyʔmi was still in use. (It didn’t seem to remain well-known for terribly long.)

On page 498, < Mokst > (mákwst ‘second’) Butte in Deschutes County, central Oregon, is one of the many US Forest Service-bestowed post-frontier CW names in that area. It’s looking like virtually all CW place names ending in “Butte” fit this description.

Two places on page 501, < Moolack > Creek and Mountain, in Lincoln and Lane Counties respectively, reflect CW múlak ‘elk’. The Creek’s name is probably quite old, as it’s in a pretty early-settled area and has also been spelled < Moloch >, the sort of idiosyncratic spelling that we’ve typically found to be associated with folks’ actual daily experience of Jargon. The mountain was originally named in English, and only later changed to the CW word by government officials to reduce confusion with other Elk Mountains.

Noted on page 502, < Moosmoos > Creek in Clatsop County, northwest Oregon, may also be an old name, on CW’s timescale. There have been músmus ‘cattle, cows’ in the vicinity since fur-trade times.

Multnomah County’s Mount < Talapus > (t’álapas ‘coyote’), page 519, is another late-bestowed name change, not a historically used name.

Page 521’s < Mowich > in Klamath County is a railway station and is of relatively recent vintage, so here I agree with McArthur that máwich ‘deer’ is a name chosen for its nice sound. I’d add that it clearly came from a book — it’s got that standardized spelling that you find in literary CW.

An unusual moniker is page 534’s < Nenamusa > in Tillamook County is the subject of much local folklore that it’s “Indian” (Tillamook Salish) and that it means ‘sweetheart’ or ‘love’. Neither McArthur nor I find much helpful information to prove that, but we both think that it shares a Tillamook locative prefix < Ne- > with plenty of other places in the vicinity, such as Netarts, Necanicum, Nestucca, etc. McArthur overextends himself when he speculates that it might be < Ne- > + CW músum ‘sleep’, as if it were a word for “place to sleep” or “temporary camp”. Nope.

Neotsu on Devils Lake in Lincoln County is said to be an Indian (I would think Tillamook) name “referring to the lake”, where McArthur says Indian legends report “evil < skookums >” (skukúm ‘monsters’) live. He says he has personally heard the lake referred to as the evidently old local name “< me-sah’-chie chuck >, which is Chinook jargon for evil water” (masháchi tsə́qw).

On page 551, Ojalla Creek in Lincoln County is said to be a Finnish settler’s name, and not to be confused with a CW word. This is confirmed by other sources. Now see the next set of names.

< Olalla > (Douglas Co.), < Olalla > (originally < Olallie >) Slough (Lincoln Co.), and < Olallie > Butte (Jefferson & Marion Cos.), all reflect CW úlali ‘berries’. The first is in Umpqua country, an area that picked up CW pretty early; like the second of these names, it probably reflects actual people’s naming of their landscape. The third, however, is a government-bestowed name. Note the final < a > in the first two spellings; it’s typical of pioneer-era writing of the Jargon, where final “A” often represented [ei], which is a common variant pronunciation of [i] — thus this spelling can be a clue to the relatively great age of a name.

McArthur reasonably concludes on page 552 that < Ona > in Lincoln County is indeed Jargon (we’ve seen just in today’s article that that county has plenty of genuine CW names) but is someone’s old miswriting of < Ena > (ína ‘beaver’). I agree with his reasoning — this place is on Beaver Creek, and it’s not on the coast, where < ona > ‘razor clams’ live.

On page 563 we find < Owyhee > in Malheur County, < Owyhee > Rapids in Gilliam Co., and < Owyhee > River in Malheur Co. As you may know already, these mean ‘Hawai’i’, i.e. Hawai’ian, after certain specific Kanakas remembered for particular events that befell them in these locations. What you might not yet realize is that wáyhi is a Chinuk Wawa word. The last-named place was also known as the “Sandwich Island River”, a synonym for Hawai’i. The place in Gilliam County has a later origin, after a steamboat called the Owyhee.

What do you think?