1932: “240 Chinook Jargon Words”

Does this have a US Forest Service connection, maybe?

Nika Tikegh Chikamin* (George Coombs Shaw) published a pretty decent 65-page Chinook Jargon dictionary in 1909, titled “The Chinook Jargon and How to Use It: A Complete and Exhaustive Lexicon…“.

*nayka tíki chíkʰəmin ‘I love money’

A reason for Shaw’s pen name might be that he had something in common with our present-day Jargon advocate Rein “Snass” Stamm,  being a bookseller. Maybe Shaw cobbled together that dictionary to earn some extra metal. Here’s his business card, from the end of the 1909 edition, right after the facsimile letter from “El Comancho” (Walter Shelley Phillips; what’s your Chinook handle?) on that man’s business stationery:

shaw business card

I’m not sure that I knew, until recently stumbling on it, that a drastically reduced edition of the above (just 16 pages) came out in 1932. It’s got the frank title “240 Chinook Jargon Words“.


Some of the words included puzzle me, for instance < mi-mie > ‘downstream’, which by 1932 was hardly known anywhere except at Grand Ronde, Oregon.

This is a really late date for a Jargon dictionary, amounting to a sentimental curio of earlier Pacific Northwest life, much like Edward Harper Thomas’ 1935 book.

I’m thinking Coombs’ 1932 mini-dictionary may show him making another easy buck, using someone else’s already completed work. In 1922 a US Forest Service official created a “Chinook Dictionary: Briefed by A.H. Hodgson from Shaw’s…” It seems to have been used to name hundreds of geographic features in the region. Coombs is one of the few previous authorities not mentioned there…

…But I wonder if he heard about, or saw a copy of, that “briefed” dictionary, and saw a business opportunity?

The timing of two different people doing essentially the same thing with Chinuk Wawa dictionaries, just a few years apart, is compelling.

What do you think?