Beans via Métis French

It looks like North American French has used an English word for ‘beans’ for quite a long time.


French Canadian (not “Boston”!) baked beans (image credit:

This is one reasonable conclusion to draw from the following:

  • St Laurent Métis French has both the native French word fayv and “beans”
  • Michif has (Algonquian Atlas) biinz, and (Fleury 2013) lii biins
  • Louisiana French, too, has both BEAN [bin] and native French fève, haricot, etc.

And this helps us make sense of Grand Ronde (Oregon) Chinuk Wawa labins / pins meaning ‘bean(s)’.

One of these CW forms is mediated by the Métis French of Canadian-origin members of that reservation community, and the other comes more directly from English.

Just a brief reminder — French words found in Chinuk Wawa are typically attributable to the Red River Settlement era and to Red River Métis people.

Another Chinuk Wawa occurrence of ‘beans’ is in Kamloops Wawa #198 (September 1901), page 85: bins. By the pattern that we have come to be familiar with in that region, that form is taken directly from the locally spoken English of the 1890s.

The word for ‘bean(s)’ is also loaned into some Pacific Northwest Indigenous languages, typically in the straight-from-English form, e.g. Nez Perce pinc / pi:ns and Spokane pín.

Bonus fact:

Interesting to me is that it’s actually kind of uncommon to turn up ‘bean’ words in languages of the PNW, especially in the interior.

We find much more widespread traces of the Canadian French word for ‘peas’, e.g. as lípʰwá in Chinuk Wawa.

(The conservative final /wa/ there is an exception to the usual Métis/Canadian French /wε/, but it’s the pronunciation that we indeed find in Michif and Métis French.)

K’alapuyan appears to call green beans ‘long peas’, according to the wonderfully comprehensive new dictionary of that language.

It would seem that beans of any kind were less of a presence than peas in the Métis-dominated fur trade era.

Kosay ti pens?
qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?