laklés vs. klís, and Métis

Another of those words that have been in Chinuk Wawa for so long that they have both French & English roots…


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‘Grease’ is the word!

‘Fat’ city, man!

Possibly the first version of this word in Chinook Jargon was lakles.

This is from Métis/Canadian French la graisseI find this word, in all 3 Michif (Cree/French mixed language) dictionaries that I have, as < la gres >.

The 1941 “Glossary of Mississippi Valley French” tells us that in northern North America, (la) graisse meant ‘Tallow, fat. Commonly, bear’s fat.’

I said lakles might be the earliest version of this Jargon word, because of its French roots. Typically, any English synonyms that came into Jargon came a bit later. But the earliest source I know for ‘grease’ in the language actually has klis, from English grease. (This is the Demers-Blanchet-St Onge dictionary, compiled circa 1838, published 1871.)

Was there already some variation in Métis speech between la graisse and grease, so early?

I notice in Turtle Mountain (North Dakota) Michif the variant < la grease >… In British Columbia, Kamloops Wawa‘s Father Le Jeune reports (1924), besides < klis >, a Jargon word for ‘grease’ spelled in Chinuk Pipa as < lagris >, which by the rules of that alphabet might represent [lagris] or [lagrεs]. Regardless of the pronunciation, this < lagris > is yet more evidence of Métis French influence in interior BC.

The 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary gives only the klis form. This suggests to me that the English synonym had already taken over long ago, as GR speech typically preserves Métis expressions that remained current in the community in the later 1800s.

There’s a story behind every word!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?