yútɬiɬ-lapúsh ‘cocksure’, a Salish metaphor

One of the uses of Chinuk Wawa’s yútɬiɬ ‘proud, arrogant; glad, happy’ is in a unique phrase from the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation community.

proud mouth

(Image credit: PRNewsWire)

This expression is reported in the 2012 GR dictionary:

yútɬiɬ-lapùsh ‘cocksure’

The entry goes on:

Literally “prideful mouth”; referring to someone who not only has a very high opinion of himself, but doesn’t mind sharing that opinion either.

I hadn’t put much thought into it before, but it seems clear to me that this is a “calque” on a SW Washington (“Tsamosan”) Salish expression. I found corresponding forms in 3 of the 4 languages in that branch of Salish:

  • Lower Chehalis:
    • stem yúl-ɬn̓əɬ ‘talking crazy’ (literally ‘crazy-mouth’)
    • stem yul-áq ‘tell a lie’ said of females (literally ‘crazy-talk’)
  • Quinault:
    • stem júl̓-əq ‘tell a lie’ (literally ‘crazy-talk’)
    • stem júl̓-əqs ‘tell a lie’ said of animals in stories (literally ‘crazy-nose/snout’)
    • stem c̓əp-ɬnál ‘brag or boast’ (literally ‘?proud-mouth’)
  • Upper Chehalis:
    • stem yúl•yul-aq ‘brag’ (literally ‘crazy-talk’)
    • stem cép-ɬna ‘boast, brag’ (literally ‘proud-mouth’)

These forms are built on 2 different roots meaning ‘crazy’ or ‘prideful’, one of which, yúl, is a presumable ancestor of CW’s yútɬiɬ.

These roots get followed by a suffix signifying ‘mouth’ (or ‘snout’ for myth animals!), or ‘talk’.

I want you to take special note that the resulting stem formations mean variously ‘tell a lie’, ‘brag/boast’, or ‘talk crazy’. My point would be that these are in a fundamental sense all the same Indigenous metaphor to these Salish speakers.

And that metaphor also shows up in Grand Ronde Chinuk Wawa, because there were SW WA Salish speakers over there, particularly because Lower Chinookans, already in the habit of speaking e.g. Lower Chehalis with outsiders, wound up located there.

So, by talking fluent Chinuk Wawa, you’re preserving the ideas of the ancestors.

Bonus fact:

I would add that the same Salish metaphor is preserved at Grand Ronde in piltən-wawa (literally ‘crazy-talk’), defined as ‘say crazy or foolish things; crazy or foolish talk’, according to the 2012 dictionary. The example sentence shown there is this:

o ′weyk-kʰəltəs mayka pʰèltʰan-wáwa sax̣li-tayí!
‘Oh don’t you EVER crazy-talk (say outlandish or foolish things about) God!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?