How the Kaoham Shuttle relates to Chinook Jargon

Why is a local railway train between Lillooet and Seton Lake First Nation, British Columbia named the Kaoham Shuttle?


Kaoham Shuttle track, Seton Lake, BC (image credit: Wikipedia)

The answer to that question involves Chinuk Wawa!

But the name is in St’át’imcets, i.e. “Lillooet” Salish.

The giveaway is this typical -am suffix, versions of which are found in every language of the Salish family. To avoid hopping on the Nerd Express and leaving you at the station, I’m only going to say that -am means something like ‘doing’. Or, if you’re better at CW than at English, it’s like the mamuk- prefix.

This leaves us with kaoh.

Maybe 1 in 100 of you will have already figured out what that came from…it’s ultimately from English car, as in ‘the cars of a train’. The “ao” spelling is meant to convey the same vowel as in English “car”, because plain “a” in St’át’imcets sounds more like the vowel in English “cat”.

But it’s most probable that such a word got into St’át’imcets from the Jargon, not directly from English.

Sure enough, a widely known Chinook Jargon word for ‘train’ is ká.

You won’t find it in the 2012 Grand Ronde Tribes dictionary, which instead shows us páya-t’sìkt’sik (literally ‘fire-car(t)’, translated as ‘locomotive’ in that dictionary). But right in the neighborhood, Cowlitz Salish has kás, and Upper Chehalis has ká•s, for ‘train’ (compare English ‘cars’). And British Columbia Chinuk Wawa widely uses stím-kà(r) — pretty exactly equivalent to páya-t’sìkt’sik! 

Thus the kaoh in St’át’imcets Salish, with an extra “h” between its final vowel and the -am suffix. (As the grammar at the previous link can tell you. And here’s a link to a dictionary of that language, which has plenty of Chinook loans besides this one.)

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?