Chinook Wawa

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Opitsah

OPITSAH

[o'-pit'-sah] — noun.

Meaning: A knife; dagger; razor; something sharp

Origin: Chinook óptsakh "a knife"

Illustrating the flexibility and poetic nature of the Jargon, the word for knife forms the bases of many other words and terms within Chinook Wawa. While a fork was sometimes called “lapooshet”, it was usually addressed as “opitsah yakka sikhs” (the knife's friend) or “opitsah yaka tillikum” (the friend of the knife), an expression also used to mean "beloved" or "sweetheart" in the sense that love "cuts to the heart", or that "every knife has its fork". In a more general sense, it also refers to the fact that a woodsman survives by his knife, therefore his “opitsah sikhs” ("knife-friend") is someone he can't live without, be it partner, best friend, or lover.


Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Snass

SNASS

[snas] or [snaws] — noun.

Meaning: Rain.

Origin: Chinook Jargon; From unknown origin, likely a manufactured onomatopoeia.

A highly expressive word for rain, "snass" is said to have rhymed with “moss”, and is the foundation for many Chinook Wawa words and expression regarding meteorological activity. One can inform another that it is currently raining by saying "snass chako", or say "tomollah snass" (rain tomorrow) if it is expected in the near future. A light rain shower outside is called  "tenas snass", while while a drop in temperature might bring "kull snass" (ice) or even "cole snass" (snow; hail). Occasionally the word "makah" would be used for both rain and snow, though this appears to be a local variant, possibly derived from the name of the Makah First Nation which makes their home on the western tip of the Olympic Peninsula. The expression for "storm" was a little more fluid, with a rain storm being referred to as "hiyu snass" or "mesachie snass", or occasionally "tamanass makah", though wind storms would be addressed as "tamanass wind" or "mesachie wind".

Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Mahsie

MAHSIE

[MAH-sie] — verb.

Meaning: Thanks, thank you, thankful.

Origin: French, merci  thank you.

Sometimes rendered as ‘masi’, ‘mausie’ and even as “masiem”, the world was adopted from French as a way of saying ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you”, or to show that one is ‘thankful’, "wawa mahsie" ( to give thanks, to praise), “kloshe nesika mahsie kopa Saghalie Tyee" (let us pray to God), and "mahsie kopa Saghalie Tyee" (the Doxology). However,  unlike French, the accent is placed on the first syllable when pronouncing the word in Chinook Wawa.

As in many languages, there is evidence in Chinook Wawa of calque, a process wherein the components of a word or phrase from one language is translated into another, preserving the direct meaning even if original source words become lost. This is evident in the expression “hayas mahsie” (thank you very much), an approximation of the French “grand merci”, both cases literally meaning ‘big thanks’.

The word saw the most use in northern British Columbia and the Yukon, and is still used in broadcast English in those areas.

Although Cascadia was never part of the French colonial claims in North America, and only one or two French ships ever visited the outer coast during the early fur trade era (the explorer-scientist La Perouse being the most significant), the French language was the main outside influence on the development of the jargon until the widespread influx of English-speaking Americans and British from the 1830s onwards. The cause of this was the important role played in the regional economy by the French-speaking Métis employees of the fur companies, including the Boston-owned Astoria Company.  The Métis voyageurs were the main contact the companies had with their native suppliers and customers, and many key words of the jargon were adapted from the patois spoken by these intrepid travelers and woodsmen. The French borrowings were more widespread in the more northerly reaches of the jargon's territory, and in other areas where the voyageurs played a prominent role (including the Lower Columbia fur trade forts).

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Demonstrating Cascadia Decolonization - Recognizing Indigenous History

Demonstrating Cascadia Decolonization - Recognizing Indigenous History

In this brief essay, contributor Trevor Owen outlines a decolonization strategy he learned while living in Australia. The practice of starting meetings down under with a “Welcome to Country” intro and sometimes presentation shifts the focus towards indigenous power and place.