SOME VIRGINIA INDIAN WORDS
By WILLIAM R. GERARD
To the April-June, 1904, number of the American Anthropologist I contributed an article on "The Tapehanek Dialect of Virginia" a subject which I had had under study for several years and which concerned a peculiar Virginia speech that, in its phonetics, was almost identical with the dialects of the Cree group or division of the Algonquian language. In a notice of that article, in the October-December, 1904, number of this journal, Mr William Wallace Tooker expresses, in regard to the meaning of a certain number of the words mentioned therein, opinions that differ very widely from those which I hold, and which I perhaps too briefly stated. It seems proper, therefore, that I should again go over as much of the ground as the space accorded me will permit, in order to explain more fully the reasons for the statements that I made and which have been called in question by Mr Tooker, whose ideas in regard to the manner in which Algonquian phrase-words are constructed are extremely novel and differ very materially from those which I have gained by a quarter of a century's study of the dialects of this linguistic family, radically, grammatically, comparatively, and especially from the view point of its laws of letter-change, and are certainly far removed from those of the ancient framers of the language. I shall state at the outset that after a careful examination of Mr Tooker's article, which is remarkable, among other things, for the positiveness of its assertions, unmodified by an occasional qualification of "perhaps" or "possibly," and which call to mind the Abnaki saying that nekeinat ghclusin, I see no reason whatever for changing a single one of the views of a philological nature that were expressed in my former article.
Winauk. — Mr Tooker, following Dr Trumbull, believes that this name stands for waen-ohke, and means the 'going-around place.' There are three objections to this view, any one of which would be fatal. In the first place, the name was not that of a promontory, but of a piece of land of which the southern extremity terminated in a low meadow point on James river(a) ("Careless Point," as Captain Archer named it). In the second, the preposition waéenu, 'round about,' belongs to the dialects of Massachusetts, none of which was spoken on James river.(b) In the third, waeenu ohkeit (that is, ohke with the post positive preposition, as Algonquian grammar requires in such a case) means 'round about the land,' 'earth,' or 'country,' not 'going-around place,' and could not be used as a name for a locality. The place was doubtless named from the presence there of a conspicuous specimen of winâk, or sassafras, a tree which in favorable situations attains a great height.
Chickahominy. — The fact that the three last syllables of this word constitute those that form the name of a well-known food product has led to the erroneous conclusion that the two words are in some way connected, and also to the delusion that the suffix in each of them stands for the inseparable substantival -min, meaning 'fruit,' 'seed,' or 'grain,' and sometimes used specifically to designate a grain of Indian corn. Such was the idea of Professor Devere, who derived the name from the impossible word checahaminend, to which he ascribed the meaning of 'land of much grain.' Mr Tooker also seeing in the word some reference to Indian com, and laboring under the mistaken belief that it was the name of a people and not of a place, offers in explanation of it a word of so novel construction that I shall pause for a moment to analyze it. This word, to which he attributes the meaning of 'coarse-pounded corn people,' is chick-aham-min-anough. In his explanation of this compound,(c) he tells us that the element -aham is a " special affix or verb" (sic), which implies that he "beats or batters" the object min after the manner of the root-word or prefix chick. In the eastern Algonquian dialects the intransitive verbal suffix -häm and the corresponding transitive -hämën, denote forcible action, and, when combined with roots meaning 'to hit,' or 'strike,' form intransitive and transitive verbs that assert, respectively, that the subject 'pounds' or 'brays,' or 'pounds it' or 'brays it' (something inanimate). Since -häm is an intransitive suffix, and intransitive verbs do not govern objectives, it is difficult to see why Mr Tooker should select an object for his intransitive verb and why he should suffix it to the latter, for even had his verb a transitive form, the object could not be affixed to it, but would have to consist of a substantive standing apart In order to indicate the manner in which the object is brayed, he selects the adjective kitchi, which he uses in the sense of 'coarse,' a meaning which it could not possibly have. This adjective denotes, primarily, superiority or preeminence, and, when employed in the sense of 'large,' or 'great,' signifies that the thing qualified is large or great as compared with some object of the same class or similar to it. From its peculiar meaning it could not be used as a root for a verb expressing forcible action. Having abbreviated this adjective to chi, Mr Tooker finds that he needs a k in his word and thereupon boldly affixes this letter to the adjective and thereby forms a root(d) of entirely different meaning. Of the suffix anough, of the meaning of which I have to confess my ignorance, Mr Tooker regards the terminal y in the word Chickahominy as a "softened " form. It will be seen from this brief analysis that the combination under consideration does not constitute a word, but is simply a collocation of vowels and consonants.
In the eastern Algonquian dialects, verbs having the inanimate active transitive form of the class ending in -měn (e) had the peculiarity that they could be used as passive participial adjectives, (f) and, from this sense, could pass to that of substantives.
The Indians of Virginia (like those of the three Americas, from Maine as far south as to Peru made a very nutritious food preparation by parching Indian corn and reducing it to a fine powder, which they called rokěhaměn, 'softened.' This word is cognate with Abnaki nuk'haměn, used as a designation for flour, and with Lenape lok'haměn, used as a name for bran or shorts. In Strachey's time (1610-13), this word had undergone no alteration; but later on, it became, in the pronunciation of English-speaking people, rockahominie (Beverly, 1705), rockahomine (Lawson, 1709), rockahominy (Byrd, 1728).
Again, the natives of Virginia, by boiling the acorns of the basket and live oaks (Quercus michauxii and Q. virens) in water, extracted therefrom an oil which they called manahamen, 'removed from,' 'skimmed from.' In the pronunciation of the settlers this word soon became monohominy. The Virginians also made a food product by coarsely cracking Indian com, winnowing away the chaff, and sifting out the flour, and, to it, as well as to the porridge prepared from it, applied the name of usekutehĕmin, meaning 'crushed by pounding' (from u, prosthetic vowel; seku, a root meaning 'to crush' ; te, a particle denoting that the action expressed in the root is done with a blow or stroke ; and hemen, a verbal suffix denoting, in the transitive form of the verb, instrumental action upon an inanimate object). Strachey appears to have been acquainted with this word only in such corrupted forms as usketehamun, uskatahomen, and usketehamun. The English colonists soon became very familiar with this Indian food product, but, finding its aboriginal name altogether too cumbersome for current use, contracted the already corrupted word to its verbal suffix, homen, hamun, homin, etc., and, rounding off this disjunctum membrum with a vowel, formed such terms as homeni, fiamuni, homini, etc. The very first mention, in print, of this abbreviated word is found in the form of homini in Smith's True Travels, Adventures and Observations, p. 43 (1630). Thus originated a term concerning the source and meaning of which there has been, up to the very present (the writing of these lines), more speculation than about any other Indian word that has entered the English language.
A few miles above the mouth of a tributary of James river was situated the town(g) of a "lustie and daring people" (independent of Powhatan) on a tract of land called Tshikĕhämĕn(h) (or, in the spelling of the period, Chicohomin, Chickahaman, Chickahamin), meaning 'scraped,' and implying a clearing. Smith, who was the first to visit this town (on the morning of November 10, 1607), made its name known in the form of Chickahamania, a spelling in which the Latin toponymic suffix -ia was an addition of his own, just as was the same suffix in such Indian names as Tanxitania and Shakaconia. The various writers of the period changed Smith's expletive syllables to e, a, ie, and y, the latter of which prevailed.(i) Thus originated the name Chickahominy, a word which, like rockahominy and monohominy, has preserved its root and taken on a paragogic syllable, while hominy, with its expletive syllable, is simply the corrupted suffix of a verb which has suffered the apheresis of its root (seku, 'to crush').
(a) " . . . a sharpe point, which is parte of Winauk: "— Archer.
(b) "The analysis of a geographical name must be sought in the language spoken by the name-givers." — Trumbull in Coll. Conn. Hist. Soc., 11, p. 50.
(c) Algonquian Series, IX.
(d) Kitchik 'to be speckled,'spotted,' 'dappled.'
(e) This suffix has been spelled with all the short vowels of the alphabet : -män, măn, měn, mĭn, mûn.
(f) For example: Natick, ûsowitämûn, 'he names it,' ûsowitämûn (pass, adj.) 'named'; wûsûkhûmûn, 'he writes it, 'wûsûkhûmûn (pass, adj.) 'written.'
(g) The exact location of this town, which must have been of some importance, is notknown, since it does not appear on Smith's map; but we know from the True Relation that it was situated between the mouth of the river and the town of Manascosick, which lay at a point 10 or 12 miles upstream.
(h) The verb is found in every Algonquian dialect from Maine to Virginia. It is from the root tshik (1) 'to scrape'; (2) 'to sweep.'
(i) The practice of adding a syllable to the suffix of passive adjectives of this class was not confined to the people of the South, for we find an example of it in the North. The Lenape Indians of New Jersey called the thin-shelled nut of the shag-bark hickory ( Carya
alba) sĕkuskandämĕn meaning 'crushed with the teeth.' Among the many corruptions which this word underwent in the vicinity of New York City was that of cuskatominy.
- American Anthropologist, Vol. 7
The American Anthropological Association, 1905
(To Be Continued)