Date: 6/27/18 12:12 pm
From: Thomas Love <tlove...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Whiskey Jack
Lars and I have had an interesting side exchange on this fascinating matter. Thanks Lars for kicking this off.

I had the privilege of working with Algonquian linguist Ives Goddard on a project deciphering the origin of the name “Oregon” - “the most disputed of U.S. names.” We were able to determine that our state’s name derives from the New England Algonquian Indian word “wauregan” meaning “beautiful (river).” We published in Oregon Historical Quarterly in 2004; I’d be happy to send a copy of that paper to anyone interested – email me privately (tlove AT Linfield DOT edu).

Re “whiskeyjack”, there is no known mythological connection according to Goddard, with whom I just corresponded on this. He’s been working with the OED on the etymology of words in English of Algonquian origin (e.g., “raccoon”). Here is an excerpt from his message, describing two variants of the Cree word for the Canada Jay:

In brief:
whisky-jack was remodeled in English from whisky-john (which is also attested).

Whisky-john is from Cree wîskaèân ‘Canada jay, whiskey jack’. No clear etymology.

Arok Wolvengrey, Cree: Words [Plains Cree dict.]: wîskaèân ‘Canada jay, whiskey jack’
Albert Lacombe Cree-French dict.1874: ‘pie, oiseau d’hiver’

Eastern Swampy Cree and Moose Cree (C.D. Ellis): wîskacân ‘whiskey-jack’

In East Cree (a different language) this became ‘blacksmith’ (now ‘mechanic’) and the diminutive is used for the bird. (It is wrongly claimed by some that this was the original meaning.)

Not found outside Cree-Innu (Cree-Montagnais).
I asked him specifically about a link to the trickster figure “Wisakedjak” (see, to which he replied:

These are two different words in Cree, both with unclear etymologies. But there is no reason to link them either linguistically or mythologically. They are not actually the same thing.

And there the matter stands I believe.



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