Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Klootchman


[KLOOTCH-man] or [KLOOTSH’-man], [KLUT-shimin] (Kamloops regional varient) — noun, adjective.

Meaning: Woman; female; wife; lady; madam; nurse (profession)

Origin: From Nootka Jargon klutsma ‘woman’ < Nuu-chah-nulth tlotsma ; Toquaht klutsma – woman, wife. Terminal -n in the Chinook Wawa form may be by analogy with English woman.

Klootchman is used to mean “a woman”, though a more direct translation of its use would be “female”, since it is commonly uses to refer to the female or feminine version of something.

Historically, “klootchman” only referred to a First Nations adult woman, unless combined with another word, such as “Kingchauch klootchman” (Englishwoman) “Boston klootchman” (American woman), or some other descriptor, such as “klootchman yaka man memaloose” (widow) and “tenas klootchman” (girl; young woman), which could also mean ‘daughter’, though the word “okustee” was also used for this term.

The word was also found in several kinship terms, including “ow yaka tenas klootchman” (brother’s niece), “ats yaka tenas klootchman” (sister’s niece), “tenas yaka tenas klootchman” (granddaughter), “klootchman yaka mama” (mother-in-law), “ow yaka klootchman” (sister-in-law of a brother) and “klootchman yaka ats” (sister-in-law of a sister).

It was even used in titles, such as “klootchman doctin” (doctress), “tyee klootchman” (matron; queen), and “hyas klootchman tyee” (Great Woman Ruler) which was the historic title used to refer to Queen Victoria of England.

Normally a noun, “klootchman” can be used as an adjective to denote female or feminine items or traits, such as “kahkwa klootchman” (womanly; effeminate) and “lesak kopa klootchman kah tenas mitlite” (womb), to describe female clothing such as “klootchman seahpo” (a woman’s hat; bonnet) and klootchman coat” (a dress), or for prefixing a noun to gender it, as seen with “klootchman mowitch” (doe), “klootchman itswoot” (sow bear), “klootchman chicken” (hen), “klootchman moos-moos” (cow), “klootchman lemooto” (ewe), klootchman cosho” (sow), and “klootchman kiuatan (mare).

Photo by Martha Boers.

Photo by Martha Boers.

The word is also central to a number of relationship interactions, including “kloshe tenas klootchman” (belle), “kapswolla kopa klootchman” (to elope), “iskum klootchman” (get a woman; get married), “Klootchman yaka chee mallie” (a bride), “man yaka kumtuks kapswolla klootchman” (adulterer), “klootchman yaka kumtuks kapswolla man” (adultress), “mesachie klootchman” (harlot), and “yaka tenas pe yaka klootchman” (heirs).

While grammatically “klootchman” would generally mean “woman”, it could also mean “women”, although depending on the speaker’s background, the English plural marker “-s” might be added, as with words like tillikum(s) and whiteman(s).

Klootchman is still used in some areas and with older people of an English-speaking background to mean a First Nations woman, or to refer to the wives and women attached to a certain group in a joking way. Unlike its male equivalent, “siwash”, klootchman does not generally have a derisive tone when used.

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Klootchman may bear some of its origins in the word “kloshe” (good), as in “a good ‘man’ to have around”, or “someone who makes you feel good”, but this etymology is highly speculative and may, in fact, be a folk etymology.

Also, an odd exception to the many examples listed above is the word “lamai” or “lamiyay” (old woman), which appears to derive from the French loanword “la vieille”, and is suggested as a posable etymology of the name of the Lummi Nation, who refer to themselves as the Lhaq’temish.

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