Your Chinook Wawa Word of the Day: Opitsah


[O’-pit’-sah] or [UP-tsah] — noun.

Meaning: A knife; dagger; razor; something sharp

Origin: Chinook óptsakh “a knife”. The word matches one of two Chinookan nouns for “knife” or “iron”.

While the English word “knife” was occasionally used from time to time, as seen in “hyas knife kopa hay” (scythe), the native word was used more often, as also in the case of “yotikut opitsah” (scythe) literally meaning ‘length(y) knife’.

Also, illustrating the flexibility and poetic nature of Chinook Wawa, the word “opitsah” also forms the basis of several interesting turns of phrase; 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 could also be 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.

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