LINGUIST List 11.1761

Tue Aug 15 2000

Disc: Etymology of 'Chicago' [LAST POSTING]

Editor for this issue: Andrew Carnie <carnielinguistlist.org>


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  1. carljweber, 'Chicago' Etymology

Message 1: 'Chicago' Etymology

Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 16:00:45 -0500
From: carljweber <carljweberemail.msn.com>
Subject: 'Chicago' Etymology

I'm not convinced of the "smelly onion hypothesis", i.e., that Chicago got
its name from the plant that got its name from the skunk, the word-stem of
which we learn in proto-Algonquian relates to 'urine'. I'm doing this
particular investigation -- and consequently putting my hope for clarity in
the experts -- only because constituting part of a broader project.

There were some very good and helpful responses to my original query. Some
were overly simplistic, at least one seemingly uncertain, and there were
more than a few contradictions on several points among the various
professors (regarding morphemic analysis and what specific language the
'skunk' word comes from). What I wrote is not in stone, but it is a
reasonable sorting and summarizing of the input I received from the
Algonquianist experts. My purpose is to present a comprehensible picture for
the intelligent non-specialist.

Algonquianists are not of one mind in looking at this word under a
microscope. For it to be said that one must "offer observations informed by
actual knowledge of the languages involved" might be a touch oversightful --
searching for informed observations had been in the first place the motive
for posting the query. 

As my etymological query refines itself, now we seem to have 'urine' +
'bushy-tailed animal' as the primary constituents. Originally, in response
to the query, only one - just one -- professor went beyond 'skunk'. Reducing
the word further, he said that 'urine' + animal-marker were constituents.
Only afterward did other professors come in with their seeming accord with
this.

Although I did not specifically ask for the etymology of 'Chicago', the
question was certainly implicit in my request for morphemic analysis. In
their observations, one -- again, just one -- professor correctly pointed
out the etymological consensus going back to the 17th century that 'Chicago'
was named after a plant, hence, the smelly onion thesis (which I have not
because of major reservations accepted). Further analysis shows the plant
was named after the skunk, and then we are brought to 'urine' + animal
marker. And the animal marker is said to be even further reducible to
'bushy-tailed animal'.

One of my current critics had previously in no uncertain terms stressed the
irreducible nature of 'skunk', giving "rabbit" as an analogous example of a
word that can no longer be broken down. I never bothered to suggest to him
that it was at least worth a try to see if the terminal stop was an
Indo-European passive.

Chicagoans believe generally that our city was named after a smelly
onion-like plant. Some few here and there mention the skunk, but the 'urine'
stem is beyond any scope.

There are still problems with the /-wa/ in /shekaakwa/, the proto-Algonquian
form for 'skunk'. My effort to sort and summarize what the professors
posited says that /-wa/ is the combination of the noun formative and the
animate singular gender marker. Currently we're informed on undoubtedly good
authority that the /-w-/ is part of the 'bushy-tailed animal' morpheme, not
the noun formative. However, nobody, in response to my query, had offered
this before the summary. The disparities have yet to be resolved among the
observations of experts I've received.

In addition, the identity of the specific Algonquian language 'Chicago'
comes from, and the analysis of the locative/plural is not convincingly
settled, although new information prompted by my summary is sure to be
helpful.

Not today, not next week, but sometime in the future I intend to refine
and again summarize my data, and any additional informed comment is
welcomed.






>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Andrew Carnie" <carnielinguistlist.org>
> To: <carljweberemail.msn.com>
> Cc: <hdrylinguistlist.org>; "LINGUIST Network"
<linguistlinguistlist.org>
> Sent: Thursday, August 10, 2000 10:38 AM
>
>
> > Dear Carl,
> >
> > Thank you for your message to the LINGUIST list. I can see from
> > your message that you are quite upset. However, you seem to have
> > misunderstood academic discussion as personal criticism. We carefully
> > read over the responses to your original summary, and we felt they
> > were appropriately toned and scholarly.
> > Your message, below by contrast, we cannot post. It constitutes
> > what is defined as a "flame". If you would like to repost your response,
> > properly framing it in less imflamatory language, we'd be happy to
> > reconsider.
> >
> > Best,
> >
> > Andrew Carnie
> > Moderator.
> >
> >
> > From carljweberemail.msn.com Wed Aug 9 21:11:45 2000
> > Delivered-To: linguistlinguistlist.org
> > From: "Carl Jeffrey Weber" <carljweberemail.msn.com>
> > To: <linguistlinguistlist.org>
> > Subject:
> > Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2000 20:08:35 -0500
> > MIME-Version: 1.0
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> > charset="iso-8859-1"
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> > X-UID: 33
> >
> > I can hardly contain my excitement -- and I mean it -- over the
profusion
> of
> > scholarship on the etymology of 'Chicago' my summary has prompted. I'd
> like
> > it to be known that I'm not a wham bam thank you person kind of
> etymologist,
> > although I'm by huge degree much more at home with medieval English.
> > 'Chicago' is a continuing project with me. Furthermore, I'm not
convinced
> in
> > the first place of the smelly onion hypothesis, i.e., that Chicago got
its
> > name from the plant that got its name from the skunk, the stem of which
we
> > learn relates to 'urine'. Those who subscribe to the smelly onion thesis
> > should be grateful for my investigations, which I'm doing only because
> > constituting part of a broader history.
> >
> > There were some very good and helpful responses to my original query.
But
> > some were high schoolish, at least one self-confused, at least one pure
> > bluster, and there were more than a few contradictions on several points
> > among the various professors. What I wrote is not in stone, and is a
> > reasonable sort and summary of the input I received. I will definitely
in
> > the future be touching bases with some of these helpful professors in
the
> > hope of following their kind and informed leads.
> >
> > Algonquianists are not of one mind in looking at this word under a
> > microscope. For it to be said of me that I must "offer observations
> informed
> > by actual knowledge of the languages involved" is severe, indeed -- what
> > other reason than that could there be for my in the first place posting
my
> > query? And why did some, who offer criticism now, not in the first place
> > offer constructive input then?
> >
> > Of course, if I must as part of my methodology incite the censure of
those
> > whose knowledge about the subject is far beyond mine -- if I must incite
> > this censure and disapproval in order to pull the pearly teeth of
> knowledge
> > from the stubborn jaws of erudition, well, it seems it's not such a bad
> > methodology at all. I'm overjoyed at receiving such incisive data.
> >
> > As my etymological query refines itself, I have 'urine' + 'bushytailed
> > animal'. Does anybody off the record object to this? I'm glad to get it,
> but
> > where was this professorial offering when I originally asked for it?
> >
> > Only one professor went beyond 'skunk', reducing it further, pointing
out
> > 'urine' + 'animal' were constituents. Other professors only afterward
came
> > in with their non-disapproval. 'Urinating' + 'animal' may be better, I
> > wrote, because of the non-static process aspect of nouns in these
> languages.
> > Is this right?
> >
> > All but two professors overlooked the point of the Allium tricoccum, the
> > *plant* (named after the skunk, named after 'urine') after which,
> according
> > to the smelly onion thesis, the city was named. Chicagoans believe
> generally
> > that our city was named after a smelly onion like plant. Some few here
and
> > there mention the skunk, and the 'urine' stem is never alluded to.
> >
> > There is still disagreement over the /-wa/ in /sheka:wa/. My effort to
> sort
> > and summarize posited that /-wa/ is the combination of the noun
formative
> > and the animate singular gender marker. Currently I'm informed on
> > undoubtedly good authority that the /-w-/ is part of a 'bushy tailed'
> > morpheme. OK, noted. But shouldn't I get some corroborative support for
> this
> > before I get on board?
> >
> > Furthermore, the identity of the specific Algonquian language 'Chicago'
> > comes from, and the story of the locative/plural is far from settled --
> but
> > it's on the way to being so.
> >
> > I must say again that some of the professors responding to my original
> query
> > were open, humble, and willing to share their knowledge. In fact, I'd
like
> > to point out that part of the professors' job description is to come
down
> > once in a while and interpret their collective findings for the
> intelligent
> > laymen not in their field down here below.
> >
> > Not today, not next week, but sometime in the future I intend to refine
> and
> > again summarize my data. Send me 'urine' samples and lighten up.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > ******
> >
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> >
> >
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