Sunday, 4 December 2011

Are you friendly? - we are!

These are my thoughts on Russell Potter's recent posts on the meanings of the expressions "Mannik toomee" and "Teyma".

My view is that a close look at these words does support the suggestion that Kok-lee-arng-nun's "Too-loo-ah" was actually Franklin and not John Ross.

The expressions in question are found in the following sources:

1819 Franklin - "Teyma"
1825 Franklin - "Teyma"
1829 Ross - "Tima tima", "Aya tima"
1833 Back - "Timā"
1833 King - "Tĭmā"

1859 McClintock - "Kammik toome"

1866 Hall via Kok-lee-arng-nun - "Man-nig-too-me", "Ma-my-too-mig-tey-ma" (= "Mannik toomee" + "Teyma")

1879 Schwatka - "Munnik toomee"
1879 Gilder - "Many-tu-me"
1995 Dorothy Eber via Lena Kingmiatook - "Maniktumiq"

The different versions of "Mannik toomee" reported by McClintock, Hall, Schwatka, and Gilder are consistently a declaration of friendship. Eber's reported usage by the shamen is little different if at all - an exhortation to the group to behave non-aggressively to the strangers.

Such an amicable meaning would be out of place in Back's confrontation with the shamen during his ascent of the river and no shamen is mentioned in connection with the earlier, friendly, encounter on the descent, so certainly the source for this suggestion needs to be re-examined.

It seems entirely plausible that a sledge party from Franklin's ships could encounter a band of Inuit and thus pick up the phrase "Mannik toomee" in exactly the same way that later sledgers would do.

It appears that Teyma was not a proper Inuktitut word at all but a pidgin word used to initiate commerce.

John Ross's definition "the word of salutation between meeting tribes" seems closest to that reported by modern linguists (hence the title of this post). Franklin is also not far off target when, in the account of his first overland expedition, he describes the expression Teyma as "used by the Esquimaux when they accost strangers in a friendly manner".

Ross reports a greeting ritual where the white men call "Tima tima" which is then echoed by the Inuit, then the white men throw down their arms with a cry of "Aya, Tima". To which the Inuit reply with "Aya" and throw down their weapons.

In contrast, Too-loo-ah's reported usage seems more consistent with Back and King's understanding of the word as meaning "peace". Tacking the word "peace" on to a greeting would not seem unreasonable for such a humane soul as Franklin but as Ross did not misinterpret the word that way and only reported it as part of a verbal formula then that would count against Ross as Kok-lee-arng-nun's "Too-loo-ah".

So I'd say that this analysis adds a little more weight to the theory that Hall's informant Kok-lee-arng-nun did indeed visit HMS Erebus while Franklin was alive.


  1. Hi Peter,

    Excellent post! As to tima/teyma/chimo and its relatives, I'm happy to say that Kenn Harper has posted a clarifying account on my blog, which you can read there.

    We are all still working over "Mannik toomee" -- some sort of result will follow soon, I hope!

  2. Phew, a photo-finish! The link in the above text highlighted as "seems closest to that reported by modern linguists" is well worth a look.