Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tima and Chimo

The first use of "Chimo" as a greeting is in Drage 1748, in Hudson Strait: "The Person in the Canoe... shewed a Piece of Whale-bone, repeating Chimo, and moving his Left-hand circularly upon his left Breast..." Andrew Graham in 1768 wrote that the Eskimos "rub their breast with their open hand, calling in a pitiful tone, 'Chimo! Chimo! which is a sign of peace and friendship. Hearne records "Tima" in 1795: "Tima in the Esquimaux language is a friendly word similar to 'what cheer.'" Edward Chappell in 1814 wrote that "Chymo" meant to barter.

These words each derive, in my opinion, from words that have their own discreet meaning, but in this context of being used as a greeting they have merged. George Back (1836-37) suggested as much when he referred to the men he met "vociferating their accustomed 'Tima' or 'Chimo'..." And McTavish in the 1880s wrote, "I bade the majority of the Esquimaux 'Timah,' generally written as 'Chimo'"

Taima (the modern correct spelling of tima - teyma - timah) today means - that's all, that's enough, it's over.

Chimo (which I think traditionally was pronounced Saimo - like Sigh-moe) comes from a root "saimak" which means blessing or peace. Saimaqsaiji means peacemaker. Saimati in northern Quebec and southern Baffin is "flag" - because after conversion Inuit stuck white flags into the snow beside their snowhouses to show that they were Christian and therefore peaceful. The phrase "saimugluk" (used between two people) today is always accompanied by a handshake, but derives from the same root, so it can be thought of as once meaning "Let's be friends," "Let's be in peace."

So the Taima and Chimo of the early white explorers and traders converged. The meaning was one of friendship and peace, with overtones of barter at the time.

None of this helps us understand "Mannik toomee."


  1. Kenn,

    Thanks so much for clearing up the teyma/chimo question -- this was something Dave Woodman and I had just been discussing via e-mail.

    But I see you hesitate at "Mannik toomee" -- any light you could cast on that would be welcome! Having to deal with the variant ways of hearing this phrase in sundry explorers' narratives certainly complicates things, whatever its origin!

  2. Dear Dr. Potter,

    Please forgive this question, as it may be too off topic, or as a mere dilettant in all things Franklin, I may be unaware of that which is commonly known, but as I was reading and thinking about this and the related posts, I couldn't help but wonder...

    Is there a comprehensive list of all the non-English participants in the Franklin story 1846-1850? that could serve as a parallel to the muster lists of the ships?

    Has anyone drawn up a list of all those who were or were reported to be in contact with Franklin from the notes of 19th century reports or later seemingly reliable or probably oral history accounts, a list that would include ethnic, family affiliation, likely language groups, geographic locations, titles, and roles in their respective communities?

    If this exists where might one find it?

    Such an embarrassment of riches in the last week, from your blog and those of others.

    Many thanks!

  3. Dear Mr Cook,

    Many thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    There is, alas, no such comprehensive list. However, David Woodman's excellent book Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony has a listing of the most important Inuit witnesses. Now that Hall's narratives, McClintock, Schwatka, Amundsen, etc. are largely available on GoogleBooks, that listing and those books would at least give you a start.

    Someday, I hope, the Hall papers at the Smithsonian will be edited fully, and then we can at least have a comprehensive account of his Inuit witnesses. We don't know all we might like to know about all of them, but their (rough) ages, band, and personal history could then at least be correlated ...

  4. Dear Dr. Potter,

    Thank you, and also to Mr. Harper, I didn't mean to give him the credit for the post above, my apologies.

    Is anyone currently working on the Hall papers?

    Thanks again to all.

  5. That should have read "not give"...good grief...