Wiskinkie etymology --- (relevance for "skeezicks")

Gerald Cohen gcohen at MST.EDU
Sun Apr 26 22:03:18 UTC 2009

Stephen Goranson's information below that the person "Wiskinkie"
(sergeant-at-arms of the Tammany Society) derives from the Algonquin word
for "eye(s)" is very interesting.  I'm not sure just how "eye(s)" can
semantically become a person of some sort, but I see what may be a parallel
in the word "skeezicks" (rogue, rascal).

James Trumbull's _Natick Dictionnary_ (Natick is an Algonquin language)
Mention "skeezucks" = "eyes."  English "skeezicks" is of unknown origin, and
in my May 2008 Comments on Etymology treatment of this term (pp. 2-6) I
theorized that Algonquin  "skeezucks" (eye/eyes; face) may be the origin of
English "skeezicks" (rogue, rascal).  But the semantic development is not
yet clear. English "skeezicks," btw, is otherwise of unknown origin.

Goranson's new information provides another instance of an Algonquin word
for "eye(s)" (incidentally a variant of the same root that appears in
"skeezucks") coming to refer to a person.  The semantic development of
Algonquin "skeezucks" (eye/eyes; face) to English "skeezicks" (rogue,
rascal) is still not entirely clear, but at least we now see that the term
for eye(s) can in fact come to refer to a person.

       For Algonquian skeezucks and related forms see James Trumbull¹s
Natick Dictionary under muskêsuk, n. (p. 70):
(1) the eye
(2) the face, Ezek. 10, 14; nusk- kusk-, wuskesuk, my, thy, his face or eye.
Trumbull adds in brackets:
Narr. wuskéesuck (his) eye
Peq. skeezucks, eyes, Stiles
Muh. hkeesque, eye
Abn. ne-siseg8k, ma face; 8s- sa face; ne-tsísek8, mon oeil.
Chip. hkezh ig, skézh ig, eye, face.
Menom. maish kay shaick, eye; osh kag shayko (his) face.
Shawn. o skeès a kwèe (his) eye)
Del. wuschgink, (his) face, Zeisb.

Gerald Cohen

*   *   *   *  *

From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Stephen Goranson,
goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sent: Sun 3/1/2009 8:25 AM
Subject: Wiskinkie etymology

OED Wiskinkie
[Etym. unknown.]
   The official of the Tammany Society of New York charged with the office
of door-keeper.
1800 Commercial Advertiser (N.Y.) 3 Jan. 2/3 Tammany Society, in the
following order: 1st, The Wiskinkie, supporting the Cap of Liberty veiled in

Tammany borrowed American Indian names; this apparently comes from such a
word meaning eye(s).

Watch-Tower, page [4], vol. 8, [col. 4 America's Hist N.] iss. 569
Publication Date:
May 12, 1807
Published as:
Republican Watch-Tower.
New York, New York
Tammany Society-or Columbian Order. Grand Anniversary Festival
Article Type:
[at Tammony] The Wiskinkie will see that no slave or tyrant enters,

Mémoire sur le système grammatical des langues de quelques nations indiennes
By Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, Pierre Etienne DuPonceau 1838 Google full view
Algonquin ...Wiskinki 1
1 1 Dans certaines sociétés américaines, qui affectent de prendre des
dénominations indiennes, le grand surveillant s'appelle le Wiskinki.

Transactions and Collections of the American Antiquarian Society 1836 p369
J. Long.
Eye wiskinky

Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society
 By Massachusetts...1843 p144 Chippeway (From Long's Travels, Lond. edt.
3. Wiskinky (eyes)
 presumably a reference to:
Voyages and travels of an Indian interpreter and trader :
describing the manners and customs of the North American Indians ; with an
account of the posts situated on the river Saint Laurence, lake Ontario, &c.
; to which is added a vocabulary of the Chippeway language ... [and] a list
of words in the Iroquois, Mohegan, Shawanee, and Esquimeaux tongues, and a
table, shewing the analogy between the Algonkin and Chippeway languages /

J Long, Indian trader.
English Book Book x, 295 p. : folded map ; 30 cm.
London : Printed for the author, and sold by Robson ,

Stephen Goranson


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