Alan H. Hartley ahartley at D.UMN.EDU
Thu Mar 11 01:06:27 UTC 1999

Here's the OED entry:

SKOOKUM n. and a. N. Amer. Also †scocum, scokum, etc.
[a. Chinook Jargon.]

A. n. An evil spirit; a disease. Obs. exc. Hist.
1838 S. Parker Jrnl. of Exploring Tour beyond Rocky Mts. 336 Evil
spirit, skookoom. Hell, skookoom.
1844 Lee & Frost Ten Yrs. in Oregon xvi. 180 He [sc. the medicine man]
transfers the ‘sko-koms’, or ‘tam-an-a-was’, or disease, wholly or in
part from the patient to himself.
1846 Johnson & Winter Route Across Rocky Mts. iii. 54 Several loud
shouts are uttered in as frightful a manner as they are able. They then
open their fingers gradually, to allow the terrified Scocum, (evil
spirit,) to make his escape.
1900 Oregon Hist. Soc. Q. I. 185 The benefits of his fishery had gone,
not to the people, but to the wicked skookum.

B. adj.
a. Strong, stout, brave; fine, splendid.
1847 J. Palmer Jrnl. Trav. Rocky Mts. 151/1 Skokum, strong, stout.
1891 H. W. Seton-Karr Bear Hunting in White Mts. viii. 83 He believed
that a bear would hold out its paw towards a man at a distance and feel
whether he was skookum–brave.
1901 Daily Colonist (Victoria, B.C.) 29 Oct. 6/3, I would have gone up
myself but could not stand the five days’ tramp with 40 or 50 pounds on
my back. It takes a ‘skookum’ man to stand a trip like that.
1913 [see rough lock, rough-lock].
1941 J. Smiley Hash House Lingo 50 Skookum, good; all right.
1949 Sierra Club. Bull. (San Francisco) June 105 Billy and Pete were
skookum, and I was pretty good myself in those days.
1962 E. Lucia Klondike Kate 12 As Klondike Kate, she was a mighty
skookum gal.
1975 Islander (Victoria, B.C.) 6 July 4/2 Ted, by this time a skookum
young fellow of 20, then turned his eyes further west.

b. Special collocations.
skookum chuck
[chuck n.6], a fast-moving body of water, a torrent, rapids; an ocean;
skookum house, a gaol.
1888 Lees & Clutterbuck B.C. 1887: Ramble in British Columbia xvii. 184
We arranged to meet at the Skookumchuck Creek (‘the stream of the rapid
1899 Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 1898 XVIII. 73 The passage is a ‘skookum
chuck’, through which the water runs in whirls and rapids almost
constantly and with great velocity.
1911 E. P. Johnson Legends of Vancouver 47 You have listened to the call
of the Skookum Chuck, as the Chinook speakers call the rollicking,
tumbling streams that sing their way through the canyons.
1940 K. S. Pinkerton Three’s Crew x. 102 A tidal rapids is a ‘skookum
1959 Times (Queen in Canada Suppl.) 18 June p. xii/1 This is the salt
chuck, the skookum fact the Pacific.
1873 R. C. L. Brown Klatsassan 165 It was only after much waw-waw
(parley) and sundry threats of the skookum-house (gaol)..that one of
them was got to undertake to carry him.
1901 Daily Colonist (Victoria, B.C.) 5 Oct. 3/2 There were no less than
fourteen inmates of the ‘skookum house’ on Cormorant Street last night.
1965 Islander (Victoria, B.C.) 9 May 6/2 In 1872, Frederick Brent was
appointed Justice of the Peace and a skookum-house (jail) was built on
his land.


CHUCK n.6 Canada.
[Chinook Jargon.]
A large body of water.
1880 G. M. Dawson Rep. Queen Charlotte Islands 30 The most considerable
is that which has been called the Slate Chuck on the chart.
1958 Beaver (Canada) Winter 26/2 A mother in Stanley Park scolds,
‘Johnny, throw that dirty stick in the chuck.’

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