Heap
Posted: 31 July 2007 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Used adjectivally as evidenced in many old Westerns, etc when American Indians spoke.

Here’s an example, a movie title from 1919, Heap Big Chief

Is there any evidence that American Indians actually used the word in this way when they spoke English, or is this just pure invention by early writers of Westerns?

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Posted: 31 July 2007 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The OED traces this sense of “heap” to Blackwoods Magazine 1848.  It appears that it might have been used by American Indians:

‘MARK TWAIN’ Roughing It (1873) xxxix. 276 ‘Heap’ is ‘Injun-English’ for ‘very much’.

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Posted: 31 July 2007 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I address the the topic in Word Myths. “Heap” is part of the frontier pidgin used among whites and various Indian tribes to communicate with one another. Surprisingly, the old western films actually capture this pidgin pretty faithfully.

Note that this pidgin is not at all representative of Native American languages, which are as complex and rich as English. The pidgin is a simplified patois used to communicate among those who didn’t speak one another’s language. It combined a simple grammar with with vocabulary drawn from English, French, Spanish, and various Native American languages.

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Posted: 31 July 2007 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Sorry to be an insufferable pedant, but I feel I should point out that “heap” in these examples is being used adverbially, not adjectivally.

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Posted: 31 July 2007 10:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I stand well corrected, nomis, thank you.

And thank you all. I haven’t had the pleasure of reading Word Myths yet, Dave, but I’ll definitely treat myself to it soon.

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Posted: 01 August 2007 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I checked, and in the book there is also a citation of a Oglalla Indian using “heap” in conversation.

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