This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Word To Use Today: kinnikinnick or killikinnick.

Here's a useful word.

Well, when I say useful...

Kinnikinnick sounds Irish to me - some dish of smoked fish and potato, perhaps - but actually it comes from far across the Atlantic Ocean.

Kinnikinnick is any mixture of dried leaves and bark, not always including tobacco, smoked by Native Americans Indians.

Pipe with two faces, early 19C, Brooklyn.

Any of the plants used to make it, like sumach, are kinnikinnick, too.

And how on earth, you may ask, are we supposed to use a word today that means ancient Native American tobacco substitute?

Well, it turns out that kinnikinnick comes from an Algonquian word which means that which is mixed, and kinnikinnick would surely might make a jolly satisfying synonym for pot pourri, a compound noun that has never, I'm afraid, fitted easily into an English sentence

Or how about using kinnikinnick for those dried flower mixtures you're supposed to sprinkle over salad?

It would be a fine thing to make this homage to the wonderful Algonquian language.

And it'd certainly save us the embarrassment of trying to say pot pourri in the middle of a string of English words, wouldn't it.

Word To Use Today: kinnikinnick. This Algonquian word is related to the Natick kinukkinuk, which means mixture.


  1. Fascinating, Sally - thankyou! And I love the picture of the pipe.

    1. Thanks so much, Katherine. I found it surprising, and very cheering, that in 19C Brooklyn native art was still part of the mixture of cultures: the kinnikinnick, perhaps. Yes, that's what a kinnikinnick is - the mixture of cultures of a particular community or place.