“Jumper is Chinook for thief”
I’ve written about the lexical contributions of Chinook Jargon to our Pacific Northwest English. But here’s a piece about English speakers’ fairly early view of CJ as a kind of slang of its own.
Among the countless amusing newspaper poems of frontier days (who’s going to publish a critical anthology of them?!), count “A Cariboo Miner’s Letter to a Friend in Scotland.” (Barkerville, BC Cariboo Sentinel, Monday, June 19, 1865, page 2, columns 1-2.)
There’s plenty in the poem to mystify someone like me who’s only ethnically Scottish 🙂 I don’t speak fluent Scots, so rhymes in it like
Some folk were sae oppressed wi’ wit
They ca’d their claim by name ‘Coo —-‘
leave rich piles of material to fertilize my imagination.
One bit, though, is plenty clear and it relates to CJ:
But, Sawney, there’s another clan,
There’s nane o’ them I’d ca’ a man,
They ca’ them ‘jumpers’ — it’s my belief
That jumper is Chinook for thief
Interesting to see ‘Chinook’ as a metaphor for ‘local slang’!
I see a similar disparagement of CJ in the same newspaper, on June 7, 1866, jokingly referring I think to Cariboo prostitutes:
…or in the still more melodious and euphonious accents of the classical Chinook, suggestive of salmon and wapitoes.
Now, that’s so over the top that it’s obviously a backhanded compliment.