“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.

jumper is chinook for thief (3)

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:

chinook as slang (3)

…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.

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