What engineers must know in British Columbia

Chinuk Wawa shows up in a funny place: American Machinist magazine.  (February 2, 1884, page 3.)  In the middle of a serious discussion of Root’s new boiler design, they throw in some lighter-weight filler.  “What Engineers Must Know in British Columbia” purports to be a useful field guide…

This “Engineer’s Catechism” might have been inspired by exposure to the numerous Indian question-and-answer missionary materials in print at the time in the Northwest.

The spellings used might tell us which Jargon dictionary the compiler owned as well.  Want to check your dictionaries and solve that little mystery?

I also wonder what you think of the English versus the Chinook (and the punctuation) in a couple of these sentences.

I’ll transcribe the whole shebang for you…

What Engineers Must Know in British Columbia

The genial and active member of the firm of Manning, Maxwell & Moore, of this city, Mr. Charles A. Moore, has recently returned from a trip through British Columbia.  While there he obtained the following copy of an official examination and instructions to Engineers for the Puget Sound District, which he has kindly handed to us for publication in the AMERICAN MACHINIST:


Chinook, with free construction into English.

Mika nanich ocook glass?  Narwitka.
Do you see that glass?  Yes.

Mika nanich chuck midlite?  Narwitka.
Do you see the water inside?  Yes.

Hias close spose chuck quanisome midlite carqua?
Very good, suppose the water always remains as it is?

Wake tickee chuck charcoe sockilee.
Don’t want the water to get any higher.

Spose chuck charcoe keekquillee?  Delate mamook poo pe go to hell in a minute.
Suppose the water gets low?  Blow up sure and go to hell in a minute.

Quanisome close nanich pump pe close nanich chuck.  
Always look sharp at the pump and look sharp at the water.

Quanisome mamook skookum pire.  
Always make a hell of a fire.

Delate hias close.  
Everything will be all right.

Mika cumtup?  Narwitka.  
Do you understand?  Yes.

Any person not having a thorough knowledge of Chinook, and not answering the above questions correctly, will be considered disqualified for the position of engineer for the District of Puget Sound.

Local Inspector.
Nov. 17, 1883.