Street Chinook: dyspepsia!

There’s a rule of thumb we use when documenting a language: get the speaker to talk about a near-death experience.  The reason for doing this is that you get the least filtered, most natural speech when you can get someone emotionally involved in what they’re discussing.

In the Kamloops Wawa newspaper, I see Father Le Jeune’s particular style of Chinook Jargon as a bit of a literary register-in-the-making.  He writes plenty of stuff that differs in its grammar from the “street Chinook” that his Indian friends were putting into the letters they wrote, and sometimes he uses words that are really known only in the Jargon of other regions.   In this way, the Aboriginal people succeeded wildly at exactly what the shorthand alphabet was made for — writing just as you hear and say things.  That purpose is discussed in issue #69 of 12 March 1893, pages 41-42 under a heading “Chronique Sténographique” (Le Jeune could’ve titled the article in cuneiform for all it would’ve been intelligible to his readers).

The padre was sometimes equally successful, though, at writing what he felt.  We know from people who spent time around him, and from the historical record, that he had a touchy stomach and often was unable to eat much.  So when he throws in an article titled “Dyspepsia” (same issue, pages 43 and 44), we can expect some juicy Chinook, and he doesn’t disappoint.

Take a gander at the vivid expressions (like “sick heavy”), colloquial pronunciations (“boil soman”), and the nonstandard Chinuk Wawa word choices that exemplify his street Chinook at its best — as people really spoke (and thought!) around Kamloops in 1893.  This was a rapidly evolving language, a microcosm of the sociolinguistic truth that every language is constantly experiencing change.


Dyspepsia start (2)

= Dispipsia. = Ikta ukuk dispipsia?
Aias hlwima sik ukuk dispipsia. Pus man kwanisim mitlait
kopa haws, ilo mamuk, ilo kuli: pus man makmak ayu midsin
kwanisim tomtom kopa makmak midsin: pus man iaka makmak ayu
wiski, ayu wain, ayu bir: pus man makmak drit ayu makmak pus
man ayu smok, pi iaka chu tabako, iaka aiak tlap ukuk sik.
Wiht tilikom klaska ayu tomtom kopa ikta, pi klaska ayu sik
tomtom, klaska aiak tlap ukuk sik iaka nim dispipsia. =

= Dyspepsia. = What is this dyspepsia?
Dyspepsia is a very strange illness.  If a person stays
at home, doesn’t eat, doesn’t go anywhere: if a person takes a lot of medicines,
always thinks about taking medicine: if a person drinks a lot
of whiskey, a lot of wine, a lot of beer: if a person eats a great deal of food[,] if
a person smokes a lot, and he chews tobacco, he will soon get this sickness.
Also people who think too much about things, and who are often un-
happy, will soon get this disease called dyspepsia.  =

Ikta ukuk dispipsia. Man ilo iaka shako olo. Pus iaka
makmak, iaka shako sik hivi; som taims iaka wah iaka makmak:
iaka aiak sik tomtom shako aiak saliks. Wik tlus iaka slip
Iaka skin shako drai: Ilo skukum pus mamuk pi ilo skukum tomtom

What is this dyspepsia like?  A person can’t work up an appetite.  If he
eats, he gets sick heavy: sometimes he throws up his food:
he easily gets upset [and] is easily angered.  He doesn’t sleep well[.]
His skin gets dry: [He’s] not strong [enough] to work and not strong of mind.

Page 44

Dyspepsia finish (2)

Kakwa ukuk dispipsia. Klunas ilo drat [SIC] ayu tilikom
klaska sik kakwa, pi naika tomtom ayu klushmin klaska tlap
kakwa sik.

That’s what this dyspepsia is like.  Maybe not very many people
are sick with it, but I think a lot of women get
this kind of sickness.

Wik kopa makmak ayu lamitsin man shako tlus kopa ukuk sik
kopit pus iaka tlus nanish iaka makmak pi iaka mamuk. Pus
man sik kopa ukuk sik, wik iaka skukum iaka stomak, kakwa
wik kata iaka makmak kanawi ikta. Wik kata iaka makmak
chi saplil, kosho iaka mit, kiks, ayu mit, solt mit,
fraid fish, boil soman, salad, litis nyuts radish.
Kanawi ukuk makmak mamuk iaka sik shako ilip skukum.

It’s not by taking a lot of medicine that a person recovers from this disease[,]
it’s only if he pays attention to his food and his work.  If
a person is sick with this illness, his stomach isn’t strong, so
he can’t eat any old thing.  He can’t eat
fresh-baked bread, pork, cakes, a variety of meats, salt meat,
fried fish, boiled salmon, salad, lettuce[,] nuts[,] radishes.
All of these foods make his sickness get more acute.

Pus iaka makmak rais, ot mil, barli, wam milk
igs sitkom kuk, lamuto itluil, apils drit kuk
iaka tlus. = Wiht pus kuli, kuli kopa lipii, kuli kopa
kyutan. Mamuk, mamuk stik, mamuk ikta mamuk tanas skukum
mamuk. Kanawi ukuk kakwa lamitsin kopa kakwa sik.

If he eats rice, oatmeal, barley, warm milk[,]
soft-cooked eggs, mutton, well-cooked apples[,]
he will be fine. = Also if traveling, travel by foot, travel on
horseback.  Work[:] cut wood, do whatever tasks are mildly strenuous
work.  All of this is like medicine for an illness like this.

Ilip tlus wiht pus man iaka sik kopa kakwa sik, mamuk
wash iaka itluil, iaka shirt pi kanawi kikuli iaka iktas
pus kwanisim iaka oihoi ukuk iktas iaka mitlait kopa
iaka itluil. Pus iaka mamuk kakwa, ilo aiak tlap sik,
Kakwa pus lamitsin ukuk mamuk kanawi.

Better yet if a person is sick with this disease, [to]
wash his body, his shirt and all his undergarments[,]
to keep changing the clothes that touch
his body.  If he does so, [he] won’t readily get sick.
Doing all of these things is the same as medicine.