A Salish word for talking pidgin

So I take it:

<hwshupmenqun> in Hul’q’umi’num’ of Vancouver Island, BC is said to mean “speak broken English”.

In Americanist notation, that’d be xʷšəpménqən.

It’s thought to be “probably from ‘shipman’ “. (With a prefix hw- and a suffix meaning ‘language; talk’.)

What we can add is that ‘shipman’ comes from Chinook Jargon, not from English.

While the word goes back a long way in English — one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is the Shipman’s Tale — it’s not been common in this language for ages.

But it is a usual word in Chinuk Wawa for ‘sailor’. Just for a fun example and to cite something I’ve never shared before, the 1896 novel “Rick Dale: A story of the Northwest coast” by Kirk Munroe (NY: Harper Brothers) has on page 129:

…he could refuse to give up the young hyas doctin [great doctor] (Alaric) along with the tenas shipman (young sailor)…Yet, for fifty dollars he would certainly deliver both of his young guests to the shipman Tyhee [captain of the ship].

I’ve found this as a compound word of Jargon as far back as Horatio Hale’s 1846 lexicon, which he collected at and around Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory, in 1841.  George Gibbs has it, too, in his 1863 word list from that same area. And of course oceangoing vessels did call at Ft. Van.

Hinting not entirely sideways, I pledge to not be surprised if someone demonstrates that this shipman has an antecedent in South Seas Pidgin English. Go!

As to the meaning in Hul’q’umi’num’, the speakers of that language would have met plenty of sailors in Victoria and Nanaimo. With some of them, they could have spoken Chinuk Wawa, which some folks both tribal and not considered a broken lingo. And with others, the communication could as easily have been in the motley English of multinational sailing crews.

Thus the “broken English” sense. I only wonder that this word that’s literally ‘talk like a sailor’ in Salish doesn’t mean “swearing”!

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