Let’s go crazy with Chinuk Wawa!

Being a scotty boffin o’ contact linguistics, I say let’s go crazy with Chinuk Wawa!

Not Archibald Pelton

Not Archibald Pelton ūüôā Just a good portrait.

We have at least 3 simplex words for “insane” in the Jargon, another instance of embarrassing riches where people are at their worst — think of the many words for “tobacco” that I wrote about the other day ūüôā

The only one of the 3 that made its way into Samuel V. Johnson’s 1978 dissertation/lexical compilation was good ol’¬†piltin¬†/¬†pelton. The story behind this is famous–an early Astorian¬†furtrade employee by the name of “Judge” Archibald Pelton, sometimes claimed to have been a Felton, lost his wits and donated a word to a pidgin language.¬†(This word developed a specialized additional meaning at Kamloops, “sinful; sin”; see the following for examples of both senses.)

Then there’s krisi¬†/¬†clazy.¬†George Gibbs 1863 is about the earliest recording of it that I know. But I have the feeling this is one of the many CJ items that got left out of the documentation because they were recognizable to anglophoones.¬†Lushootseed Salish borrowed this¬†as k…ôliŐĀsi,¬†according to the Bates et al. dictionary. It was used at Kamloops, too:

Kamloops Wawa #91 : <39.> Naika na kaltash siisim ikta klaska mamuk masashi, kata klaska piltin, kaltash, krisi?

“Have I spread rumors of things that [others] have done that are evil, about them being sinful, idle, crazy?”

KW #97:¬†= Pus Marsian komtaks iaka¬†klushmin shako Katolik, iaka shako drit krisi kopa [SIC]¬†saliks, pi iaka mash iaka kopa skukum haws…

“When Martianus heard that his wife had become Catholic, he became really¬†crazy¬†with anger, and he threw her into prison…”

KW #105:¬†Kopa Rom, impiror Antona iaka tanas, Agnis [SIC?] iaka nim, <15> iaka¬†sno, shako aias klahawiam, liiam klatwa kopa iaka itluil,¬†kakwa iaka itluil iaka k’aw kopa liiam, iaka ayu krai ayu skrim¬†kakwa wail bist: kanawi tilikom ayu kwash kopa iaka, som taim liiam¬†iskom iaka sahali pi mash fol dawn kopa ilihi; tilikom wawa ikta¬†mamuk ilo shako kakshit kanawi iaka bon Som taim iaka drit tlus¬†mitlait kakwa ankati, pi wik lili iaka shako ayu saliks kakwa pus¬†krisi, iaka kakshit kanawi man, iaka kakshit kanawi ikta tlus¬†mitlait kopa haws…

“At Rome, emperor Antoninus’ child, named Agnes (?), 15 years old, became miserable, a devil went into her body, so her body was bound to the devil, she kept crying, screaming like a wild beast: everyone was constantly afraid of her, some times the devil picked her up and threw her down to the ground; the people said ‘Why aren’t her bones breaking?’ Some times she was all right¬†like before, but soon she would get violent as if¬†crazy,¬†she would beat everyone, she would break all the nice things that were in the house…”

Maybe¬†krisi¬†is an indicator of American influence. You know? Because “crazy” is so un-British; the old country say “mad” and such, don’t they? ¬†And because Chinook Jargon entered the interior of BC during the gold rushes, which populated the region with lots of Bostons. I muse thus because of our next word.

Salish is the first place I personally noticed this one: you have¬†skati in Musqueam, where Wayne Suttles had a minor trip-up in seeing this as a native Salish word (page 6 of his magisterial reference grammar). There’s¬†skwati in¬†Hul’q’umi’num’¬†too.¬†“Scotty”¬†is¬†given as Jargon by Rev. C.M. Tate in his dictionary, of CJ as used in the same region of the BC coast, which adds that “scotty house” is an insane asylum.¬†These trace to¬†colloquial British English “scotty”, “scatty”.

This word is found (only?) on the King George side of the border, not in the States — did it become popular in British after the boundary got settled? Did the gold rush play a role in separating the scotty¬†zone from the¬†crazy¬†zone?

American influence of a different kind is implicit in the Interesting parallel to the above-mentioned Pelton story in this mistaken claim that it comes from “Victoria in the 1860s when a mentally troubled pioneer of this name was forever in trouble with the police or in jail”!

The Protestant missionary Johnny B. Good’s interior-BC vocabulary of 1880 has been misinterpreted as translating “crazy” into Jargon as a compound,¬†pilton scotty“. That’s just the result of poor typesetting. The printer’s devil missed the comma between these two synonyms.

There’s more, too, once you go into multi-word phrases. ¬†At Kamloops, they had a verb¬†lost¬†“to lose”, and an idiom¬†lost (iaka, etc.) latit¬†“lose one’s mind” — literally “lose one’s head”; from KW #68:

Wiht iaka sik wik saia iaka mimlus. Alta iaka lost iaka latit. Iaka chako piltin.

“He was sick, too, he was near dead. Then he lost his mind.¬†He went insane.”

Have you come across other expressions for madness in Chinook? I’ve pointed out the first few that come to mind. Do share whatever occurs to you.

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