“All same” as 2 pidgins influencing each other

Believe it or not, pidgin languages — like Chinook Jargon — quite frequently interact with each other. olsim (2)

Cultural contact situations have, historically, often been cyclone-like: traveling swirls of activity moving from one locale onward to another, carrying the traces of the previous landfalls.

This had everything to do with the root cause of those contacts, the introduction of long-distance travel and trade.

People of one region, having recently come into regular communication with newcomers and begun speaking a new pidgin because of it, sometimes travel in significant numbers to a new zone of economic opportunity — where the existing pidgin can feed into a newer pidgin.

We see this at the roots of Chinook Jargon, with “Nootka Jargon” (a pidgin Nuuchahnulth), and maybe a Haida Jargon too, being brought via trading ships to the lower Columbia River area; there, these became the nucleus of the incipient CJ.

The word olsim in Kamloops-area CJ is another great case in point.

As my dissertation points out, there are a number of words around Kamloops that are uncharacteristic of the Jargon, but are basic words of the various South Seas pidgin Englishes.

And that’s just based on the Aboriginal-written letters I was examining at that time.

Kamloops Wawa provides many additional examples in the pages of its various issues.

One that makes a case as watertight as a sea chest is this olsim. Look at this transcription of the above snippet from KW #112 of January 1894 (it’s part of a catalogue on the first page of the back wrapper):

Iht buk: “Ankati ST mamuk sahali
ilihi pi ukuk ilihi,” tlil iktas, kopit Shinuk. Iht tala ukuk buk = <$1.00>
Olsim buk pil iktas iht tala pi kwata
Olsim buk piktyurs pi Inglish wawa kanamokst
tlil iktas, iht tala pi tlun bits <$1.35>
Olsim buk, pil iktas, iht tala pi
sitkom <$1.50>

“A book: ‘God Made Heaven and Earth’ [Chinook Bible History], [plain] black fabric [cover], [in] Chinook only. This book is one dollar = $1.00
Same book, red fabric, a dollar and a quarter
Same book, pictures and English language [all] together,
[plain] black fabric, one dollar and three bits, $1.35 [SIC]
Same book, red fabric, one dollar and
a half, $1.50″

Can you see that this is English “all same” in different clothes?

Do you wonder why it’s not proper English “all the same”?

Because, after all, you’ve been reading on this site — haven’t you — that Chinook speakers in the Kamloops area liberally borrowed from colloquial, “street” English.

I don’t know anybody who informally says “All same book”.


You know who would say such a thing? Chinese immigrants in the 1890s, because of their exposure to Chinese Pidgin English. We know of plenty of these folks via Kamloops Wawa, among many other contemporary documents.

Also, any British subjects who had sailed the world (not a rare bird in those days in Canada), because of their own exposure to an array of pidgin Englishes in the South Seas, which themselves were historically interrelated.

(As it happens, this observation extends my recent line of investigation showing the differences in English-language impact on Jargon and tribal languages on the US side vs. the Canadian side. Thus ‘boots’ and ‘crazy’ vs. ‘gumboots’ and ‘scotty’.)


We can well imagine non-Aboriginal people with less experience of Chinuk Wawa than of pidgin English resorting to the latter in communicating with a generation of Natives who were rapidly shifting from Salish to English.  These might be people who weren’t so familiar with the existing Jargon word kakwa, sharing a meaning with olsim.  

We possess enormous documentary proof that Aboriginal people’s Chinook Jargon in many regions of the Pacific Northwest experienced a transition to a mixed pidgin-English-looking idiom before finally giving way to standard English.