Pinchers, real people, and Chinuk Wawa

Study a creole or pidgin language like Chinuk Wawa for a while, and you’ll find little fossils of real people’s way of talking back in the day.

I don’t just mean that these are rarely literary languages (most of the 7,000 human languages are not, if you think about it).

I’m also saying that these ‘contact languages’ grow so rapidly that they’re constantly grabbing needed new words from however people are talking in the vicinity–in any language.

Everyone I know in the Pacific Northwest of 2016 calls these…

pinchers 2

…and these…

pinchers 1

“pinchers” in our actual way of speaking English, irregardless of their official spelling, pincers.

Envision my jollies at realizing they talked this same way in the Kamloops of 1897!

     Iawa wiht msaika nanich pinshirs,
Then too you folks will see pinchers

chikmin pinshirs. Klaska mamuk drit
metal pinchers.  People would 

hot ukuk pinshirs kopa paia, pi klaska
heat these pinchers red-hot in fire, and 

pinsh tlus tilikom klaska itluil kopa ukuk
pinch the good people’s flesh with these 


(Also notice the verb pinch.)

This multi-pinchered text creeps in sidelong to explain an illustration:

pinshirs (2)

These beauties (volsellae, tweezers or tongs) are accompanied with a crabbed Chinuk pipa caption (magnified above):


iskom kakwa
would take this kind of

pinsirs ankati
pincers long ago

pi klaska mash [NULL]
and they would place [them]

kopa paia,
in a fire,

pi pus klaska
and when they

chako kakwa
would become like



mamuk [NULL] kopa
would apply [them] to

the martyrs’



In the caption, right next to the written, therefore formal, English synonyms tweezers and tongs, Father Le Jeune switches to the highfalutin bookish pronunciation pinsirs.  Neat.

But notice that he never once uses any borrowed English word for this instrument except pincers.  Never (or in linguists’ secret insider way of writing, [asterisk]).  So,

  • *tweezers
  • *tongs
  • pinc(h)ers

Which reinforces the claim that folks actually called such a tool pinchirs in 1890s Chinuk Wawa-speaking British Columbia.

A newly discovered word of the Jargon.

(All this is from Kamloops Wawa #154, July 1897.)