The Cliff Safety ad, 1902

Lively colloquial use of a language is gold.  Too many now-endangered or extinct languages lack clues to how they were once spontaneously spoken.

I want to suggest that, of all the unexpected genres, advertising can be a a pretty decent guide to “how to sound like a human being”.  My thought is that commercial speech is about as replete with appeals to the second person (You!  Look!) as a conversation is.

gaz light (2).jpg

So look at this: another fascinating advertisement directed at Canadian Indigenous people using Chinook Jargon, for an acetylene-gas lamp system.  See what you think.

     Nsaika mamuk ukuk mashin
We build this machine

msaika nanich iakwa, kopa ukuk aias
you folks see here; for that

skukum lait iaka nim gac lait.
powerful light called “gas light”.

Kanawi msaika nanich ukuk lait
All of you who see this light,

pus msaika iskom ukuk mashin
if you get this machine,

wik msaika kwash pus chako kakshit
you don’t have to be afraid of getting hurt

kopa ukuk gac.
by this gas.

     Msaika nanich, ilo aias makuk
You can see it’s not expensive,

ukuk gas mashin:
this gas machine:

     Kopa tatilam pi kwinam tala,
For fifteen dollars,

msaika tlap iht kakwa mashin
you get one machine like this

kopa msaika haws, iaka tlus kopa
for your home; it’s enough for

tlun lait.
three lights.

     Kwinam lait kopa mokst tatilam pi
Five lights for twenty-

lakit; tatilam lait kopa tlun tatilam
four [dollars]; ten lights for thirty-

pi taham tala.
six dollars.

— Kamloops Wawa #201 (June 1902), page 142

Father Le Jeune, the editor of KW who composed this advert, had a set of these lights installed at his headquarters in Kamloops.  I have commented a number of times that Le Jeune was quite a technophile; this ad reflects his enthusiasm!

Given Le Jeune’s penchant for referring to himself as nsaika “we” in this newspaper, the ad copy could have confused regular readers a bit.

At a $15 starter level, I’m thinking very few of these systems were purchased by KW readers.  Dozens of times over the years, Le Jeune bemoans the difficulty his subscribers have with finding a dollar, or even 25 cents, to pay for their Chinuk pipa.

Also involving the latest tech of the turn of the century — if you were cabling a message to this Safety Light & Heat Co. of Dundas, Ontario, you’d address it to “Safety“.  Bet you never wondered how telegrams and such got efficiently directed to their intended recipients!

You may have noticed the English spelling “gaz” and its Chinuk pipa version gac above.  In Le Jeune’s native French it’s “gaz“, you see.  That’s gases generally; you use a different word for what we Americans call a gas(oline) pump.

Wrapping up my comments, I’ll double down on my claim that the wording is very personal, and surely very much like any conversation you’ve held or heard in revitalized Chinook Jargon.  “Don’t be afraid of getting hurt.”  “You can see…”  It’s all part & parcel of getting the reader’s attention.

And it helps us bring a language back.