Not Learned in Chinook

This is an old-school telling of the first Chinook Jargon joke I ever learned, back in 1998.  (Hat tip to Tim Montler for that.)

(My comments after the proto-Trumpian ethnic-stereotyping fest [you’re forewarned] and the fun.)


One of Calgary’s recent contingent to the coast evidently knew but little about the Chinook, judging by the story that is being told on him. Wishing to get some clams to take back with him, be asked an old squaw, who had cob webs in her eyes and a basket on her head, what she wanted for a basketful, and the blushing brunette replied, “Sitcum dollar, hyas klosh.” To this the gay Calgaryite said: “Yumping yimminy! Six dollars and all my clothes? No, by ginger snap! I give you $2.50, my watch and overcoat.” It is unnecessary to state that the offer was accepted, as all the dusky maiden asked for the clams was four bits. — Vancouver World.

— Oregon City Oregon Courier, April 24, 1896, page 6, column 3


This morsel of Canadian apocrypha depends on our recognizing an unsophisticated rube on double double levels.  The cheechako — newcomer — is a Calgarian (which is bad enough ’cause they can’t dance) but also, I reckon, a Swedish immigrant if we judge by his heavily accented, stereotyped interection.  This happy-go-lucky guy’s English is not of the best, and neither is his Chinook, leading to our interlingual pun and his dismay. He obviously doesn’t know the big-city ways of Vancouver, as he counter-offers the vendor five times what she’s asked.  Sitcum dollar, hyas klosh means “Half a dollar is plenty fine.”