Baker is wide open!

A Chinuk Wawa item that we ought to be searching for in a Baker City, Oregon, museum

Demonstrating the huge emotional pull of Chinook Jargon among the post-frontier Settler population, a northeast Oregon chapter of a benevolent fraternity deployed CJ as a secret weapon in the struggle to become the host city of an annual conference:

red mens powwow

RED MEN’S COUNCIL.

Officers Elected and Reports Received at Yesterday’s Session.

…Baker City is out after the next grand pow-wow. In reference to the departure of the delegates and their method of warfare against those who might oppose their project, the Baker City Democrat says;

Wm. M. Moore and W. J. Butler, delegates from Pocahontas Tribe, No. 19, took their departure for Astoria last night to attend the grand lodge of Red Men, which meets on the 24th inst. They will make an effort to have the grand lodge come to Baker next year. To that end they have printed neat and original cards with the invitation in Chinook Jargon and below it translated into English as follows:

Chohco Kopa Baker Illihie; 

Hyas Tyee: — Nika tig-et kon-a-way tillicum choco kopa Baker illihie hyas wa-da tatlum pe mox moon. Hyas tyee Baker wa wa nika hy-u-me-sha-che whiskey. Hy-u muck-a-muck. Baker hah-lakl. Spose mika halo chahco kopa nika illihie ni-si-ki hyas kok-shut. Hyas skookum chock. Kon-a-way Nanich.

Big Chief: We want all of our friends to come to Baker county for the big talk next year. The mayor of Baker told me there would be plenty of bad whiskey. plenty to eat and the town will be wide open. Suppose you don’t come we will be very much disappointed. Plenty of grub. Come see our city.

— from the Astoria (OR) Morning Astorian of July 25, 1900, page 3, column 3

Now, that’s some okay Chinuk Wawa, and I’ll examine it in a moment.

But first, I want to educate you that this “dirty weapon” in Jargon is pretty much promising gambling and hookers. It makes use of a Western US English slang expression of the time, “wide open town”. Let’s have Chauncey DePew explain:

Chauncey DePew

— from “Banquet and Dinner Speeches“, page 276

” ‘A wide open town,’ I replied, ‘means that the laws are not enforced; a closed town means that the laws are enforced.’ “

You’ll find this expression aplenty in histories of Seattle, Butte, San Francisco, and so on. The laws not being enforced were a select few: those against gambling, prostitution, cockfighting, saloons staying open 24 hours a day — just the fun stuff.

Traffic laws remained in effect.

Now for a look at the Jargon used; I’ll be ignoring mere typesetting errors. Be aware that the members of this Red Men fraternity would’ve routinely addressed each other in a campy way, thus the Big Chief stuff:

Chohco Kopa Baker Illihie;
cháku kʰapa Baker ílihi
come to Baker land
‘Come to Baker County!’
(no published translation.)

Hyas Tyee: — Nika tig-et [1] kon-a-way tillicum choco [2] kopa Baker illihie hyas
háyás(h) táyí: — náyka tíki kánawi tílixam cháku kʰapa Baker ílihi háyás(h)
big chief: — I want all people come to Baker County big 
‘Big Chief: — I want everyone coming to the Baker County council’
(published translation: ) ‘Big Chief: We want all of our friends to come to Baker county for the big’

wa-da tatlum pe mox moon. Hyas tyee Baker [3] wa wa nika hy-u-me-sha-che [4]
wáwa táɬlam pi mákwst mún. háyás(h) táyí Baker wáwa náyka háyú masháchi
talk ten and two month. big chief Baker say me much evil
‘(in) twelve months. The leader (of) Baker tells me (there’s) lots of evil’
(published translation: ) ‘talk next year. The mayor of Baker told me there would be plenty of bad’

whiskey. Hy-u muck-a-muck. Baker hah-lakl. Spose mika halo chahco kopa nika
wíski. háyú mə́kʰmək. Baker x̣álaqɬ. spus máyka hílu cháku kʰapa nayka
whiskey. much food. Baker open. if you not come to my
‘whiskey. Lots of food. Baker is wide open. If you don’t come to my’
(published translation: ) ‘whiskey. plenty to eat and the town will be wide open. Suppose you don’t come’

illihie ni-si-ki hyas kok-shut [5]. Hyas skookum chock [6]. Kon-a-way Nanich.
ílihi nsáyka hayas-kákshit. háyás- skúkum tsə́qw. kánawi nánich.
land we Intensifier-broken. Intensifier- strong water. all see.
‘land we’ll be all busted up. (There’ll be) really strong booze. Everyone will see.’
(published translation: ) ‘we will be very much disappointed. Plenty of grub. Come see our city.’

Notes:

[1] tig-et ‘want’ might just reflect a local pronunciation like the “tiggy” seen in this Grand Ronde news note.

[2] nika tig-et kon-a-way tillicum choco is, like a lot of this text, semi-fluent, English-influenced Jargon. We’d expect spose (essentially meaning ‘for’) to introduce the actions of people other than the speaker.

[3] Hyas tyee Baker sounds like it ought to mean ‘big chief Baker’ but it’s obviously ‘the mayor of Baker’, influenced by English.

[4] me-sha-che may reflect a local pronunciation like Grand Ronde’s mashachi, although it’s at least as plausible that it’s a typo for the spelling me-sah-che found in JK Gill’s popular Oregon dictionary.

[5] ni-si-ki hyas kok-shut ‘we’ll be all busted up’ seems like another translation of contemporary English slang into Jargon. I certainly don’t find such a metaphorical usage in Gill’s dictionary, which may be the overall source of the spellings that this text uses.

[6] skookum chock ‘strong water’ appears to be another English-influenced slang expression. None of my Chinuk Wawa references turn up this phrase with reference to alcohol, just to the usual senses of ‘rapids’ or ‘waterfall’.

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