Bound for Yachats, with the Anti-Fats, etc.


(Image credit: Godey’s Magazine)

Western US English slang in 1905: “anti-dry” = “wet” = booze 🙂 My other comments follow the news clipping.

Bound for Yachats 1


To Move in Three Divisions — Memaloose Mowitch Copa Skookum Chuck.

It will be picturesque — the caravan that leaves tomorrow morning for the coast. Councilman Rennie will be advance guard, Lawyer Ed Wilson will command the left flank, Postmaster Johnson the right wing, and Telephone DeVarney will conduct a rear guard action to protect the front guard from any attempted enveloping movement. The destination is Yachats and neighboring territory, and the object, mowitch — hi-yu mowitch: tenas man ketch ’em siyah copa scookum chuck; shootem forty leven times, maybe no ketch ’em.

The caravan is garrisoned, provendered, armed, ammunitioned and parunaed for an indefinite period. The wardrobe of each generallisimo contains a photo of his wife, a bowie knife wrapped in the national

Bound for Yachats 2

colors, a jewsharp, a can of yellow fever anti-toxine, a lock of hair, a box of pills, four bottles of anti-fatthree decks of cards and a volume of rag time melodies. The appliances for convenience and comfort comprise anything from a desk telephone, a bath tub, or an R. F. D. route to a ready made last will and testament in blank with only the name to be filled in. A very small corner of the marching hippodrome is devoted to bedding, and all the the rest Is given up to grub boxes and “anti-dry,” a newly discovered and extremely effective preventative for snake bite, a very happy forethought, for snakes are heinously vicious along the beach.

Tomorrow’s caravan is to be followed by two more. The first will be Mayor Johnson, who leaves Tuesday, and who by traveling incognito, hopes to reach the first army before the peruna gives out. The second consists of. Dick Kiger, M. M. Davis and Thomas Peter Callahan and is to depart a week from Sunday, carrying derricks,

Bound for Yachats 3

capstans, donkey engines and material for a temporary line of railroad, for use in moving the devastated and defunct mowitch from the skookum illihee to market. Heap shoot ’em, no kill ’em; hi-yu cuss-em.

— from the Corvallis (OR) Times of August 12, 1905, page 3, column 3

In 1906, as one of the links above tells, the Peruna company was warned that it must add some medicine to its alcohol, or stop selling its product! This, and the puns on other typical medicine trade names of the time like Anti-Fat, gives away the joke. The local newspaper is letting everyone know that these fellas are off for a drinking trip with a bit of hunting thrown in. Some political jabs get made as well.

As we so often see in the post-frontier era of Oregon, Chinook Jargon is used as an ipsut wawa, a secret code, to ensure that the right people are in on the message.

Now, about the Chinuk Wawa that’s used above:

  • “mowitch [deer] — hi-yu mowitch [lots of deer]: tenas man [the “boys”] ketch ’em siyah copa scookum chuck [way over at the powerful water (ocean)]; shootem forty leven times, maybe no ketch ’em.”

    We often see this kind of loaned-into-English-slang use of the Jargon after the frontier era. All of the expressions here are commonly found in local English around the Pacific Northwest for several decades. Speaking of loans, just the other day, someone was telling me that some folks consider “mowitch” to be a Sanpoil (~Lakes/Colville Salish) word! “The boys” here is a direct tranlsation of informal English usage. “Siyaaaah”, long and drawn out in speech, is a shibboleth word — the most Chinook of Chinook words — for anglophones in many localities. “Scookum chuck” just sounds so darn catchy, I think, that it stuck in regional English usage with various meanings, from the original “rapids” or “waterfall” to new senses like “ocean” and even “alcohol”.

    The pidgin English words here (more precisely, their mixture into the Jargon words) probably reflect perceptions of how Native people in the region spoke. They seem fairly believable, as far as we can take that concern with made-up Indian talk; the word “ketch ’em” is actually known in British Columbia Chinook Jargon dialects.

  • “…moving the devastated and defunct mowitch [deer] from the skookum illihee [excellent (hunting-) grounds] to market. Heap shoot ’em, no kill ’em; hi-yu [plenty] cuss-em.”

    This passage also reflects local English slang of the period. I take it as an early example of skookum being borrowed to mean ‘wonderful, excellent, great’ in White folks’ usage.

The takeaway: today’s reading is a nice example of regional humor, which sometimes pivotally involved Chinuk Wawa. And it shows you the Pacific Northwest dialect of American English in the process of forming into a unique entity. Fun stuff!