Early 1900s onward: “Hi-Yu” (and) “Hi-Yu” clubs

Hi-yu: a neglected loan from Chinuk Wawa into Pacific Northwest English.

It had a conventional spelling, in effect “the right way” to write it, in the areas where it leaped into English close to the start of the 20th century.

hi yu basket social

From the Colfax (WA) Gazette of November 11, 1910, page 1, column 2

About that dating: The earliest potential occurrence of it that I know is in Daisy Bell Catherine Brown’s 1960 reminiscences of 1880 Oregon Trail emigration to Washington; do you suppose she might have added this expression anachronicstically, for color? Aside from her book, I’ve only found this loanword in print from the early 1900’s onward.

The most frequent use of this as an English word was in stock phrases that described parties & revelry as people having “a hi-yu time”, “a hi-yu skookum celebration”, “hi-yu he-he“, “a hi-yu muck-a-muck time”and so on.

hi yu vacation

From the Kennewick (WA) Courier of December 21, 1906, page 5, column 1

To be specific, hi-yu — like the word tolo for a Sadie Hawkins dance — was used primarily in Washington State dialect. In separate posts on this site, I show it being used in a Spokane newspaper column about baseball, and a Pullman football cheer. And West Seattle is the site of the annual Hi-Yu Festival.

You don’t find it in California, despite the signficant history of the Jargon in that state’s northern zone. In Idaho, most published occurrences of hi-yu back in the day refer to the mine of that name, because early in ID history Chinuk Wawa had an association with that industry. In Alaska, you’ll mostly find hi-yu in the headlines of a couple of merchants’ advertisements. I have not turned up a trace of it in British Columbia yet.

hi yu skukum literary society

From the Leavenworth (WA) Echo of April 30, 1915, page 2, column 2

Why did this word catch on in English? Probably for multiple reasons.

  • Hi-yu is a prominent word in Chinook Jargon, one of the most frequent in conversation since it performs a number of different functions. (Quantification, intensification, verbal aspect marking…to get nerdy for a moment.)
  • It’s easy to pronounce! Because it uses sounds that are native to English as well.
  • It sounds like colloquial English’s friendly greeting “Hi, you” / “Hiya”. (Although the latter is supposed to have started up slightly later, in the 1940s. Psst, while we’re in parentheses, let’s start a rumor that “hiya” comes from Chinook “klahowya“!)
hi yu skookum time

From the Oroville (WA) Weekly Gazette of March 2, 1917, page 4, column 2