One argument for Chinuk Wawa as an official language


A. Ward: he had his imitators in the Northwest (image source: Wikipedia)

Again, from Oregon, wouldn’t you know!

Because it’s Left Coast smartassery 🙂

Trying to break the following down & make it easier to read against a background:

From the age of muckraking journalism, these are the first three paragraphs of a Washington State newspaper’s takedown of the Portland Oregonian‘s editorial views (in an edition of the latter that I haven’t been able to access).

Americans at the end of the 1800s had strong emotions on the issue of whether the USA should stay on a “gold standard”, which in our country was originally a copy of Great Britain’s. “Goldbugs” wanted our dollar to be valued in terms of that metal, so paper money could be exchanged on demand for a certain amount of gold coinage. Other folks, such as Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, favored silver as a basis of our money’s value.

(In the “Six Degrees of Separation” department, the pro-silver argument is said to be the allegorical meaning that L. Frank Baum intended when he wrote his 1900 classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”!)

So in the following excerpt from a time when journalism could be vicious (déja vu!), we see a Washington pro-silver paper insulting an Oregon pro-gold paper’s sarcastic Chinuk Wawa-related anti-silver political humor.

Since the silver people disliked gold’s un-American association with the UK, the Oregonian had sneered that if they were truly motivated by patriotism, they ought to go whole hog & stop speaking English too. It suggested Chinook Jargon instead, the snide implication being that to do actually do so would be mighty provincial and self-defeating.

Oh, and “the late A. Ward” or “Artemus Ward” is the pen name of Charles Farrar Browne (1834-1867), fondly remembered as America’s first standup comedian and as a bestselling author (Abe Lincoln’s favorite), early mentor of Mark Twain, and frequently invoked late-1800s source of amusing takes on modern life. In connection with that name, I’ve found references to such folksy Ward phrases as “an amoosin’ cuss” (a kangaroo), “the holy all of it”, “is ‘ekalled’ by none”, and “cheerful fruits” (beans).

Got all that straight?

Good, because I get awful tired out from explaining jokes!

Now read and enjoy:

Goldbug Humor

Goldbug Humor.

The Oregonian can be funny at times, as well as profoundly dogmatic. Some evidence of this is afforded in a late article on “National Independence,” in which an effort is made to overwhelm the silver party with ridicule for its opposition to the rule of “British gold” in the monetary matters of this country.

That journal maintains that to be consistent we should discard our forms of jurisprudence because they are borrowed largely from English common law; that we should reject the English system of weights and measures, and, indeed, even the expressive mother tongue, although its scope and power of expression is so palpably essential at times to curse goldbugs, for the same reason — to be consistent.

And here comes in the Oregonian’s gleam of humor. It suggests a substitution of the classic Chinook jargon for the English vocabulary by the Silver party, to be entirely consistent with its rejection of the English financial standard. The incongruity of the subjects does not seem to have occurred to our ponderous contemporary. It affirms that the ” racy patois” of the aboriginal tongue would be an admirable vehicle for expression of the ideas of those who would free themselves from British rule; and it rolls this morsel of pleasantry about its tongue through half a column of “biting sarcasm” (as A. Ward would call it) and then bursts forth in a brilliant rodomontate [sic] over a suggestion that as China is the most populous of silver countries, the language of that empire might “offer advantages in the struggle to rid ourselves of English domination.”

— from the Olympia (WA) Washington Standard of September 11, 1896, page 2, column 1,

which references an article in the Oregonian of September 8, 1896.

If any of my readers have access to that issue, and would like to send me the original editorial that started this kerfuffle, let me say hayu masi in advance.

What do you think?