Poor Lo’s misplaced confidence
“Classic Chinook” being one of settler society’s stock jokes, equating the Jargon with the respect that the broader culture accorded to ancient languages like Latin and Greek…Today’s article quotes an Olympia, Washington area Native man’s Chinuk Wawa as spiced with Pidgin English and good old-fashioned cussing.
As is so usual with such local reporting in the late-frontier era (this was the year of Washington’s statehood), much is left unsaid. That includes the meaning of the Jargon quotation. I’ll provide that below; can you make out eyewitnesses’ attitudes?
One thing I take as a clue: the Native fella is never named, only referred to by the condescending slang word “Lo”.
The aborigines are fast becoming civilized and most of them wear store clothes and many sport stove-pipe hats. Not a few have teams and wagons, and come to town with all the dignity of their pale-faced brothers. One such brave was in to-day, and like all true Americans, indulged a propensity for horse-trading, and in a dicker he made exchanged a worthless cayuse for a balky and breachy farm-horse. When hitched to the wagon, the horse refused to go. Persuasion was of no avail. Threats were powerless. Clubs even, were not a leading suit in the game, and poor Lo sat like Patience on the wagon-box and swore in classic Chinook eternal vengeance against the seductive “Boston” who had so palpably “taken him in.” But, as is usually the case, the right man popped up at the right time. McCausland came along. Now, what “Mac” don’t know about horses is not worth knowing. He closely examined the steeds and especially the balky horse. He patted his mane; he whispered in his ear; he smoothed down his long bushy tail and finally jumped on the box with a “Get up there!” that fairly shook the trees on the distant hill-side. The spell was broken. The balky horse started to go and his mate started at the same moment. But the balky horse insisted on going in an eccentric manner. His fore and hind feet were alternately raised in the air, as if his body was on a pivot, and finally he straddled the pole and and lumbered down the street in a manner so grotesque as to attract universal attention. “Mac” all the time held the reins with the grip of determination, and not till the pole broke and the whole outfit was deposited in a heap, at the foot of Third street, did he draw a long breath and declare “Told you I could make him go.” Poor Lo gazed in dismay at the result of misplaced confidence and solemnly ejaculated: “Mica quanisum pottle-lum; hiyu wawa; heep dam phool!” [‘You’re always drunk; a big talker; really a damn fool!’] and he sadly gathered up the fragments of his household goods.
— from the Washington Standard of August 23, 1889, page 3, column 1