Dogs are the missing link.

Puzzling over a puzzle…

There’s a mystery word in the BC Chinese Pidgin English quoted here…

no sabe

NO SABE. — There are some things which no fellow can understand, and the COURIER man realized this yesterday afternoon, when he observed two Chinamen trying to unravel the mysteries of the “Missing Link” puzzle. After eyeing it for some time one of them exclaimed, “Velly good; white man heap smart; beat Chinaman all holle. No sabe. Good-day.

— from the Nanaimo (BC) Courier of April 10, 1889, page 4, column 2

This was left untranslated into standard English, as we often also see with Chinuk Wawa in that era; readers in many Northwest locales were assumed to grasp the drift of pidgin speech. For my part, I understand most of what this gentleman said: “Amazing! The Whites are so clever; they beat the Chinese all ___. Dunno. That’s all.” But what is “holle“? If I could decide whether the speaker was being sarcastic, maybe that would help…

Oh — for some background on “missing link puzzles”, look at these clippings from a kids’ magazine of the era:

missing link 1 a

missing link 1 b

— from Harper’s Young People of June 22, 1880, page 488, column 2

missing link 2

— from Harper’s Young People of July 13, 1880, page 536, column 2

(I don’t know if every missing-link puzzle revolved around “links” of sausages. “Dog” seems like a might easy answer, in that context, doesn’t it?!)

And a BONUS: the same newspaper page and column carries this Chinuk Wawa-related item, again leaving the pidgin words untranslated:

very matter of fact

VERY MATTER OF FACT. — One of the Indian canoes which are to be found there at any hour of the day or night, was tied yesterday at the city landing. In one end of the canoe was seated a young and attractive klootchman holding a “tenas” Siwash in her arms. The little dusky urchin, who could not have been more than 5 years old, seemed possessed of a Stanley-like love for exploring, and his mother finally allowed him to crawl along the bottom of the canoe. This was all very well, until the youngster took it into his head to look over the side, in doing which he lost his balance and shot down in the water like an experienced dier. On rising he did not yell, nor attempt to, but merely struck out “dog-fashion,” keeping himself afloat until his mother hauled him into the canoe, wrapped her shawl around him, boxed his ears, and apparently dismissed him from her thoughts again as she stowed him away in the stern. — [Victoria, BC] Colonist.

While we’re examining late-1800s Northwest speech, “dog-fashion” seems to have been the usual way that people expressed what we now call “dogpaddling”.

What a motley assortment of new information!

What do you think?

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