Euphonic Washingtonia

Today’s philosophical question: if doggerel poetry is untitled except for a headline, is it a display of untitlement?

For your Chinuk Wawa-related delectation, here’s a precursor (thus some older spellings) to famous goofy Washingtonian Willard R. Espys book “Omak Me Yours Tonight“:

Euphonic Washingtonia.

The following clever jingle was written by J-F. Glegg, an itinerant newspaperman, and was published recently in the South Bend Journal, on which paper the author was, or is now, employed as a printer. Early in life he was a reporter on the Cincinnati (O.) Post and later filled editorial positions on different papers; but he wandered away from the straight pathway, and the tide of fate swept him to the Pacific coast. The poem was called forth by the following skit on the nomenclature of Washington state:

“People at Stillaguamish, Skookumchuck, Skokomish, Wahkiakum, Puyallup, Kittitas, Iquin and Peshastin say they don’t see why the Chinese have such queer names for places and things.” — South Bend Journal.

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A problem true, but really not a hard one,
To choose between Chinese and Chinook jargon.
The first’s inscrutable; occasions useless bother
While here we all take kindly to the other.

Here in this glorious state whose bent is sure
For rhythmic sound in geographical nomenclature
We’ve names unique, yet mellifluous aud euphonic,
Which after wrestling with Chinese act like a tonic.
Indigenous, too, they are, and whether grown
On Klickitat or Siwash soil, are all our own.

So, the shrewd Siwash, tho’ untutored, finds
Poetic similes for brooks and sloughs; his mind’s
Quite easy o’er what editors may reject, for he
Can always work his poems into some big state

          Commence, say, with Yakima,
         Come, then, to Tacoma —
(lf the accent is wrong lay the blame on the rhymer,

Or transpose the lines and accent it Ya-ki-ma),
     Sling in Puyallup, Sumas and Claquato,
     Sooyoo and Sbuwah, Tanwax and Wapato
         Then Tatoosh and Satsop,
         And Pilchuck and Clatsop,
         And Kitsap (not Catsup),
And ring off with Muck, or with Muckilteo.

Of rivers and lakes just see what he can do —
     From the pebbly beach of the Sammamish
     To the grassy banks of the grayish Samisb,
Snohomish, Skokomish and Swinomish, too,
     The Stillagaumish [sic]; also the Duwaumish,
And a lot of others that end with -amish, 
         And -omish,
         And -awnish [sic],
To the wide mud-flats yclept Semiahmoo.

See the Chin-chin-charlie-mouse brighten the lea.
See the Wishkah uncorked pour down to the sea;
Then glance down the Cowlitz, where Kalama new
Dubs a cage of stuffed wildcats a Kalama-zoo
     E’en nature’s best, though, hath its crosses
And soon, despite umbrell’ or mackintosh,
Will rains Washougal and Washtucna, Wash.,
     ’Way down to their goloshes [sic].

Unconscious of his gifts of college cries,
The gentle Siwash hears with some surprise
(While loit’ring in the neighborhood of quaint Pe-Ell)
His pet names shouted with vociferous yell:
     “Hoop-ee! Who—are—we?—
         Weenatchee! Wynooche!
         Pialochie! Kamilchie!

Through narrow slits in disc of reddish-brown
Two dull-black beads peep out on prosp’rous towns,
Then muttering something sounding much like “damn,”
Homeward he sadly turns to tide-washed beds of clam.

Now, see with what grace these come—
         Newaukum, Chimacum,
         Salkum and Steilacom,
         And old Wahkiakum,
         But, cumtux, tillicum,
             And tell Whatcom’s next.
Why, Nicomen aud Konewock,
     Nooksack and Kapousin,
Duckabush and Quillayute,
     Kittitas aud Quillacene,
     Nisqually, Pataha,
     Toppemsh and Chewelaw,
     Chuckanut and Enumclaw,
     Skamania, Willapa,
     Utsaladdy, Olequa;
     Walla Walla, Wallicut,
     Wallula and Walluda;
The Ilwaco and Nahcotta,
(DifTrent meter now we’ve got to),
Hoko. Elwha and Dewatto,
Muckleshoot, also Tulalip,
Naxwai, Quiniault, Humptulips,
Neuchachamp and Docewallups;
Come we, then, to Skamokawa,
Wawawai and Penawawa —
     Hiawatha isn’t in it;
     Bet he’s sorry he began it:
     No-good names near rising sun —
     Siwash beat ’em ten to one.

And here’s Salal — beautious [sic] Salal!
Was she bred in Skookumchuck, eh?
     Oh, Skookumchuck,
     Sweet Skookumchuck,
         Sweet vale!

— from the Shelton (WA) Mason County Journal of January 11, 1901, page 3, column 5

That parting line is the traditional Latin vale ‘goodbye’.

The line about “Siwash beat ’em” is not, despite its proximity to a fictional football cheer, a reference to the popular “At Good Old Siwash” novel(s) of George Helgesen Fitch, which weren’t written for another decade.

Quite the impressive poem to try reading out loud, eh? Try it on your Washington friends 🙂

qʰáta máyka tə́mtəm? What do you think?