Was with DeLong

(Another of my occasional illustrations of other West Coast pidgin languages, for comparison with ways Chinuk Wawa was spoken…)

charles tong sing medal

Charles Tong Sing’s medal (Image credit: Bidsquare)

Quoted West Coast Chinese Pidgin English, telling one doozy of a true adventure tale!

This concerns Charles Tong Sing’s (a.k.a. Charley Ah Chong’s) survival of the Jeannette Expedition, officially the US Arctic Exploring Expedition — one of the wildest endeavors that you’ve never heard of.

The Chinese Pidgin English that’s quoted looks to be a pretty accurate specimen of the pidgin language which gave us the word “pidgin”, and which once was heard as frequently as Chinuk Wawa in our part of the world.

(I assume the “—-” notation represents the word “damn”. CPE speakers are frequently represented as cussing.)

Read and see…

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The Chinese Survivor of the Jeannette.

He Intends to Relate His Experience in Lectures at the Coming World’s Fair.

“Charley” Ah Chong, the Chinese Arctic explorer, and the only Mongolian who ever received a medal from the United States for bravery, is stopping at a Chinese lodging-house on Washington street.

His home is in Portland, Or., but he is here on a business trip. The fact of the matter is that he regards himself as a drawing freak for a dime museum, and is looking for a manager to take him to the World’s Fair at Chicago.

Charley is one of the few survivors of the disastrous Jeannette expedition, and for meritorious conduct during the terrible privations suffered in Northern Siberia has recently been decorated by Congress with a handsome gold medal. 

While be exhibits the badge with no little pride he does not like to talk of that terrible tramp through the ice-fields of Siberia that cost so many men their lives. When questioned about it he simply shrugs his shoulders and says:

“Plenty cold; plenty hungry. No good.”

It was in June, I879, that Lieutenant de Long selected Charley to accompany the ill-fated expedition as cook. Charley had a good situation as cook in a private family in this city at the time, but the offer of a much better salary tempted him.

His commander carefully explained the deadly perils to which he would be exposed, but he could not comprehend the real nature of the expedition. He considered it a sort of Government picnic party and thought he would have a soft berth.

Me heap big fool, allee same Melicans,” he said yesterday when asked why be had accepted the position. “Nex’ time catchee ‘noda Chinaman. Me heap sabe. Too muchee ice; too muchee snow; too muchee

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heap —- cold; too much no glub; hungly allee time; too much work likee horse. No likee. White men get heap clazy an’ fight allee time for glub. Plenty allee time; when I eat say: ‘Killee —- Chinaman!’ Heap flaid.

Then he explained in his “pidgin English” how his foresight had materially assisted his famishing comrades back to civilization. When the Jeannette was crushed
in the ice he saw the seamen loading all the stores they could carry into the boats and realized that weeks of famishing hunger were ahead. Without saying a word to any one be concealed about ten pounds of canned goods about his clothing.

Charley was assigned to Engineer Melville’s boat, and took his place at the oars
until they were compelled to desert their boat. In addition to carrying his little store of provisions, he helped draw the sledges during the long tramp over the ice fields south to Irkutsk. 

The supply of provisions were rapidly being exhausted and only enough to sustain life were given out each day, still Charley did not touch those he carried. It was then that threats were made against the life of the Chinese cook, and often he was on the point of bartering his supplies for his life, for he feared that he would be murdered some night for the sake of his scanty allowance of food.

Finally the little band were left without a morsel with which to sustain tbeir lives, and starvation was staring them in the face. Then it was, according to Charley’s story, that he placed his little stock of provisions in the hands of his commander. The men who had before threatened him then blessed him and all said: “Bully good man; bes’ fellow in clowd. No die now.

With these provisions the party was enabled to reach the Northern Russian
settlements, where the half-famished men were supplied with food by the natives.

Charley is fat and sleek now, but he spends a great deal of his time meditating on the days when he expected either to be starved or murdered.

lt was only a few weeks ago that he received the handsome gold medal voted him
by Congress for “valuable services rendered and meritorious conduct” upon the Jeannette expedition.

Some of Charley’s white friends in Portland have told him that he could make a
fortune if he could secure a good manager who could arrange a series of lectures to be delivered by him at tbe coming World’s Fair upon his experiences while in the search of the north pole. He is now looking for some one who can make the proper arrangements and write a series of lectures suited to his knowledge of English and

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style of delivery.

— from the San Francisco (CA) Morning Call of December 30, 1892, page 6, column 3