“Hiyou sick here”: BC Chinese Pidgin English hybridized with BC Chinook Jargon

cariboo butterfly

All the same mosquito (image credit: Inside British Columbia) 

I’ve told before about the tendency for any and all pidgin languages spoken on the West Coast of North America to get used in tandem — even blending together.

Here’s a nice eyewitness example from British Columbia’s Cariboo region. In one article, two professional British naturalists (George Robert Crotch and E.L. Phelps) are reported as collecting butterflies for Louis Agassiz in the Barkerville area.

The very next article tells one Chinese immigrant’s reaction to them.

hiyou sick here.PNG

JOHN CHINAMAN ON ENTOMOLOGY. — While the two gentlemen referred to in the above paragraph were adjourning on Keithley Creek at a hospitable cabin, an inquisitive Chinaman asked one of their hosts, “What’s the matter? what he do?” “O, he catch all the same mosquito.” “What for? muck-a-muck?” [“food?”] “Halo! Stop one big Boston house siya.” [“No! There’s a big American building far away.”] “Hem,” said the Chinaman, tapping his head, “hiyou sick here!” [“really crazy!”]

— from the Barkerville (BC) Cariboo Sentinel of September 13, 1873, page 3, column 3

Above, I’ve bolded only those words that are indisputably Chinuk Wawa. But several more words are probably CW, such as stop and one, both known from Aboriginal people’s Jargon usage around Kamloops.

And some of the words are shared between Chinese Pidgin English and CW, due to their similar anglophone inputs.

The final sentence shows the speaker either grasping for a Chinuk Wawa word for ‘head’ (sik latet can mean mentally ill), blending sign language and CW, or just being wonderfully expressive 🙂

Did you also notice — the “host” speaking with this Chinese man is either Chinese too, or this is yet another example of non-Chinese people speaking C.P.E. I like the fact that it’s hard to tell which!

kata maika tomtom?
What are your thoughts?

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