Can I get an Amen?

kloshe kahkwa

Exhibit 3: Myron Eells’s version (Image source: “Hymns in the Chinook Jargon Language“)

BC Chinook Jargon seems to use two alternative ways of expressing “amen“. The distribution is suggestive of historical developments, I feel:

Bishop Paul Durieu’s 1896 “Chinook Manual: or Prayers, Hymns and Catechism in Chinook” ends prayers with tlus pus kakwa. Durieu belonged to an earlier generation, trained directly by pioneering Fort Vancouver-area Fathers Demers & Blanchet, and thus when he learned Jargon it included this early periphrastic expression (perhaps inspired by French ainsi soit-il ‘so be it; amen’) from the Jargon homeland on the lower Columbia.

Father J.M.R. Le Jeune’s 1902 “Chinook Book of Devotions throughout the Year” ends most prayers with amin, and only a few with tlus (pus) kakwa. As a member of a later generation, Le Jeune learned his Jargon from Durieu as well as from actual usage within British Columbia. I might invoke English-language influence here too, but French can equally account for the presence, frequency, and pronunciation of amin — and this is eminently not the kind of colloquialism that we’re used to finding English contributing to Jargon! Instead the tradition that we see Le Jeune perpetuating here is the long line of PNW francophone missionaries mining their mother tongue’s vocabulary for specialized religious terms. Thus, the “actual usage” I’m sensing here is his own practices of translation.

Which is quite interesting, when you recognize that Le Jeune’s 8 Salish-language “Manuals” all use Salish translations of the older tlus pus kakwa.

The explanation for this discrepancy? Many or most of Le Jeune’s Salish translator-helpers were folks who we know already worked with Durieu’s pioneering generation — and thus they spoke that older, lower-Columbia style of Jargon!

Once again we find ample reason to genealogically connect the homeland’s early-creolized Chinook Jargon with BC’s (re-)pidgin(ized) dialect!
And we learn that either way of saying “amen” is quite all right in BC.