Port Townsend wears the bell

eldridge morse

Eldridge Morse, in hat at right, circa 1885 (image credit: Stump Ranch Online)

“Chenook”, they used to say, rhyming it with “ye duke”.

(Some of our audio recordings of the older generations document this /tšiinuuk/ pronunciation.)

Here’s a frontier-era Puget Sound editor using the royal “we” and some noblesse oblige to gracefully put a know-it-all in his place.

The tone of humble humor is reinforced by the regionally popular joke that Chinuk Wawa was the Pacific Northwest’s Latin or Greek — its “classical language”.

The writer must be editor Eldridge Morse (1847-1914), known to have had an ear for Indigenous languages. Jeez, what was his offense in the incident told below — using a Lushootseed Salish word in his Jargon? (We’ve seen from other sources that that indeed was done by northern Puget Sound pioneers.)

About the headline — I understand “wear the bell” as a very old phrase in English that’s roughly equivalent to “be convicted of a crime”!!

port townsend wears the bell 01

Port Townsend wears the Bell.

In our wish to acquire a knowledge of the Chenook Jargon, so we could make ourselves understood when needing the services of Siwashes [‘Indians’], we unconsciously contracted the habit of using in ordinary conversation a great many words of the jargon. Although feeling quite diffident as to our knowledge of the language when compelled to negotiate with the natives, we felt we did know a thing or two in Chenook, when we found ourselves called the Chenook lawyer and editor of the Sound.

Soon, we found we were in danger of loesing [sic] our freshly acquire laurels; when we received from Port Townsend a beautifully gotten up letter of invitation, printed on rose tinted paper in delate [‘real; true’] Chenook requesting our attendance at a clam bake, &c., there. 

port townsend wears the bell 02

Feeling ourselves inadequate to the effort, (being unable to go in person,) we called in the services of one of our most skilled chenook friends, who so eloquently told the story of our misfortunes, that we hoped to conquer our enemy by pity, and still retain the position previously conceded to us. But alas! a few days since we incautiously ventured across the chuck [‘water’] to Port Townsend, where we met a number of self styled friends, but pitiless rivals; comprising among the number several of the leading professional men of the place.

port townsend wears the bell 03

When dining with a party of them we so far forgot ourselves, as well as the classic language peculiar to the place, that in passing a glass of water, we called it by a name different from the standard Chenook. We were quickly remin[d]ed of our error by a leading professional gentleman of the place sitting beside us assuming a voice and manner as stern and grim as a Roman Censor, and sternly saying, Wake! Wake! Yaka delate chuck[‘No! No! It’s actually “chuck”.’]

This reproof, so fiercely administered, under such circumstances convinced us that nothing was left but for us to gracefully yield the palm of pre-eminence in the classic chenook to the professional gentlemen of Port Townsend. 

port townsend wears the bell 04

We shall try to forget what little we know upon the subject, and respectfully refer all desiring a knowledge of the language to these gentlemen for that complete knowledge of the sweet sounding Chenook we never hope to obtain.

— from the Snohomish City (Washington Territory) Northern Star of September 9, 1876, page 4, column 4

Kata maika tomtom?
What do you think?