For the latest installment in our occasional series on Chinese Pidgin English of the West Coast, let’s go to the mining boomtown of Helena, in Montana Territory.
Here’s the story, right off the news wire, demonstrating the importance of pidgin languages besides Chinuk Wawa on the 1800s western frontier:
A Chinaman entered a store in Helena, Montana, the other day, and walking up to the counter, deposited a grasshopper thereon saying as he gazed upon the clerk with a confiding look: “He too much hoppee; all hoppee – stop him. You sabbee?” The obliging clerk at once commenced measuring off musquito [mosquito] bar, to the intense delight of the heathen. The grasshopper had been destroying his garden, and wanting to purchase some musquito bar, but not knowing the name of the article, he brought the destroyer with him, and the clerk understood in a moment the article needed.
— from the Alexandria (VA) Gazette of June 2, 1874, page 1, column 1
That’s clear to any reader, and I’ve got no value to add to it.
I leave you with more about North American language contact and pesky bugs: in my Lakota dictionary, a word for ‘grasshopper’ is peji-hap-hap. Peji means grass…get it?