Me no takee, me no do

sacramento chinese

(Image credit̂ Han Trainer Pro)

To be filed under “more evidence that pidgin languages are street languages”: …the slangy English “a little off” in the following article:

me no takee

Local officer Strader took to the station house yesterday afternoon on suspicion of insanity a Chinaman whom he found engaged apparently in trying to tear down the brick wall of a building. On being interrogated at the lock-up he produced a small quantity of pigeon-English, and used it in an endeavor to convince the officers that he was innocent of any offense — “Me no takee, me no do.” He was very good natured, and it was concluded that, even if he was a little off, he was harmless.

— from the Sacramento (CA) Daily Record-Union of February 09, 1885, page 3, column 3

Again, my favorite diagnostic of how familiar locals were with pidgin languages like this California CPE (Chinese Pidgin English): the editor doesn’t go to the effort of providing his readers a translation.

The same relationship obtained between regular folks and Chinook Jargon in its heyday. Not everyone understood or spoke CJ, but plenty enough did that in many places and times it was superfluous effort to say “…which means ____.”

When you see viral Facebook articles about communities where “receptive multilingualism” is the norm, with each resident speaking their most comfortable language adn most people around them understanding, that also pretty well desribes the Pacific Northwest.

In that respect, Chinuk Wawa and Chinese Pidgin English both continued an ancient pattern of relations among local languages.

Kind of interesting to think of!

What do you think?
Kahta mika tumtum?

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