“Kladawah” mystery solved

Thanks to Karla Elliott for finding an online copy of this book & sharing on the Facebook Chinook Jargon group!

Here are the Chinuk Wawa-related portions of Henry Derr Elliott’s 1917 single-copy edition of his doggerel poem collection, “Kladawah”.

The pages are unnumbered, so I’ll do my best at citing their location in the book.

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front cover

The title, “Kladawah”, is Chinook Jargon for ‘go’ (łátwa).

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page facing the first poem

Reynolds’ little motto here, as I interpret it in the light of the blustery hyper-manly Settler ethos pervading his book, which I (born in Alaska) know to be so typical of the state, means “Lots of — swell — food — go (there)!”. His Jargon is bare-bones, as if he wasn’t used to actually speaking it. This use of < skookum > to mean ‘excellent’ is way more typical of Settler English than of anyone’s Chinuk Wawa, where the word almost always meant ‘strong’.

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twelfth poem

Some Rank-Outsider Nonsense

Admiral Sourdough registers a kick at a wotsonerie-club smoker

“High diddle diddle — yah! some fiddle, too,
Huh! (them raw cheechacoes snoopin’ at you)
The stiff puts on lugs — amongst us ole bugs —
Which knowed him (ole tillicums — shake) th’ ole stew.”

“High diddle diddle (tenas) wot’s th’ use —
Of chuckin’ ole pozies? — new squaw? no excuse;
New suite er — du lux — pipes hiyu — yah! (oh shucks)
Cut details — langwige fails (same here) ole cayuse.”

Reynolds’ poetry is as accomplished as his Chinook Jargon. His English needs more translating than his CJ! This piece is a takedown of an old comrade. That “stiff” (meaning, guy / hobo / loser) now tries to act high-class (“puts on lugs”) among former prospecting pals (“ole bugs”). “Ole stew” might be equivalent to “stewbum”, an alcoholic. “Chuckin’ ole pozies” sounds like wearing a flower in your lapel; “new squaw” means “just married”.

The CJ words used in this doggerel are exclusively those that were in common English-language use. And he doesn’t construct a single complete Jargon phrase, so we can’t bother calling this fictional CJ. It’s more like Chinuk Wawa decorations in frontiersy, eye-dialect-strewn literary style. Any fan of Jack London knows cheechaco is a “greenhorn”, a “newcomer”; ole tillicums means “old friend(s)”; tenas “kid”, “boy”, etc.; hiyu means “a lot”, “galore”; and ole cayuse here looks like a version of American colloquial “old hoss” as a salutation to a friend.

The “rank outsider” of the title is unintended high irony. Reynolds, who escaped prison on mail-fraud & misrepresentation charges by being judged insane, is known to have made a big deal of identifying himself as an Alaskan (while he lived in wealthy luxury in New York), and looking down on weaklings from “outside” as Alaska folks still say.

There you have it. It turns out not much decoding was called for, but I’m quite pleased to run into such a rare old curio that’s a fine example of how the Jargon became a curio, a token of Western frontier identity (if not reality).

What do you think?

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