Seal of Kalama
Chinuk Wawa humor…
…partnering up with an old American slang phrase for self-reliance.
My short comment on the Chinook Jargon expression follows after this reading excerpt:
SEAL OF KALAMA. — The Portland Bulletin gives the following humorous discription [sic] of the Seal of the new town of Kalama, which has caused such a stampede towards the [Puget] Sound country:
We have been favored with a photograph of the seal of the new town of Kalama, taken at Buchtel’s Gallery [in Portland, Oregon]. It contains as principle figures a hog statant with his nose directed to a clam beach in the foreground, and there is a remarkably tight double curl to his tail. Upon his back is a crow, upon the back of which, inscribed in scroll, is the portion of the legend “nah! cochon,” to be read with that beneath — ” ‘Spose wake mamook memeluse“—which translated freely Is “Now, hog! root or die!” In the background is a sheet of water, supposed to be a broad bay of the Columbia, and in the distance is seen a large ship in tow of a large steamer. Above and describing the upper portion of the circle is a train of cars drawn by the locomotive,
and immediately beneath is the title “Kalama.” A protruding fringe of tall sea grass serves as relief in ornamentation of the foreground sandy shore. In explanation of the hog and crow and clam beach, it is said that crows have been known to thus mount upon the back of a hog rooting for clams, and to pounce on the clams the moment the unsuspecting porker had unearthed them for his own benefit. We do not pretend to discover just what application the legend and figures have in connection with the new town down the river, but if any of the parties interested will inform us of the features selected as appropriate we will gladly put them in print. If we could only determine by which of the figures — the hog or crow or clams — the town site owners, the
lot owners, and the tenants or dwellers there are specially typified, we might know how it is yourselves, gentlemen, that “root hog or die” has been selected for the legend. Won’t you let us know?
— from the Idaho City (Idaho Territory) Idaho World of March 23, 1871, page 4, column 2
About that Jargon:
< nah! cochon,’Spose wake mamook memeluse >
ná, kúshu, spus wík mamuk-/máyka mímlus
hey.now, pig, so.that not make-/you die
‘Get to it, pig, so (you) don’t die!’
< Nah > is the old Chinuk Wawa attention-getting interjection.
< Mamook >, here, is:
- …either an unexpected use of the Causative mamuk- prefix (albeit one that was common among Settlers, who sometimes treated mamuk- as a generic Verb formant), thus giving us both:
- …literally the nonsensical sentiment ‘so as not to kill’, which we know from the American English expression that it’s translating isn’t what’s intended,
- …and a syntactic structure that’s infrequent and borderline ungrammatical in Jargon, a subjectless subordinate clause of purpose.
- …or just a misprint for < mika > (mayka) ‘you’.
It’s hard to make a call about which of those two views to adopt. And really, both could be the case at the same time! (For instance, if the translator had actually meant to write < …wake mika mamook memeluse… > !)
Could the clams have been a pun on “Kalama”? There are freshwater-clam beds there.
I interpret today’s reading selection as purely a joke, and the Jargon as fictional, so it doesn’t feel terribly pressing to specify this pinhead’s angel count.
But I’d sure love to root up the original image of the Kalama seal, if it did exist! If it didn’t, who’s going to re-create it???