Delate $$$

gold oyster

Gold oysters (image source: Chef’s Resources)

A short, single-paragraph item in a late-1870s newspaper uses Chinuk Wawa to comment on national economic policy.

My readers have learned to check whether the newspaper editor translates Chinook Jargon material into English; here, he doesn’t, which means most readers were expected to understand the CJ comments…

delate dollar.PNG

The way for some of our corporations to maintain their credit is to “resume specie payments.” Spose halo dollar, halo mamook pe hyu sick tumtum. Wake tickey icta — tickey delate dollaron the half shell

— from the Olympia (Washington Territory) Washington Standard of February 22, 1879, page 1, column 1

This has to do with the end of bimetallism, the demonetization of silver and the reliance on a solely gold standard for currency. Got it?

Another historical point: “on the half shell” seems to have been a pretty new, and snazzy-sounding phrase in the 1870s. My earliest find of it is in an 1851 New York City newspaper. It always refers to oysters — which were practically the largest industry in early Washington Territory days, including in the Olympia region.

With that in mind, let’s try some translating…

Spose halo dollar, halo mamook pe hyu sick tumtum.
spus hílu dála, hílu mámuk pi háyú sík-tə́mtəm.
if none money, none work and much hurt-heart.
‘If there’s no cash, there’s no work and lots of suffering.’

Wake tickey icta — tickey delate dollar…
wík tíki íkta — tíki dlét dála…
not want thing — want real money…
‘(We) don’t want (for) anything — (we just) want the real money [i.e. oysters]…’

What do you think of my interpretation?