Oregon CPE: Struck It in Hops (and linguistic “silos”)
In this website we’ve looked at reports of how Indigenous people and Chinese immigrants crossed paths…
…We’ve seen how Chinuk Wawa and Chinese Pidgin English intersected in the Pacific Northwest, often in the same conversation and even the same sentence.
And we’ve learned that the two ethnic groups competed fiercely for certain jobs — notably in hops picking.
Today we find a group of Chinese workers in Oregon who were preparing to make good use of their hops earnings by visiting Southeast China long enough to get married.
In the course of a local news article, one man uses his Chinese Pidgin English to bust a myth that was current among local Whites:
“Sam no buy wife” said one of his friends yesterday, “Chinamen no buy wife, Newspaper talkee that way; no sabbee. Sam he talkee girl father, tell ’em old man he pay $400, or may be $1,000, and old man he fix ’em up in clothes and set ’em up, so Chinaman no buy ’em wife. All mistake; Melican no sabbee.“
— from the Corvallis (OR) Times of November 26, 1902, page 3, column 3
If you recognize that < sabbee > = ‘understand; know’, you < sabbee > what’s being said there.
There’s an interesting thing going on with < ’em > being used to mark most of the verbs as transitive…
Anyway, there you have another sample of a pidgin language that coexisted with Chinook Jargon, in a kind of linguistic ecosystem that I’ve been claiming is common.
People will use whatever tools they can most easily master, to communicate in a totally new environment.
Chinese immigrants almost certainly coached each other in the basics of CPE — just as it’s been shown that Indians helped one another to learn Jargon, and Whites used whatever impressions or experience they had (often from books!) of how to talk with non-English speakers.
“Silo” dynamics like that tended to keep each and every pidgin language alive well after everybody could’ve theoretically already adopted a single shared language (English for example).
In this sense, diversity tends to perpetuate itself.