Damn cold, damn hot

china wall of the sierra

China Wall of the Sierra, Truckee, California (image credit: readtheplaque.com)

Another of our occasional looks at another West Coast pidgin language……which, at the time, was commonly called “pigeon English”:
damn cold damn hot

A Chinaman who came down from Truckee a few days since, says that the climate of California has changed so much during the last few months that certain localities are getting quiet unhealthy for his countrymen. He expresses thusly in “pigeon English:” “Tluckee tloo d— cold, Slacamento tloo d– hot. Me go Lallameda, top side Oakland, catchee washee house, you sabbee!

— from the Sacramento (CA) Daily Record-Union of January 25, 1886, page 4, column 3

This man’s sentiments translate as “Truckee is too damn cold, Sacramento is too damn hot. I’m going to Alameda, above Oakland, and get a laundry (business), you understand?”

Once again we find Chinese pidgin speech associated with cussin’. Jeepers!

I’m still intensely curious how much reality is reflected in the old newspapers’ frequent insertion of extra “L” sounds when quoting Chinese immigrants. We can see a reason for “Truckee” becoming “Tluckee” — but “tloo”, “Slacamento”, “Lallameda” seem maybe a tad excessive.

One thing that West Coast Chinese Pidgin English genuinely has in common with Chinook Jargon is the frequent lack of any word for “be” (when you’re saying something is cold or hot etc.), and for “to” (when you’re expressing “going to some place”).

What have you learned?