1903: A variation on the “talking pidgin to brown people” joke

On this site, I’ve previously shown old news clippings that paint some clueless white person as a fool for talking Chinese Pidgin English, etc., to someone who turns out to be better educated than they are.

So today we have a variation on that old saw, with Chinuk Wawa playing the role of “a language you talk to primitive people”.

It looks as if the editors of the Chemawa Indian School newspaper were familiar with the old chestnut. The “probably a Chemawa boy” here, if real, may have spoken not only better English, but also more refined Jargon (Grand Rond style perhaps), than this “W.M.” Miller. (Was he the “Wm.”, i.e. William, Miller who was superintendent of Lane County, location of Yachats and Euggene?)

(PS, that old joke was given a fresh twist, probably about the same time, up on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where there’s a funny tale of a white traveling salesman who doesn’t understand a Native woman’s thoughtful effort at talking Jargon to him.)

Here is your Chinook Jargon humor of the day…

probably a chemawa boy.PNG


The latest joke is on W. M. Miller, County Superintendent, [sic] Out at the fair the other day before the Indian races were pulled off Mr. Miller accosted a burley [sic] buck, and, thinking to show the Indian that he was interested, said : “You have heap hiyu skookum race pretty soon,” waving his hands toward the track in order that the thickness of the “Injun’s” skull might thereby be penetrated by his meaning. The Indian halted and replied: “I am not positive that the details of the race have been arranged to the entire satisfaction of all concerned, therefore cannot say whether or not the race will be ran.” With that he walked away with a triumphant gleam in his eye. Several of Mr. Miller’s friends happened to be near, and caught him as he fell uttering between gasps, “you don’t have to talk jargon to those fellows.” Now when he meets a red skin Mr. Miller is disposed to take off his hat. — Portland Telegram.

— from the Chemawa (OR) Weekly Chemawa American of October 23, 1903, page 3, column 1

What do you think?