1892 California CPE: Bathed in blood (No Jesus here)

old sacramento county jail

Old Sacramento County Jail (image credit: Flickr)

One of the Facebook “Chinook Jargon” group members from Grand Ronde commented how weird the Christian hymn “Are You Washed in Jesus’ Blood” sounds from a Native perspective…

In his honor, here’s a different pidgin language with a more literal bloodbath. No Jesus here, except as a cussword.

The usual 1800s disclaimers about un-objective reporting apply, but we get some good West Coast-style Chinese Pidgin English (CPE) and plenty of color here.

I think hardly any of the CPE quotations I’ve published here lack for cuss words. Swearing, indicated below by “— — —“, was a habit strongly associated with its speakers.

See if you can follow what Butch says as well as the average 1892 reader could. (Recall how old-school news editors left pidgin languages untranslated if they felt locals already understood.)

bathed in blood


Little “Butch” Banged on the Head With an I-Street Gun.

The little, fat, oily-looking Chinaman, known about town as “Butch,” was on a toot last night in Chinatown. About 10 o’clock he ran into the police station and said another Chinaman had tried to murder him.

His appearance bore out the assertion, as he was a gory-looking object. His face, hands and shirt-front were one mass of blood, and “Butch” was so proud of it that it was with reluctance he permitted [Night] Jailer [George Kencil] Naghel to wash his face.

Look, see my blains lunnin’ out!” he cried, as he cavorted about the police office.

Being asked how it all happened, he said: 

I no do noting; I sitt’n flont gamblin’ house on I stleet, an ‘nother Chinaman, — — —, he pullee gun all same, hit me on hed; him tly killee me. Him Jim Wah, b’long my oomp’ny all same, I no care!

“Butch” was told to come down in the morning and swear to a complaint, and off he went, cursing in pigeon-English, to show his bloody shirt-front along I street.

The assault took place in front of the gambling-house at 304 I street.

— from the Sacramento (CA) Record-Union of September 19, 1892, page 6, column 4

What do you think?