1885 Sacramento CPE: The glorious uncertainty

nick of the woods

Note the saintly portrayal (Image credit: Amazon)

Two tie-ins to Chinuk Wawa here…

First, here’s another pidgin language being spoken on the West Coast.

Second, the name of the racehorse referenced below is likely to be a folksy version of “neck of the woods” (a neighborhood), but also a reference to the ultra-popular American novel “Nick of the Woods; or, the Jibbenainesay” (1837) by Robert Montgomery Bird — a racist shocker whose hero is a Quaker, i.e. pacifist (!), Indian-killer.

That book is credited with popularizing the stupid “grunting Indian” trope, ugh.

Now, read on and see my great linguistic discovery confirmed: that Chinese Pidgin English (CPE) speakers in the USA were pretty much always seen and heard as cussing a blue streak.


THE GLORIOUS UNCERTAINTY. — Among the spectators at the park Friday was a San Francisco Chinaman, who, not content with the excitements of dominoes, dice and [fan] tan, desired to follow the white man’s methods and enjoy the glorious uncertainty of horse-racing. Some one had posted him that Nick-of-the-Woods was sure to win, and, in the language of the stableboys, he “blew in” every $5 piece he had on that horse. Sunday morning he returned home. Another Chinaman, to whom he had narrated his experience, told of it yesterday, about like this: “D–n Saclamento! No good place for hoss-lace. White man he tell me that hoss he champion hoss. Me sabbee [understand]. Me bet ten, twenty, fifty dollar Champion hoss he lun quick two, tlee time; evly time he go back. Then all lun. Champion hoss lun pletty good. I think catchee much money. Bimeby all hosses come in, champion hoss him last. D–n champion hoss!

— from the Sacramento (CA) Daily Record-Union of September 17, 1885, page 3, column 1

What do you think?