Songs of LBDB (Part 1)

lil liza jane

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

Tenas Liza Jane” is the only song in Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett’s 1924 dictionary that doesn’t also appear in her “Chinook-English Songs” book.

Published on page 90 of her dictionary, this is LBDB’s unique translation of a song recently popular in America, known as “Li’l Liza Jane“.

I’ll show you her Jargon lyrics, with some asterisks showing uncertain spots, and my comments will follow afterward as usual…

tenas liza jane 01

tenas liza jane 02

TENAS LIZA JANE
tənas* láysa* djéyn*
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane’

Ikt
íht
one
‘First [verse]’

Nika iskum t’sladie pee halo mika,
nayka ískam tsłádəy* pi hílu máyka, [1]
I take lady but not you,
‘I took a lady but not you,’
Tenas Liza Jane,
tənas* láysa* djéyn*
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane’
Nika iskum t’sladie pee halo mika,
nayka ískam tsłádəy* pi hílu máyka,
‘I took a lady but not you,’
Tenas Liza Jane.
tənas* láysa* djéyn*
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane’

Konaway Shunta:
kʰánawi shántey*:
all sing:
‘Everyone Sing:’ (chorus)

O-oh, Liza, tenas Liza Jane
ó, ó, láysa*, tənas* láysa* djéyn*
oh, oh, Liza, little Liza Jane
‘Oh, Oh, Liza, little Liza Jane’
O-oh, Liza, tenas Liza Jane.
ó, ó, láysa*, tənas* láysa* djéyn*.
oh, oh, Liza, little Liza Jane.
‘Oh, Oh, Liza, little Liza Jane.’

Moxt
mákwst
two
‘Second [verse]’

Chaco nika talis, mallie nika,
cháku(,) nayka táləs*, máli* nayka, [2]
come(,) my dear, marry me,
‘Come, my dear, marry me,’
Tenas Liza Jane,
tənas* láysa* djéyn*,
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane’
Nika kloash nanitch kopa mika,
nayka (t)łúsh-nánich kʰupa máyka, [3]
I well-watch for you,
‘I’ll keep you safe,’
Tenas Liza Jane.
tənas* láysa* djéyn*.
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane.’

Konaway Shunta:
kʰánawi shántey*:
all sing:
‘Everyone sing:’ (chorus)

Klone
(t)łún
three
‘Third [verse]’

Liza Jane chaco kopa nika,
láysa* djéyn* cháku kʰupa náyka, [4]
Liza Jane come to me,
‘Liza Jane(,) come to me!’
Tenas Liza Jane,
tənas* láysa* djéyn*,
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane,’
Kona-moxt tum-tum hyiu hee-hee,
kʰanumákwst tə́mtəm háyú híhi, [5]
together heart much fun,
‘Together hearts will be lots of fun,’
Tenas Liza Jane.
tənas* láysa* djéyn*.
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane.’

Konaway Shunta:
kʰánawi shántey*:
all sing:
‘Everyone Sing:’ (chorus)

Lakit
lákit
four
‘Fourth [verse]’

Tolth pee illahee mitlite Baltimore,
túł* pi ílihi míłayt Ø báltimor*, [6]
house and land exist in Baltimore,
‘There’s a house and some land in Baltimore,’
Tenas Liza Jane,
tənas* láysa* djéyn*,
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane,’
Hyiu tenas konaway kah,
háyú tənás kʰánawi-qʰá(x̣),
many child all-where,
‘Lots of children everywhere’
Tenas Liza Jane.
tənas* láysa* djéyn*.
little Liza Jane
‘Little Liza Jane.’

Comments:

nayka ískam tsłádəy* pi hílu máyka [1] — We know from the original lyrics in English that this is a classic blues-style opener, “I have a gal but you got none”. However, tsłádəy* from Lushootseed Salish is an obscure bookish word. And the grammar used by LBDB here sends the message ‘I took a lady but not you’, and that’s a pretty different concept. Especially because the mayka at the end of the line is unclear: does the speaker mean ‘…but you don’t have one’, or ‘…but I didn’t take you’? The whole problem would be nonexistent if LBDB had used plain old míłayt ‘have’!

cháku(,) nayka táləs*, máli* nayka [2] — The meaning of this line is straightforward, if you own an old dictionary. The word < talis > ‘darling’ is barely known in Jargon, appearing only in Father Lionnet’s obscure 1853 pamphlet (circa 1848 data) and in JK Gill’s 1909 edition of his own dictionary. The pronunciation < mali > for ‘marry’ that’s implied by LBDB’s spelling here would be very unusual, and would sound the same as a Jargon word for ‘forget’! I’m guessing Mrs. Bartlett never heard these two words in real-world use, but read them in print.  

nayka (t)łúsh-nánich kʰupa máyka [3] — To my ears the preposition kʰupa here makes it sound like ‘I will look out for you’, with the sense of ‘I will beware of you’! When ‘taking care of’ someone is meant, I’m used to not seeing a preposition used. So I suspect this line of the lyrics shows us some rusty Chinuk Wawa from someone who’s out of practice at speaking it. 

láysa* djéyn* cháku kʰupa náyka, [4] — This reads like a command. The original English (below) indicates that it’s supposed to be a past-tense indicative, which is a possible reading of this line too, but not the most natural one in the context. That sense would’ve been more clear if LBDB had written < Liza Jane yaka chako >, with the < yaka > making the 3rd-person reference obvious. 

kʰanumákwst tə́mtəm háyú híhi [5] — This is a strange-sounding line. In the context, it seems like a promise that ‘together [our] hearts will [have] lots of fun’. It’s interesting to me that LBDB didn’t stick closer to the original English lyrics’ “happy as can be”, by writing something about łúsh-tə́mtəm

túł* pi ílihi míłayt Ø báltimor* [6] — Here LBDB uses another favorite dictionary word of hers, túł* for ‘house’. Nobody would understand that in 1924 unless they owned a copy of JK Gill’s dictionary. 

Summary of the above:

As we’ve seen in many posts here already, Mrs. Bartlett genuinely knew Chinuk Wawa, and was highly ambitious about using it in new ways, despite being rusty at speaking it. Then again, the whole point of her creating Jargon versions of popular tunes had to have been regional pride, giving people something genuinely Northwestern to sing, more than to sound right or familiar to the fluent pioneer oldtimers. (Most of whom were dead by 1924.)

The English lyrics LBDB was working from appear on the next page of her book, shown below. (We can make note that this song was first published, with a musical score, that is, in 1916, but I’ve found its lyrics in print, in heavy minstrel-style “Negro dialect”, as early as 1904) …

lil liza jane 01

lil liza jane 02

There are definite divergences — but her Jargon lyrics are a pretty straight translation of the English. The main issues are with her choice of unusual words and phrasings.

If you’d like to hear the tune as LBDB might’ve known it, here’s a 1917 recording:

What do you think?