Chinuk Wawa in a Stó:lō hymn book (Part 8: Psychedelia)

tomorrow never knows

The chain of translation blows my mind, baby! (Image credit: Youtube)

It’s been a bit since our last installment in this mini-series, and circumstances might have you wishing for more Chinook Jargon hymns to sing…

…well, as so many businesses are now saying, I deliver. Call me the Quicksilver Messenger Service.

In the southwest British Columbia “Indian Methodist Hymn-Book” that we’ve been examining, (page) 44 “Choruses” presents 3 brief translations from the best-known sections of Methodist hymns.

None of the original English lyrics are shown in the hymnbook, so I’ll dig them (if you will) up from other sources.

Here’s the first:

follow follow

(“Down in the Valley with My Savior I Will Go”, W.O. Cushing, 1878)

Kimta, kimta, nika kimta Jesus,
kʰímt’á, kʰímt’á, nayka kʰímt’á djísəs*, [1]
behind, behind, I behind Jesus,

DDR: ‘Behind, behind, I’m behind Jesus,’
Original: ‘Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus,’
     Kahta koolie, konaway-kah nika konamoxt;
     qʰáta kúli, kʰánawi-qʰá(x̣) nayka kʰánumákwst; [2]
     how travel, all-where I together; 

     DDR: ‘Traveling any old way, everywhere I’m together;’
     Original: ‘Anywhere, everywhere, I will follow on;’
Kimta, kimta, nika kimta Jesus,
kʰímt’á, kʰímt’á, nayka kʰímt’á djísəs*,
behind, behind, I behind Jesus,

DDR: ‘Behind, behind, I’m behind Jesus,’
Original: ‘Follow, follow, I will follow Jesus,’
     Kahta yaka elip koolie nika kimta.
     qʰáta yaka íləp kúli(,) nayka kʰímt’á. [3]
     how he first travel(,) I behind.

     DDR: ‘Any old way he travels in front(,) I’m behind.’
     Original: ‘Everywhere he leads me I will follow on.’

Comments on #1:

kʰímt’á, kʰímt’á, nayka kʰímt’á djísəs* [1] ‘behind, behind, I’m behind Jesus’ — This prepositional expression is clearly a reach for ‘I will follow Jesus’. We are able to understand why this was so difficult for the Methodist translators to express, because it’s only in the older, “southern” dialect that you have a simple way to express ‘follow’ (tʰə́qsin). However, in Jargon ‘I’m behind Jesus’ doesn’t carry the English-language implication of supporting and endorsing Jesus. And it’s always been possible to talk your way around the concept, by adding a motion verb to say e.g. kúli kʰimt’á ‘travel behind’ or łátwa kʰimt’á ‘go behind’. So I grade this line of the hymn translation as being only partially successful. 

qʰáta kúli, kʰánawi-qʰá(x̣) nayka kʰánumákwst [2] ‘Traveling any old way, everywhere I’m together’ — This subjectless and tenseless line, to my ears, is a medium-poor job of using Chinuk Wawa grammar and of expressing the core intended idea. It’s so unanchored in context that it would function better in a 1960’s psychedelic rock lyric. (“Turn off your mind, relax and float downsream” would be fun to put into Jargon! Something like másh mayka tə́mtəm, alím, ławá łátwa máyʔmi would be groovy…) What was I saying? Oh — line 2 is not great work. Just replacing qʰáta ‘howsoever; any old way’ with qʰá ‘wherever, wheresoever; any old place’ would be a big help. 

qʰáta yaka íləp kúli(,) nayka kʰímt’á [3] ‘Any old way he travels in front(,) I’m behind’ — Of all the lines in this fragment, this one best succeeds at saying what it means. Again, the first word could’ve been plain old qʰá, as just noted, but the improvement seen here is that the translators do include a motion verb so that we’re able to understand that ‘following’ is meant.

Summary of #1:

This scrap of lyrics would’ve been even worse, had it been extended beyond its current brevity. I’m sensing that the 3 greenhorn translators just plain gave up after eking out these few lines.

What do you think?