1869: “Lecture on Manliness”, or, “civilized Chinook”

derricks church

Derrick’s office (image credit: Waymarking.com)

From the British Columbia frontier, we have a plenty swell document of the kind of slang English that influenced Chinuk Wawa!

This was a time when the major form of public entertainment for Settlers was lectures. A visiting speechmaker could draw a nice big crowd, and make a living by traveling and talking.

Here’s a Cariboo country report of a well-received lecture that dwelled on the role of slang English (“civilized Chinook”!) in a real man’s life. Yes, in the 1800s, after Whites became a majority, “Chinook” came to be the equivalent of the devalued “slang” register of English — you can find many instances of this association in newspapers and books of the second half of that century.

One of the examples given by Reverend Derrick is “jawbone”, which became a regular part of BC Chinook Jargon.

Some of the others may suprise you by appearing in such an early document!

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On Wednesday evening the [Wesleyan Methodist] Rev. T[homas]. Derrick delivered a lecture on “Manliness,” at the request of the officers of the Cariboo Literary Institute, and in aid of the fund of that institution. J.S. Thompson, Esq., President of the Institute, occupied the chair; the attendance was numerous, the lecture was listened to with deep attention and the rev. gentleman was frequently applauded.

One of the principal characteristics of manliness is manliness of speech. The lecturer here humorously illustrated this portion of his subect by illustrations of the abuse of speech. But for manliness of speech held fast to by others, those who used slang, or as he would call it, civilized Chinook, would entirely wipe out the Queen’s English. When a man acted on his own responsibility, the civilized Chinook said he acted “on his own hook.” If a man saw something good, he met with a “stunner.” The superlative was expressed by a “regular stunner.” A factious or quarrelsome man was “an ugly customer.” An eccentric man was “a rummy old cover.” A sensible or shrewd man was “up to snuff.” A man not very sensible or shrewd was “a cake — a flat — a spoon — a stick.” If a man made a statement that was considered doubtful, civilized Chinook said it was “all gammon.” A man was never poor, but “hard up.” In civilized Chinook a man never pays but “stumps up;” and he never wore a hat, but “a shingle, a tile, a stovepipe;” while if he wore a white cravat it was designated as “a choker.” A place where a man lives was described as the place where “he hangs out.” If a man departed, he “sloped, bolted, mizzled, skedaddled.” Cash, according to civilized Chinook, was “tin, rhino, and the needful.” Good were not obtained on trust or credit, but on “tick, cheek, jawbone.” Speaking was “spouting,” and silence was “dried up.” To be humbled was to “sing small.” Perplexed was known as “flummoxed;” disappointed, “dished.” A man was not cheated, but “sold,” or “done brown.” To the civilized Chinook speaker, anything fine was “nobby,” and anything not fine, “seedy.” A melancholy fact in connection with the civilized Chinook speaker was that he had no father, but referred to some “old governor” to whom he “dropped a line’ for the “dust,” and hoped that the old boy would come down spicy, like “an old brick.”

A good deal of this importation into our vocabulary, said the lecturer, was comparatively harmless, and although not manliness of speech, it was more amusing than wicked; but he who made least use of such expressions had proportionately more manliness of speech. But while he would not condemn the use of those expressions as unmanly, he would most emphatically declare profanity to be unmanly.

— from the Barkerville (BC) Cariboo Sentinel of August 21, 1869, page 3, columns 1-2

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