1919: A Chinuk Wawa song nobody’s ever heard, but it sounds naughty to me

the camp fire

In a pretty cryptic note on the editor’s gossip page, we’re treated to the suggested lyrics for a Jargon ditty.

My devoted readers will have realized that I’m a pretty maniacal collector of Chinuk Wawa songs.

The funny thing about today’s is, for a literary creation, it’s pretty okay Chinook!

Particularly I’d draw your attention to the word < play >, which we really do find in British Columbia Chinuk Wawa.

Who was this reader, E.C. St. Claire (from the Google Books search results I’m guessing the last “e” could be a typo), writing from Oceano, California. Was he a western Canadian?

One other weird point — something about this proposed lyric reminds me of the racy “Seattle Illahee” song 🙂 I bet you just about no readers of this post-frontier national magazine caught that sly allusion. Maybe we could try singing these words to that tune…


…I’ve got an ancient mule of the Spanish breed. Some say she is a jennet. But if she is, Pegasus must have been her sire, so if our comrade of the long trail comes, we may sing. HIACK CLATTAWA, COPHA SIAH; CAR SALMON MAMOOK PLAY. NISIKA ISCUM TENAS CUETINS PE, OKOKSUN CLATTAWA SIAH. (Chinook).


Harry go far away
Where the salmon play
And we’ll have few ponies
When the daylight fades away.

— from page 177 of “The Camp-Fire: A Meeting-Place for Readers, Writers, and Adventurers”, Adventure magazine, volume 22, number 4 (August 18, 1919)

In Grand Ronde-style writing, those Settler-inflected words might be:

háyáq łátwa, kʰupa sáyá; qʰá sámən mamuk-pʰléy. nsayka ískam tənəs-kʰíyutən(s) pi(,) úkuk sán łátwa-sáyá.

A somewhat more literal translation, incidentally, might be:

‘Hurry off, to a far-away place; where the salmon play. We’ll get ponies and today ride away.’

(“Harry” is a misprint for “hurry”, eh.)

In my BC Jargon writing style, I’d put the lyrics as:

Haiyak tlatwa, kopa saiyaa; ka samin mamook-pley. Nisaika iskam tenas-kiyootan(s) pi okok sun tlatwa-sayaa.

What do you think?