1894: Drama among the Mongols

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Gratuitous illustration of the “whassa malla” trope (Image credit: letsgokings.com)

An unusual find — a Chinese woman who spoke Chinese Pidgin English:

Today’s find looks approximately as accurate as the average CPE quotation in a West Coast newspaper. Not a bad job of writing down a longish soliloquy from memory.

As usual, the editor hasn’t found it worth the effort to translate into standard English. Most people in our region understood CPE because they dealt with it in their daily lives.

What’s out of the ordinary here is not only the fact that we’ve found a female CPE speaker (the great majority of Chinese immigration to North America was male for decades), but that the post-frontier journalist tries to counteract some racist stereotypes.

drama among the mongols

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Chinese Woman’s Pathetic Tale of Her Faithless Husband’s Desertion.

A pathetic scene occurred on the water front yesterday which tends to disprove the popular belief that the Chinese character is devoid of any idea of morality and is impervious to the sentiments which fill the life of the ordinary human being. Among a batch of Chinamen, which arrived from Portland during the day on their way to their native home by steamer via Victoria, was a plain-looking young China woman. lnspector Schuyler was on hand to see what the new arrivals were intending to do and to examine their certificates. The woman said she had no certificate, and then he proceeded to examine her baggage, as he had that of the others. While so engaged his attention was attracted to the woman by a sob, and, looking up, he asked in pigeon English:

Whassa malla you?” [What’s the matter you?]

The woman pushed aside a big tear from each eye, and replied disconsolately:

Me no happy; me velly sad. My husband no likie me an’ he lun away to San Flancisco. I no sabe [know] whassa malla he lun away. Me good woman all time; no lookie, no talkie, no likie anybody else. Chinamen come alound lots time, but I no likie them; all time I likie nobody only my husband. Bymby he go to San Flancisco an’ no come back. I lite to him an’ tell him I go San Francisco, too, but he lite back if I come to him he killie me; he catchie nice new little wife. He no send me money, so my flends in Astolia give me money an’ ticket and talkie me go back to China, I go back to Hongkong to my mothie. Me velly sad; me no happy!

To prove her story she produced a letter written by an educated Chinaman in Astoria and addressed to the customs officers, stating that the woman had been deserted by her husband and that at her own request the Chinese there had circulated a donation slip and gave her enough money to pay her fare home and have a little on hand when she arrived. The letter also requested that the woman be molested as little as possible and be aided in reaching her destination.

— from the Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer of December 11, 1894, page 5, column 3

What do you think?