BC craziness

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weird bc

You could find worse illustrations for today’s article (image credit: Amazon.com)

I teach British Columbia-centred Chinook Wawa every Saturday at 8 AM, Pacific time, on Zoom. Contact me if you’re interested in joining. 

Today’s article comes from one of those lessons; it shows you an example of a very specific kind of change in language. 

For BC priests such as the Kamloops Wawa newspaper’s editor JMR Le Jeune, peltin no longer meant ‘crazy’ as it always had in the southern dialect. (Grand Ronde spelling of this word: píltən.)

Here’s a really early instance of this word from that publication, keeping the original Chinuk Pipa alphabet’s spellings:

Adam iaka tanas, hlwima klaska tlus,
‘Of Adam’s children, some were good,’

pi hlwima klaska piltin.
‘and others were sinful.’

— from Kamloops Wawa #12[a] (February 7, 1892), page 47

We can see that instead, peltin had come to take on a specialized meaning of ‘sinful; immoral’. (Could this be some kind of influence from French louche or something? My readers might be of help in figuring that out.)

One consequence — the active verbal form, mamook-peltin, came to mean ‘act immorally; commit sins’.

Another pretty old synonym for ‘crazy’, kreisi (Grand Ronde spelling: klísi), therefore was reinforced in its use in the northern dialect, shouldering all of the duties for expressing perceptions of mental illness. 

Here’s the earliest example I’m finding of kreisi in the Kamloops Wawa:

Naika na kaltash siisim ikta klaska mamuk
‘Have I falsely reported things people have done’


masashi, kata klaska piltin, kaltash, krisi?
‘that are evil, how they’ve been sinful, idle, crazy?’

— from Kamloops Wawa #91 (August 13, 1893), page 131

It’s interesting that all the occurrences of it that I’m finding in Kamloops Wawa have a spelling with “R”, bringing the pronunciation back closer to English.

This strikes me as indicating yet another of the countless instances where locally spoken BC English provided new words for the Jargon, typically resolving earlier ambiguities in the CW vocabulary. Here, the locally heard ‘crazy’ helped folks reserve the meaning ‘immoral’ for the previous synonym peltin

The unique factor here is that kreisi was already in the Jargon’s lexicon. But it got a revised pronunciation, evidently, as a byproduct of the shift in peltin‘s meaning. 

What do you think?