1911 letter: Mrs. Kenny Was True Pioneer

A not-so-tiptop typesetter gives us mildly muddled, but still interesting, Chinook Jargon and English from post-frontier southwest Oregon.

I’ll discuss the Jargon part after showing you the full article that it comes in:

mrs kenny photo

mrs kenny


Interesting Letter Writeen [sic] to Her in
Chinnook [sic] Brought to Light — Was
Proficient Student of Indian Lan-

The death of Mrs. Elizabeth
T’Vault Kenney, announced last week
in The Mail Tribune, has brought out
many reminiscences from Oregon pio-
neers. The followlng letter, written
to her by the secretary of the Ore-
gon Pioneers’ association, illustrates
her proficiency in translating Chi-
nook and shows the manner in which
she corresponded with the associa-

Portland, Ore., June 9, 1906. — Mrs.
Ellzabeth T’Vault Kenney, Jackson-
ville, Ore. — My Dear Mrs. Kenney:
Mica Tickey chahco copah piah, [sic] chick-
chick copah Poteland? Mica nanich
tenass papeh, yass [sic] klosha [sic] wawa.

Hyu ahncutty Boston tillikums, hyu
muckamuck, hyu, [sic] he-he! Mica cum-
tux? Klahowyan [sic] Six,
Secretary Oregon Pioneer association.

Thoise [sic] who haven’t the time to
translate the above must be content
with the information that it is an in-
vitation to a meeting at Portland
where there will be much of interest
and much laughter, and one which
will be attended by many people.

— from the Medford (OR) Mail Tribune of October 24, 1911, page 6, column 2

Now about that Chinuk Wawa section:

Mica Tickey [1] chahco copah piah, [sic] chick-
mayka tíki cháku kʰupa páya-t’síkt’sik
you want come by fire-wagon 
‘Would you like to come by train’ 

chick [2] copah Poteland? [3] Mica nanich
kʰupa pʰótłən? mayka nánich 
to Portland? you see 
‘to Portland? You can see’ 

tenass papeh, [4] yass [sic] klosha [sic] wawa. [5]
tə́nəs pípa, hayas-łúsh wáwa.
little paper, very-good words.
‘the little paper, (and) the nice words.’ 

Hyu ahncutty Boston [6] tillikums, [7] hyu
háyú ánqati bástən-tílikam-s, háyú 
many oldtime American-person-s, much
‘(There will be) lots of oldtime White people, lots of’ 

muckamuck, hyu, [sic] he-he! [8] Mica cum-
mə́kʰmək, háyú híhi! mayka kə́mtəks?
food, much fun! you understand?
‘food, lots of fun! Do you understand?’ 

tux? [9] Klahowyan [sic] [10] Six,
łax̣áwyam síks.
goodbye friend.
‘Goodbye friend.’


Mica Tickey [1] surely reflects Settler conventions of polite invitation: ‘would you like to…’ isn’t so often seen or heard in Jargon when what’s effectively meant is a mild imperative.

piah, [sic] chick-chick [2] for ‘train’ is genuine southern-dialect / older Chinuk Wawa; one way that we know this for sure is that it shows up as a loan into Upper Chehalis Salish!

Poteland [3] also is the real deal; this oldtime pronunciation is documented in the 2012 Grand Ronde CW dictionary. 

papeh, [4] here, I suspect is being used in a very Settler way, as if it meant the same thing as its etymological English source ‘paper’ — whereas in CW this word strongly tends to denote ‘writing’.

yass [sic] klosha [sic] wawa. [5] Here is an intersection of very good early-creolized CW grammar (expressing ‘very good’) with another typically Settler way of talking (using klosh[e] wawa as a noun for a ‘good conversation; a fine chat’).

Boston [6] — Need anyone have pointed out that the only folks normally invited to Oregon pioneer reunions were non-Indigenous?

tillikums [7] is a morphological Settler-ism, putting the English noun plural -s onto the Jargon word for ‘person; people’. 

he-he [8] is another semantic Settler-ism; they loved to use this CW word as ‘fun’ (which was always a noun at the time, in English), whereas most other fluent Jargon speakers understood it to mean focally ‘laugh’.

Mica cum-tux? [9] It was tellingly typical for Settlers to end anything they said in Jargon with ‘Do you understand?’

Klahowyan [sic] [10] — I just want to call attention to the pronunciation that Himes may be using here, with the “M” at the end of this word; this would correlate with real frontier-era experience speaking Chinuk Wawa. The “Klahowya” variant became more common only later on, and primarily among Settlers. (And here it’s possible we’re seeing a typesetter misreading a spelling variant of it, < klahowyah >, from a handwritten draft.)


The invitation note is solid Chinuk Wawa, at the same time as it’s very identifiable as Settler talk.

What do you think?