A different twist on an evergreen joke

The Chinook phrase < hyas klose > (‘very good’) was the focus of much Settler humor…


The first building in Ellensburg, Washington: The Robber’s Roost. From page 93.

They typically punned on the English-influenced pronunciation of ɬúsh as their own word ‘close’, i.e. ‘not far away’.

Here I’ll reproduce a humorously told anecdote from well-known Yakima- and Ellensburg-area settler and Jargon speaker, AJ “Jack” Splawn. After it, I’ll show you the other major variant on the joke that I know.




Transcribing the relevant portion: On a cold night of cowboying in the Simcoe Mountains,

…as I grew colder, my pride gave away [sic] and I decided to merge my interests with that of ‘Lo.’ [A mild racial epithet for the Native cowboy in the group.] Throwing my blanket on top of his, I raised the cover and crawled in beside him. He muttered:

Hyas Klose.‘ 

I did not understand chinook jargon and I replied that I would get as close to him as possible.

— from page 95 of “The Editor Continues on His Honeymoon: Paper Third” in The Coast VII(3):84-96

The version of this joke that I learned first, from linguist Timothy Montler, goes something like this:

A traveling salesman finds himself in his new territory on the sparsely populated Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington, and of course it starts to dump rain as night falls. Seeking shelter for the night, he knocks at the door of the first house he finds, and it’s kind of obvious what he needs. The Native lady of the house takes one look at him and says “Sítkum dála, hayas-ɬúsh”. (‘Half a dollar would be fine.’) The salesman jumps back, exclaiming in horror, “What! Sixty dollars and all of my clothes!”

Bonus fact:

Note to other researchers and to myself — I’ve only found about 6 volumes of “The Coast” online. It will be worth the trouble to go to a physical archive/library and read through the other volumes. There’s guaranteed to be some more good stuff in Jargon there…

qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?