Elma, WA: Preacher could speak in tongues, not in Chinook!

This anecdote puts me in mind of the skeptic who tested a psychic by giving him questions in Chinook 🙂

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(Image credit: Findagrave)

More supernatural communications involving the Jargon…but it’s not the Thunderbird being spoken to this time.

Today’s episode is another fun and easy candidate for someone to “back-translate” into the original Chinuk Wawa!


The Preacher Was a Hypocrite.

In the early days all kinds of people thronged the pioneer settlements, and one time a traveling parson swooped down upon S.H. Beckwith at Elma. This fellow maintained that he could talk any language without studying it. It was so because of a special power he had from God. Then Beckwith asked him in Chinook:

“How long will you remain on this earth and talk to your god?” For a moment the fellow was stumped and is said to have replied:

“Twenty-five thousand chariots and six horsemen.”

“Where is Daniel now?” [1] asked the pioneer in good Apache [sic, lol], as smiles broke over his face.

“Beans and ‘legal tender’,” [2] replied the would-be linguist, presuming that Beckwith asked him what he had had for his dinner.

At this the pioneer roared and explained to the presumptious [sic] dominie what he had said, which so confounded him that he left the cabin without waiting for supper, which was in preparation.

— “The Preacher Was a Hypocrite”, in The Coast (Wilhelm’s Magazine) VI(3):108 (September 1903)


“Where is Daniel now?” [1] might be from the pretty well-known translated Chinook hymn #7 by Olympic Peninsula Protestant missionary Myron Eells, which contains the line “Kah, oh kah mitlite Daniel alta?“. If so, that helps us date this episode, as the first edition of Eells’s published booklet “Hymns in the Chinook Jargon Language” came out in Portland, Oregon, in 1878.

“Beans and ‘legal tender’ ” [2] combines two good old slang terms for money: (A) ‘beans’, presumably connoting coinage; (B) ‘legal tender’ which is a phrase printed on US paper money, but maybe additionally serving as a pun for ‘bacon’, which was the usual working-class accompaniment to beans. Maybe ‘beans and legal tender’ is an embellishment by the storyteller, meant to highlight the preacher’s perceived base motives (gluttony and greed)? Also, it may have been exactly what was cooking on the stove during this conversation…

Bonus fact:

Here’s a claim that sides of bacon were literally legal tender in territorial Oregon!

What do you think? qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?