19th c.: THE BRITISH COLONIST (Part 3: A Card, 1859)
There may be a snide pun between Chinook and English here…There’s definitely a withering comment in the Jargon, too.
VICTORIA, Dec. 23d, 1859.
EDITOR BRITISH COLONIST:
I have no time to waste at present upon contemptible subjects, but I would call the attention of the editor and carrier of the hay-ass paper styled the VICTORIA GAZETTE, to the following quotations as peculiarly applicable under the circumstances.
Yours, J.H. RILEY
To E.H. KING, ESQ. — “A lie should be trampled on and extinguished wherever found. I am for fumigating the atmosphere when I suspect that falsehood, like pestilence, breathes around me.” — [CARLYLE
TO W.F. HERRE, ESQ.: — “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” — [DECALOGUE.
TO THE PAIR OF THEM: — “Helo shame, mesika?” — [CHINOOK JARGON.
— from the Victoria (BC) Daily Colonist of December 24, 1859, page 1, column 2
The word hay-ass is Chinuk Wawa háyás(h) ‘great; big’. I imagine the creative spelling to be J.H. Riley’s ironic impulse, verging on the obscene (and illegally slanderous, under British law) when read in English.
The Victoria Gazette (and Anglo-American) (image credit: University of Victoria)
The Victoria Gazette was a short-lived newspaper, 1858-1859, operated of course by “fresh off the boat” Americans looking for a quick buck during the Fraser River gold rush.
J.H. Riley’s name doesn’t turn up much in my brief research for today’s post. Apparently, as of April 1860, he was “formerly of the genuine Victoria Gazette.” So he had an axe to grind.
(Image credit: University of Victoria)
Edward Hammond King was the owner of an official government (of both colonies, Vancouver Island and British Columbia) gazette established by Governor Sir James Douglas, and then of the weekly New Westminster Times and Vancouver Island Guardian. Both are said to have been stiff competition for the Victoria Gazette.
W.F. Herre was a Jewish immigrant from France by way of San Francisco, whose Victoria bookstore was soon busted as an illegal gambling den.
Helo shame, mesika? = Chinook Jargon hílu shím msáyka?, ‘Do you folks have no shame?’ Again I suspect Mr. Riley was hiding behind the plausible deniability afforded by phrasing himself in the local insiders’ lingo, CJ, to avoid being sued for defamation.