1897: BS Jargon / OA Fechter

A well-received social event social event staged by the Yakima Commercial Club’s married male members for the benefit of everyone else included some laughable BS in Jargon.

Mayor O[scar].A. Fechter gave a humorous address, reproduced in the newspaper from his manuscript, and containing the following terrible Chinuk Wawa with some stereotypes…



I was driving up the [Ahtanum] valley one day
with nothing but my thoughts for com-
pany, and they are poor company, when
an Indian without leave and without
ceremony jumped into tbe bed of my
wagon and rode with me. I judge his
age to have been about 25. There is a
certain age at which men seem to grow no
older, especially those of a strange race.
I have never seen an old Chinaman, al-
though some of them have only Won
Lung, but this may he accounted for by
the fact that they come from the celestial
kingdom. I wanted to be sociable with
this Indian; I asked him a few questions
in English, but received no reply; I then
tried Chinook, in which language I am
very proficient, I said; “Okok halo siya
cuitan illihe copa.” Still no reply; I
tried it again: “Muck a muck klatawa
spose cum tux wenum hayu hum.” The
same result. By this time my vocabu-
lary was exhausted and in sheer despera-
tion I said to him: “Say, do you know
the difference between a doddering idiot
who doesn’t know enough to say any-
thing, and one who doesn’t know enough
to keep still?” But all to no avail, even
that didn’t amuse him; shortly after,
however I arrived at a cross roads, and
stopping, I said to him, “I go this way,
you go that; you must get out.” Appar-
ently he understood my meaning, for
assuming a kneeling posture in tbe wagon
bed and placing his ruby lips close to my 
shell like ear, he said in as good English
as she is ever spoke; “Say, haven’t you
got a bottle with you?” I laughingly
answered no. I asked my friend Bigg
to go along with me, but he had a case
in court defending a white man for sell-
ing liquor to Indians and conld not come.

O the magic power ol whiskey! it will 
shake even the stolidity of an Indian. 


— from “The Genial Benedicts”, in the Yakima (WA) Herald of March 4, 1897, page 3, column 6

I’m not entirely sure what Fechter’s Chinook Jargon was supposed to me, if it was supposed to mean much of anything. His spellings are mostly identical with those you’d find in the published CJ dictionaries of the time, which wouldn’t suggest he was actually confident in his own Chinooking.

Okok halo siya cuitan illihe copa” might be taken as ‘This isn’t far from a horse pasture over there’, if the last word is a knowledgeable speaker’s final-stressed kʰapá ‘there’.

“Muck a muck klatawa spose cum tux wenum hayu hum” sounds like ‘Food will go if (you) know (how to?) wenum, very smelly.’  Wenum is an unknown word, maybe mis-read by the typesetter, maybe Ichishkiin (Yakama Sahaptin), maybe the surname Wenum, maybe just BS.

Maybe this was all meant to be just silly-sounding nonsense, to speakers and non-speakers of CJ one and all!

Mayor Fechter of (North) Yakima was good with languages, though. He translated at least one book from German into English.

What do you think?
qʰata mayka təmtəm?