1895: Sladen / Hurd, “On the Cars and Off”

Once upon a time, it was fashionable for upperclass Englishmen to tour Canada & publish a book about it.

I’ve been having a look at such a travelogue, “On the Cars and Off: Being the Journal of a Pilgrimage Along the Queen’s Highway to the East, from Halifax in Nova Scotia to Victoria in Vancouver’s Island”,
by Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen and Percy Angier Hurd, 1895 (London: Ward, Lock, & Bowden).

(“The Cars” = a railroad train. Compare this with the BC Chinook expression stiim kars for the same thing.)

Being mere tourists, laden with the excessive baggage of colonialism (noting and ranking everyone’s race & nationality, dropping in morsels of European languages, and comparing every vista to some foreign resort of the well-to-do), Sladen & Hurd won’t have provided much of use here for a student of Chinuk Wawa — but there’s a little.

For one thing, they had their own Kodak camera, a rare and expensive luxury — the book accordingly is pretty well packed with their own excellent snapshots.

Also, this journey from east to west is the exact reverse of Chief Louis, Chief Chilihitzia, and Father Le Jeune’s 1904 voyage that we’ve read in CW. So there’s lots of information about the same locations discussed there.

For another thing, there’s mention of the Jargon, typically in connection with Native people, and typically telling us more about Chinuk Wawa’s influence on English than about CW itself. Also there’s at least one incident that suggests BC Indigenous languages’ ongoing effect on CW; more on this as we read.

The following is from the North Bend, BC area, which is Nɬeʔképmx Salish country (page 344), showing how a couple of Jargon words for ‘man’ and ‘woman’ were used in local English:


We were now right in the Siwash country. Siwash is the name you apply to the male Coast-Indians; a woman is a Klootchman

Then there’s another of the pidgins used in BC at the time, Chinese Pidgin English on pages 357-358:


“Ladee likee lice?” … “You no likee lice, you tly apply sauce, better no can do.”

Another photo of a BC Native woman and baby is captioned with a couple of words that I’ve found to be actually used by Jargon speakers in the province (page 358):


Klootchman (female coast-Indian) with papoose in moss-bag.

Astonishing to me is that these two English greenhorns had enough interaction with Native people to learn a Skwxwú7mesh Salish word skil for a species of fish, which has no established name in Chinuk Wawa (although maybe it could be the cultus cod) (pages 362-363):


I’m not finding such a word in the modern “Skwxwú7mesh Sníchim – Xwelíten Sníchim Skexwts” (Squamish-English Dictionary). Is it a new discovery of sorts? The closest I find is sk‘ey’ ‘smoked salmon; dried smoked salmon cut up thin”.

Pages 376-377 tell both of an acculturated Native naming practice and of apparent pidgin English use by a Native person, although it’s entirely possible this is just a word-for-word translation from Chinook Jargon (so we could now back-translate it):


The funny old Siwash known as Alexander’s William — they take a Christian name and the genitive case of the employer’s name — was ungallant enough to say, “Good! good! gun more good than Klootchman” (woman), and off we paddled.

Later on page 377 the same man says,

“Now you get duck.”

There’s a photo of the long-wrecked Hudsons Bay Co. steamer Beaver in this book, one of many that you can find in existence.

The ritzy authors rate Victoria, BC as “quite English”, need I say more.

Between pages 400 & 401 is a photo of a sealing schooner at Victoria…

sealing schooner at victoria

At that historical moment, seal harvesting was a major employer of Native people in the Pacific Northwest, and some schooners were owned by Indigenous captains. Crew members are known to have spoken Chinuk Wawa, as I’ve previously shown.

A foldout map of the travelers’ route includes this nice bit on BC:

bc map

What do you think?
qʰata mayka təmtəm?