1914: LBDB’s “Chinook-English Songs”, part 1 of 15 “Nau Hy-as Salt Chuck”

Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett was a pioneer girl on Puget Sound who went on to create a major portion of the known artistic material in Chinook Jargon.

lbdb

LBDB (image credit: SteilacoomHistoricalPhotos.com)

Her CJ is really interesting to me, because of how it carries the marks of genuine oldtimer Jargon while also getting stretched into new (often unrecognizable) forms.

Let’s deep-dive into LBDB’s book, “Chinook-English Songs” (Portland, OR: Kubli-Miller, 1914).

In this mini-series, I’ll be skipping the Songs that I’ve already discussed due to their appearing in LBDB’s separately published dictionary. Those are:

For the same reason, I’m not going to further discuss the page she titles “Mamook Potlatch / Dedicated”, because both its Chinuk Wawa and English versions are identical to those in her dictionary.

This still leaves us 15 songs to examine! (Note composer credits in the ending Index; look for e.g. Myron Eells versions…)

Today’s installment is “Nau Hy-as Salt Chuck” on page 12 (in Chinuk Wawa) / “Shells of Ocean” on page 13 (in the English original of 1847 by J.W. Cherry). We’re told this was a popular drawing-room piece for many years, and I can really see the charm in the tune and in the English lyrics.

See what you make of it in Chinook, followed immediately by the source text:

NAU HY AS SALT CHUCK

Ict

Ict wam polakely, nika tum-tum pittick,
Nika klatawa kopa nau-its mah-thlinnie,
Kah mitlite mamook kultus tenas hee-hee.
Nika koku-mulh nau ankutta sun,
Nika koku-mulh nau ankutta sun.
Cooley chuck ten-ten kopa kee-kwilla,
Wau-wau pee nika tikegh le-mole,
Tamah-nawis chaco kee-kwilla nika,
Nika tum-tum spose chaco tenas.
Tamah-nawis chaco kee-kwilla nika,
Nika tum-tum spose chaco, chaco tenas.

Mox

Nika mit-whit kopa nau-its mathlinnie,
Kokumulk ictas kopa konaway kah,
Pee iskum mitlite nika lemah,
Nika marsh konaway, ict, pee ict,
Nika marsh konaway, ict, pee ict.
Nah! nika wau-wau konaway kah-kwa:
Kopa ictas nesika tikegh mamook pelton,
Nesika iskum nau kah-kwa tenas, pee man.
Nesika wake iskum kah-kwa tenas, 
Nesika iskum nau, kah-kwa tenas, pee man,
Nesika wake iskum kah-kwa, kah-kwa tenas.

SHELLS OF OCEAN

1

One summer eve, with pensive thought,
I wandered on the sea beat shore,
Where oft in heedless infant sport,
I gathered shells in days before,
I gathered shells in days before.
The splashing waves like music fell,
Responsive to my fancy wild,
A dream came o’er me like a spell,
I thought I was again a child,
A dream came o’er me like a spell,
I thought I was again again a child.

2

I stood upon the pebbly strand
To cull the toys, that round me lay;
But as I took them in my hand,
I threw them one by one away,
I threw them one by one away.
Oh! thus I said, in every stage,
By toys our fancy is beguiled;
We gather shells from youth to age,
And then we leave them like a child,
We gather shells from youth to age,
And then we leave them, leave them, like a child.

There are those reading this who will feel it’s a crime against art to view poetic language in an analytical way, but I and the late Dell Hymes say you’re wrong. There’s a lot to be learned from discerning how folks intentionally use words — often more intentionally than you would have realized without putting the extra thought into it.

Here’s my close examination of LBDB’s Chinooking of this pop song. The lines marked (DDR) are my literal translation; numbered comments lead you to footnotes. Often my translation defers to Mrs. Downey-Bartlett’s implicit intent, at the unfortunate expense of good Jargon style.

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(Image credit: Abebooks.com)

NAU HY-AS SALT CHUCK
ná* háyásh sál[t-]tsəqw
hey! big salt-water
DDR: ‘Hey, Ocean!’
‘SHELLS OF OCEAN’

Ict
íxt
one
DDR: ‘1’
‘1’

Ict wam polakely, nika tum-tum pittick,
íxt wám*-púlakʰli, nayka tə́mtəm pítəq*,
one summer-night, my heart think,

DDR: ‘One summer-night, my heart thought,’
‘One summer eve, with pensive thought,’

Nika klatawa kopa nau-its mah-thlinnie,
nayka ɬátwa kʰupa náwəts* máɬini,
I go on beach* seaward,
DDR: ‘That I was going on a beach to the sea,’
‘I wandered on the sea beat shore,’

Kah mitlite mamook kultus tenas hee-hee.
qʰá míɬayt kʰə́ltəs tənás-híhi.
where there.be pointless child-fun.
DDR: ‘Where there was trivial childish fun.’
‘Where oft in heedless infant sport,’

Nika koku-mulh nau ankutta sun,
nayka x̣úqʰuməɬ na Ø* Ø* ánqati-sán,
I gather Yes/No formerly-day,
DDR: ‘Did I gather them in olden days?’
‘I gathered shells in days before,’

Nika koku-mulh nau ankutta sun.
nayka x̣úqʰuməɬ na Ø* Ø* ánqati-sán.
I gather Yes/No formerly-day.
DDR: ‘Did I gather them in olden days?’
‘I gathered shells in days before.’

Cooley chuck ten-ten kopa kee-kwilla,
kʰúli-chə́qw tíntin kʰupa kíkwəli,
running-water music to below,
DDR: ‘The running water was music down below,’
‘The splashing waves like music fell,’

Wau-wau pee nika tikegh le-mole,
wáwa pi nayka tíki límuló,
say and I want be.wild,
DDR: ‘Speaking and I wanted to be wild,’
‘Responsive to my fancy wild,’

Tamah-nawis chaco kee-kwilla nika,
t’əmánəwas cháku kíkwəli nayka,
guardian.spirit come below me,
DDR: ‘A spirit came beneath me,’
‘A dream came o’er me like a spell,’

Nika tum-tum spose chaco tenas.
nayka tə́mtəm spus chaku-tənás.
I think in.order.to become-child.
DDR: ‘I thought to* be born.’
‘I thought I was again a child,’

Tamah-nawis chaco kee-kwilla nika,
t’əmánəwas cháku kíkwəli nayka,
guardian.spirit come under me,
DDR: ‘A spirit came beneath me,’
‘A dream came o’er me like a spell,’

Nika tum-tum spose chaco, chaco tenas.
nayka tə́mtəm spus cháku*, cháku-tənás.
I think in.order.to (be)come, become-child.
DDR: ‘I thought to* be born.’
‘I thought I was again, again a child.’

Mox
mákwst
two
DDR: ‘2’
‘2’

Nika mit-whit kopa nau-its mathlinnie,
nayka mítxwit kʰupa náwəts* máɬini,
I stand on beach seaward,
DDR: ‘I stood on the beach seaward,’
‘I stood upon the pebbly strand’

Kokumulk ictas kopa konaway kah,
x̣úqʰuməɬ íkta-s kʰupa kʰánawi-qʰá,
gather thing-s from every-where,
DDR: ‘Gathering things from everywhere,’
‘To cull the toys, that round me lay;’

Pee iskum mitlite nika lemah,
pi ískam Ø* míɬayt Ø* nayka límá,
and take them be.there in my hand,
DDR: ‘And picked them up, lying in my hand,’
‘But as I took them in my hand,’

Nika marsh konaway, ict, pee ict,
nayka másh Ø* kʰánawi, íxt, pi íxt,
I throw them all, one, and one,
DDR: ‘I threw them all, one, and another,’
‘I threw them one by one away,’

Nika marsh konaway, ict, pee ict.
nayka másh Ø* kʰánawi, íxt, pi íxt.

I throw them all, one, and one.
DDR: ‘I threw them all, one, and another.’
‘I threw them one by one away.’

Nah! nika wau-wau konaway kah-kwa:
ná! nayka wáwa kʰánawi kákwa:

hey! I say all like.that:
DDR: ‘Hey! I say it’s all like that:’
‘Oh! thus I said, in every stage,’

Kopa ictas nesika tikegh mamook pelton,
kʰupa íkta-s nsayka tíki mamuk-píltən,
with thing-s we want make-crazy,
DDR: ‘With things we try to go crazy’
‘By toys our fancy is beguiled;’

Nesika iskum nau kah-kwa tenas, pee man.
nsayka ískam na Ø* kákwa tənás, pi mán.
we pick.up Yes/No like child, and man.
DDR: ‘Do we pick them up like children, and men?’
‘We gather shells from youth to age,’

Nesika wake iskum kah-kwa tenas,
nsayka wík ískam Ø* kákwa tənás,
we not pick.up like child,
DDR: ‘We don’t pick them up like children,’
‘And then we leave them like a child,’

Nesika iskum nau, kah-kwa tenas, pee man,
nsayka ískam na Ø*, kákwa tənás, pi mán,
we pick.up Yes/No, like child, and man,
DDR: ‘Do we pick them up like children, and men?’
‘We gather shells from youth to age,’

Nesika wake iskum kah-kwa, kah-kwa tenas.
nsayka wík ískam Ø* kákwa, kákwa tənás.
we not pick.up like.that, like child.
DDR: ‘We don’t pick them up like that, like children.’
‘And then we leave them, leave them, like a child.’

Okey-doke. First things first. That’s a plumb terrible translation into Chinook. If you go back through it, just reading the “DDR” lines, you can see that it spends a tremendous amount of words without giving you a clear mental picture.

Someone trying to translate LBDB’s Chinook version by using a published dictionary — the kind of effort that has led countless otherwise-smart folks into grave error — would never realize that she’s (on the most charitable interpretation, which I’ve always sworn to uphold in this project) using tons of “silent IT” and “silent prepositions” (Ø), which were a feature of the language that nobody mentioned until 2007.

LBDB’s Chinook Jargon isn’t using a realistic vocabulary. Her pittick, nau-its, and koku-mulh are all “book words”. Nobody appears to have known them from actual experience of the Jargon in 1914. They’re from an overlain lexical stratum in J.K. Gill’s dictionaries published in Portland, where he started with the word list of Father F.N. Blanchet and then padded it with dozens of Lower Chehalis Salish words that someone privately supplied to him. (Those are of tremendous value for our understanding of Lower Chehalis, but few of these are independently confirmed as Jargon.)

A good translator creates a finished product that’s as coherent in the “target” language as it was in the source. That goal is missed here. Seashells are never mentioned, although there are words you can use for that. So, when LBDB suddenly asks, ‘Did I gather them in olden days?’, we haven’t a clue what objects she’s talking about.

Someone more merciless than me could methodically dissect this song translation by Mrs. Downey-Bartlett, but I have to say that your typical “Old Settler” or person who considered themself to be of “pioneer stock” in the Pacific Northwest of 1914 probably remembered just enough Chinook to think, well well, I recognize that tune, and she sounds like she’s got the general idea right in Jargon…

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?