1926: Old boys ‘n’ Jargon doggerel/invitation in Rupert

Dusting off the Chinook to reminisce about a fundamental tragedy…


(Image credit: Wikipedia)

The Great Vancouver (BC) Fire of 1886.

old boys


June 13, 1886, Will Be Featured at Special Gathering.

Pioneers of Vancouver can never forget the big fire that destroyed the infant city forty years ago. It was on June 13, 1886, that flames from a clearing swept through the town of shacks and left it in ashes. The following day, however, the new Vancouver started to build.

It is intended to hold commemorative services this year on June 13, which, like that day forty years ago, will be a Sunday, and on the following day to celebrate forty years of building.

This has caused some of the “old boys” at Prince Rupert to break into verse as follows:

The thirteenth of June, eighty-six, 
Hardly a man is in that fix; 
That he can’t read and understand, 
The native tongue of our good land. 
Konaway Tillicums, hiyu klatawa kopa
Gastown hyas kloshe ankatie wawa.

— F.W. Hart, Kenny Smith, B. Brown, John A. Murray, Wilson McKinnon.

For the benefit of the chechakoes, the authors explain that the Chinook is an invitation for all old friends to gather at Gastown (Vancouver) to have a grand old time talk.

– from the April 21, 1926 Vancouver (BC) Daily Province, page 3

As always, a closer inspection of what was just said in Jargon:

Konaway Tillicums, hiyu klatawa kopa
kʰánawi tílixam-s, háyú ɬátwa kʰupa
all friend-s, much go to
‘All (our) friends, hurry (?) to’

Gastown hyas kloshe ankatie wawa.
kástawn hayas-ɬúsh ánqati-wáwa.
Gastown very-good oldtime-talk.
‘Gastown (for a) real good oldtime chat.’

The message is understandable, for sure, if you’ve taken a course in Jargon.

Equally surely, that’s some strongly Settler-tinged Chinuk Wawa.

Two big giveaways:

(1) “hiyu klatawa” should mean either ‘much going’ or ‘in the act of going’ by the rules of fluent Chinook, but here it seems more like a rusty speaker improvising a way to say ‘hurry / hustle’.

(2) There’s no preposition used to express the noun phrase that tells the purpose of the motion verb; we would always normally expect a “kopa” to introduce this “hyas kloshe ankatie wawa”.

Both of these grammar slips are essentially never found from folks who retain a fluent grasp of the language. But of course we’re talking about 1926, decades after most BC city-dwellers actively talked much Chinook.

Stalwart reader and supporter Darrin Brager kindly contributed today’s news clipping. Hayu masi Darrin!

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