1859: Jargon grounds for divorce

See also “Novel Divorce Suit (Worn-Out Joke)“!


(Image credit: Wikipedia)

The following was originally shared on the old CHINOOK listserv.

In the latter part of 1859 a divorce had been granted in Multnomah County. The woman claimed that her husband came home in the evening and when she wanted to kiss him he would say, ‘Klat-a-wa,’ which was the Indian term for ‘beat it.’ She secured her divorce.

–Captain Ed Carr, Portland, OR
from p.299 of Lockley, Fred (ed.). 1981. “Conversations with bullwhackers, muleskinners, pioneers, prospectors, ’49ers, […]. (Eugene, OR: Rainy Day Press).

Bonus fact:

How do you spell D-I-V-O-R-C-E in Jargon?

The only dictionary where I was able to find a Chinuk Wawa term for it is George Coombs Shaw’s 1909 production:


Shaw takes the initiative to suggest mamook cut kopa malieh or kokshut malieh for ‘a divorce; to be divorced; to get a divorce’.

These would be literally ‘to cut into/off of being married’ and ‘to break being married’. I hope both translations by me convey how doomed the 2 proposals are. They’re not really compatible with CW grammar, in fact.

(On the positive side, mamook cut is widely embraced in the northern dialect for ‘cut’!)

I would think ‘divorcing’ would be most clearly expressed (using Kamloops Wawa spellings) as kopit marii, literally ‘to stop/finish being married’.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?