1864 + 1883: Chinuk Wawa cussin’ in a California newspaper or two

Truly rough “frontier” humor wasn’t rare in print at one time…

The article where I found the following is so gross that I only want to relay the Chinook part of it to you.

The rest of the Civil War nugget is a blurt of dressed-up racism by someone using the pen name ANTIMISCEGENATION (opposed to race-mixing).

The following is supposedly a description of a Native celebration on the McCloud River in Siskiyou or Shasta Counties, in northern California. That place name, as it happens, honors Hudsons Bay Company hunter/trapper Alexander Roderick McLeod’s time there in 1829-1830.

Chinook Jargon was known and used in that region to some extent in early frontier days. But the CJ you’re about to read is fictional, albeit based on real-world knowledge.

How can I be so sure about that last point? Well, this guy includes a CW cuss word that you never see in the dictionaries of that time. You’d only know it from personal experience.

Plus, the Jargon here is plainly ridiculous personal names that no one ever really had.

I’ve added footnotes here.


At the head of the arrayed dancers stood his majesty, Hyastickie Muck-a-Muck*, and on his right her most gracious majesty Hyas-tica Squitch** — the latter in robes of state, consisting of a not very large piece of ornamented buckskin around the loins, with beaded strings hanging in thick masses to the knee. The tail feathers of a California peacock ornamented her majesty’s head. Next in order was the Princess Royal, Hiyu Pottatch***, with her nineteen or twenty sisters, all arrayed in the same gorgeous costume of her majesty. There were other beauties — the royal family not being able to monopolize everything — among whom might be mentioned Miss Tarhead, Miss Jackass-Rabbit, Miss Smutface, Miss Skunkiana and Miss Muck-a-muck**** — all adorned as beauty is said to be most adorned. 

— from the Shasta (CA) Courier of July 23, 1864, page 3, column 1

* [hayas-tíki mə́kʰmək ‘really likes to eat’]

**[hayas-tíki skwích ‘really likes vagina’]

***[háyú pá(t)łach ‘gives a lot’]

****[mə́kʰmək ‘eats’]

I’ve also happened to find the following in another California paper:

squitch gulch

The Chico Record published a list of euphonious names of places in Butte county, and the Oroville Mercury furnishes the following additional ones: Shirttail Bend, Whisky Flat, Puppytown, Wild Yankee Ranch, Squaw Flat, Rawhide Ranch, Loafer’s Ravine, Squitch Gulch, Toenail Lake.

— from the Marysville (CA) Daily Appeal of August 28, 1883, page 2, column 3

Again, I figure these northern California locals knew this s-word from Chinuk Wawa. It’s improbable that they thought it was named for “squitch grass”, a common East Coast plant which wouldn’t necessarily have tickled anyone’s funny bone. An article in another newspaper that year makes Squitch Gulch sound like a rowdy place that you’d go to to get drunk; perhaps also to patronize fancy women.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?