1902: “Niga” in BC Chinooklish

A measure of how much Chinook Jargon had penetrated into British Columbia folks’ English by the turn of the century:

A newspaper ad for a ball game ran in a wonderful mix of the two languages.


Side note — there’s a Chinook baseball team in one of my family’s old hometowns! (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s the exhibit:


Niga halo cumtux Chinook wa-wa, hi yu skukum baseball game to-morrow afternoon at 4:15 o’clock.

— from the Vancouver (BC) Province of July 31, 1902, page 10, column 3

Most readers would’ve understood that this tells you, “I don’t know Chinook talk; (there’ll be) a real wonderful baseball game tomorrow afternoon at 4:15.”

This is classic Settler use of borrowings from northern Chinuk Wawa in the early post-frontier time.

Hi yu for ‘very’ is something White folks said a lot in English, whereas in CW it means ‘many, a lot, lots of’.

Skukum for ‘excellent, wonderful’ is likewise more representative of Settler English than of Jargon, where it means ‘strong’.

That niga pronunciation for nayka ‘I’ is really interesting! Only around Grand Ronde in the southern dialect of CW do we routinely find such a thing.

The spellings in today’s short piece are non-standard to a noticeable degree, so the writer apparently did know Chinook in real life!

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?