Who was the “Old Employee of the HBC”?

This question came up in our Saturday morning Chinook Jargon group this weekend … Interested in joining us? Email me: spokane ivy @ gmail . com

The question is, who was this so-called “Old Employee, formerly of the Hudson Bay Company”, credited as the author of a dictionary known in library catalogs by the unusual title of “Fac Simile of the Chinook Jargon as Used by the Hudson Bay Company“?

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When I look at the few websites that provide us a copy of this dictionary, it seems nowhere do we find that title or author in the publication itself. Was it even published as a book, I wonder? The original is in the US Library of Congress; maybe the so-called title is just a label that was affixed by a librarian to an anonymous item.

Maybe this was one of those quick and easy pamphlets thrown together to make a buck from Americans passing through Victoria, BC to the goldfields (1858+), as tourists to southeast Alaska (late 1800s), and so forth?

But that’s a separate question. Lucky for us, somebody has already done the tedious work of comparing the text of the “Fac Simile” with dozens of other known Chinuk Wawa publications from long ago.

Samuel Victor Johnson’s 1978 PhD dissertation to the rescue!

Johnson on page 92 reports that this item, coded in his bibliography as 999HBE, is

…a nearly faithful copy of the [1853 Vancouver, WA Columbiandictionary and the sentences from 858AND [Alexander Caulfield Anderson’s 1858 dictionarybut does not have the cardinal directions and there are a few typographical errors such as: NAIL “leglow” “nail” 858AND; “leglow” “tail” 999HBE. 

Now, that’s a familiar story. Essentially every Chinook Jargon dictionary published in the old days got pirated and plagiarized, so this “Fac Simile” is just another occurrence among many of its kind.

I will take a second to praise the (probably Victoria) publisher for having removed “the cardinal directions” before publication. The words for ‘north’ & ‘south’ were from the southern dialect of Txʷəlšucid (Lushootseed Salish) used in the vicinity of HBC Fort Nisqually, and were not in use in other areas, such as British Columbia.

There’s more to be said about the authorship of both source documents of the “Fac Simile”, though.

For one thing, I’ve done additional research into exactly who may have been the author of the Columbian newspaper’s original 1853 Jargon vocabulary.

Additionally, we have to recognize that A.C. Anderson, who was indeed an “old employee” of the HBC, hand-wrote a strong disclaimer on a copy of “his” 1858 dictionary, now preserved in archives. (Its published title is “Hand-book and map to the gold region of Frazer’s and Thompson’s rivers“.)

As observed by James Constantine Pilling in his 1893 bibliography of almost all Jargon published to that date, “material was added to 858AND by the publisher without Anderson’s knowledge.”

But Anderson’s note is actually more forceful; it’s a denial and a condemnation:

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This vocabulary was not compiled by me and is very incorrect. It was inserted without my concurrence. A good vocabulary has been published with my aid by the Smithsonian Institute. ACA

We have to respect what this seasoned expert says about the dictionary that was published under his good name.

From my modern linguist’s perspective, the “Anderson 1858” dictionary is relatively good stuff, though. I suspect the man himself was mostly offended by the various typographical errors in it, which he would certainly have corrected if the publisher had provided him a proof copy. Its contents are nevertheless excellent southwest Washington fur-trade era Chinuk Wawa.

The same praise has to be given to the 1853 Columbian vocabulary.

By extension, the “Fac Simile” is quite good Chinook Jargon. The attempted authorial anonymity shouldn’t put you off one bit, if you ever find yourself using a copy of it.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?