1862: BC Chinese immigrants talking Chinuk Wawa…or a CW/CPE blend
The compelling thought experiment here is to figure out if the quotation below is in BC Chinuk Wawa only, or in CW + Chinese Pidgin English.
Thanks bunches to the estimable Jakob Svorkdal for sending over this historical Victoria news clipping!
Describing a food shortage in frontier-era BC, the reporter tells us:
The Chinese residents in the vicinity of Yale have suffered greatly. They have been out of rice and money for sometime past and are on short allowance. When asked how they are off for food they almost invariably reply, “One muckee-muckee two suns,” meaning to say that they only get one square meal in two days.
— from “Later from British Columbia” in the Victoria (BC) Daily British Colonist of March 17, 1862, page , column 1
(the title refers to news from the mainland, which was a separate colony from Vancouver Island at the time)
“One” & “two” are words known in BC Chinook Jargon, where especially in time expressions they are known to have nudged aside the older/southern CJ íxt & mákwst. “One” & “two” also are usual way to say “1” & “2” in CPE.
“Muckee-muckee” is a Chinese Pidgin English (CPE)-style pronunciation of Chinook Jargon mə́kʰmək meaning ‘food; to eat’.
“Suns” is the CJ sán meaning ‘day’. CPE used the word “day”, as far as I’m aware. For either of these words (and languages), a final “-s” in the style of the standard English plural would seem somewhat rare.
So, is the above quotation in Chinook Jargon only — or is it a blend of CJ & CPE?