1901: Olympia CW-dependent humor

If you grew up in Washington State when I did, you know “it’s the water”…



NEUBAUTEN: eine neue Brauerei in Tumwater (Image credit: American Brewers’ Review)

…And you know who was saying it: “Olympia Brewing Company, Tumwater, Washington.”


Do you see the Chinuk Wawa there? (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Today we have some classic dialect humor that you’ll understand best if you know a little about “Oly” and about Chinook Jargon.

Typical for the time — be warned — this contains some offensive and racialized language.

belinda 1

belinda 2

belinda 3


It Seems That Her Husband Was Too “Fly” at the Carnival.

CLOVERDALE, Sept. 3, 1901.


     Deer Sur — It has lately kum to my knotis that you put a peace in yur paper a short time back tellin’ ’bout Willum Clover my husband bein’ in Terkoma at the Karnivil, ’bout him gettin’ his korns killed by a gurl in a perpil dress, and ’bout him goin’ to a show and seein’ a niger woman called Katima doin’ the o-pooche-hooche-dountee-lookee-dance and tellin’ ’bout Injuns tryin’ to ride street keers and Tumblewater bock beer and ’bout bein’ in a hotel called Walledup. Now, Mr. Edditur, Bill says it is not so. I got him (Bill) shut up in the hog pen and if I had a chance I would shet him up in the pen run by Guffner Rogers. Now, Mr. Edditur, did Bill rite that peace? If he did, Belinda Clover will be a widow north of 53 in a short time. Well, I will clothes as Bill is yellin’ fur water. I give him bread and rain-water (ketched last fall) three times a day, and I reckon he likes it. When we left the farm and went to Terkoma, Bill wore a nice set of whiskeers, and he got ’em trim’d off till he has nothin’ of ’em left but a mustosh and a mouse-tail on his chin. Now, Mr. Edditur, you have bin printin’ a paper fur 40 years and I kno you will tell the truth. Did Bill rite that peace or not? Pleas releve the mind of a mother of ten children and a big bandy-shanked squint-eyed husband. Bill is still yellin’ fur water. He has guzzled a bar’l sence mornin’. Mr. Edditur, will you rite to Miss Cornpody and discribe Bill and se if shee knos him. Bill lost his cowhide boots in Terkoma and a feller give him a pare of razer-toed shoes number 12; Bill wears 14 in number when Miss Cornpody ain’t ’round. Now, Mr. Edditur, pleas’ rite me how you kum to kno Bill or if he did rite that peace. If he did, well! He is still in the hog pen yellin’ fur water and the hogs are yellin’ too, so I will klose tell I here frum you.

Yours veery tenderly, 


     P.S. — This is not kontinued in a hornee either. Mrs. B.C.

— from the Olympia (WA) Washington Standard of September 6, 1901, page 3, column 4

The two bits there that strike me as regional humor involving a knowledge of Chinook Jargon are:

  • “the o-pooche-hooche-dountee-lookee-dance” — I expect this is a joke on sexually suggestive “ hoochie-coochie” dances of the late 1800s that brings in CJ “opooch” (úpʰuch), ‘tail, backside, butt’.
  • Tumblewater bock beer” — I see this as a joke on the local Olympia place name Tumwater (tə́mwáta) ‘the waterfall’. 

I bet you never thought your interest in Chinuk Wawa would get turned to such low purposes!

But I’ve warned you for years, in the words of one of our most fluent living speakers of it, that this has always been a street language…

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?