1873: Pronoun (not gender) troubles

Researcher (and up-and-coming northern-dialect CJ speaker) Jakob Svorkdal of UVic has sent along another excellent old newspaper find:

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The lady made mince pies, and then a mincemeat of Chinuk Wawa pronouns! (Image credit: Wikipedia)

He tells us,

“Another article from February 2nd, 1873 provides this interesting piece, wherein a lady of a notable family finds herself embarrassed after a Chinook Jargon miscommunication.”

This is another gem from the Victoria Daily Colonist. 

You’ll notice that the editor had no need to translate the Chinook for his local readers. 

mika vs nika

Mika vs. Nika

A certain family in this city having been deprived of the services of a Celestial cook in consequence of the Chinese New Year’s holiday, had to return to the help of a stalwart native, whose knowledge of the English language was on a par with the lady of the house’s acquaintance with the Chinook jargon.

Having that day a few guests to dinner, the hostess prepared some very tempting mince pies and a plum pudding, and particularly instructed her improvised cook that these were destined for the table. Dinner time came, and with it soup, fish, entrees, hors d’eouvres [sic], roast, salad, etc., were served up and disposed of. Time came for pudding and dessert, when the following dialogue ensued:

Hostess — I must go and get the mince pies.

Host — Don’t trouble yourself, my dear; let the Indian bring them in. 

Hostess — Oh, no; he don’t understand waiting at table.

Exit hostess calm and returns excited, saying — The brute has eaten all the mince pies (fifteen in number) and the plum pudding besides, after my distinctly telling him that they were for us and to keep them warm. 

Host — But are you sure that you explained to him that they were for our use, my dear. 

Hostess — Go and ask him yourself.

After a prolonged conversation with the Indian the host returned with a broad grin on his countenance. 

Host — He says you told him that they were for his dinner, and he moreover remarked that you are a very good kloochman[ɬúchmən ‘woman’]

Hostess — Oh! the treachery of these savages! I told him as plainly as possible, and in his own language, too, that those dishes were for mika muck a-muck[mayka mə́kʰmək ‘your food’]

The laughter that followed may well be imagined, the host and guests having a better conception of the difference in the meaning of mika and nika [nayka ‘my’] than the fair hostess, who took a lady’s oath that she would never trust an Indian in future, were he tyhee [táyí ‘chief’] or slave, within sight of mince pies. — COM.

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