1896: Chinese Pidgin English + geoduck/octopus!

Here’s a dream come true for this Washington linguist — CPE + clams!


“Devilfish” by Barry Herem (image credit: Stonington Gallery)

“Chicken-clam” is quite a way to connote the heft and texture of both big clams and octopuses…

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A devil-fish, with arms seven feet from tip to tip and weighing seventy-four pounds, came up at high tide Tuesday, and got caught between the logs of John Black’s boat-house at the foot of Main street. After Mr. Black got the monstrous fish upon the wharf, it was immediately surrounded by a group of jabbering Chinese intent upon purchasing it for food, one Chinaman remarking: “Heap good. Alle samee chicken-clam” (goeyduck). — Standard, Olympia.

— from the Aberdeen (WA) Herald of February 27, 1896, page 1, column 3

The usual dynamics apply here: The Settler editor found no need to give a translation into standard English.

I’ve rarely seen “heap good” in Chinese Pidgin English up here in Washington state; that expression seems more common in California. Then again, there were lots more newspapers in California, and at an earlier date that could capture the peak of this West Coast pidgin.

This clipping is the first time I remember finding a reference to geoducks in any of our several PNW contact languages.

qʰata mayka təmtəm?
What do you think?