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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/272

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

respect, is like the lingua franca of the Mediterranean coast, and the "pidgin" English of the East Indies and China.

A century ago, in the year 1787, two vessels, the Columbia, commanded by John Kendrick, and the Washington, by Robert Gray, left Boston on a voyage to the northwest coast of America, to open up a fur trade, and, if possible, to trade with China. At the rendezvous in Nootka Sound, to the westward of Vancouver Island, which latter is a part of what is now British Columbia, the people on the vessels acquired a number of words used by the natives. The expedition going afterward up the Columbia River to Oregon, they carried these Indian words with them there, which, added to some common and easily pronounced English words, formed the beginning and basis of Chinook. Its vocabulary, however, was scant until the coming of the Astor expedition and the settlement of Astoria. It was then enlarged by numerous English words, together with many of French origin, or of the Canadian patois. The dialects of the Chinook and Chehalis tribes, which ranged about southeastern Oregon, furnished many words for its development. The Hudson Bay and Northwest Companies, and the early settlers in Oregon, further added to it; it came into use between Indians of different tribes, and even between Americans and Canadians; it spread to Puget Sound, and found its way, with trade, up the Pacific coast and rivers, as explorers and settlers advanced, gradually spreading until its use reached its present extent.

Chinook is not a written language, and the spelling given here is purely phonetic. Of the five or six hundred words in common use, about one third are of English and French derivation; a few can not be traced to any source, and the rest are taken from the Chehalis and Chinook dialects.

No words beginning with the letter r are used; the sound of that letter is modified into that of l or p, the pronunciation of which is the easier. This matter of pronunciation, and not the impression made upon the ear, seems in all tongues to be the true foundation of euphony. There are no words in Chinook which begin with the letters f, j, q, u, v, x, or z; but two begin with g, "get up," and "glease" (grease).

Turning to the words derived from the English, we find "bit," meaning dime, the bit being the general designation on the Pacific coast for a ten-cent piece, and "tea," "sun," "short," "papa," "oleman," "musket," "smoke," "man," "soap," "paint," "spoon," etc., all of which need no translation. Rice becomes "lice"; fish, "pish"; fire, "piah"; rum, "lum"; rope, "lope"; cry, "cly"; dry, "d'ly." A cat is "puss-puss."

The first white men with whom the Indians in Oregon associated intimately being those of the expedition under Gray and