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HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Cruise of the Snark17 > CHAPTER XVI BÊCHE DE MER ENGLISH
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 Given a number of white traders, a wide area of land, and scores of languages and dialects, the result will be that the traders will manufacture a totally new, unscientific, but adequate, language.  This the traders did when they invented the Chinook for use over British Columbia, Alaska, and the Northwest Territory.  So with the lingo of the Kroo-boys of Africa, the pigeon English of the Far East, and the bêche de mer of the westerly portion of the South Seas.  This latter is often called pigeon English, but pigeon English it certainly is not.  To show how totally different it is, mention need be made only of the fact that the classic piecee of China has no place in it.  
There was once a sea captain who needed a dusky down in his cabin.  The potentate was on deck.  The captain’s command to the Chinese was “Hey, boy, you go top-side catchee one piecee king.”  Had the steward been a New Hebridean or a Solomon islander, the command would have been: “Hey, you fella boy, go look ’m eye belong you along deck, bring ’m me fella one big fella marster belong black man.”
It was the first white men who ventured through Melanesia after the early explorers, who developed bêche de mer English—men such as the bêche de mer fishermen, the sandalwood traders, the pearl hunters, and the labour recruiters.  In the Solomons, for instance, scores of languages and dialects are spoken.  Unhappy the trader who tried to learn them all; for in the next group to which he might wander he would find scores of additional tongues.  A common language was necessary—a language so simple that a child could learn it, with a vocabulary as limited as the intelligence of the upon whom it was to be used.  The traders did not reason this out.  Bêche de mer English was the product of conditions and circumstances.  Function precedes organ; and the need for a universal Melanesian lingo preceded bêche de mer English.  Bêche de mer was fortuitous, but it was fortuitous in the deterministic way.  Also, from the fact that out of the need the lingo arose, bêche de mer English is a splendid argument for the Esperanto .
A limited vocabulary means that each word shall be overworked.  Thus, fella, in bêche de mer, means all that piecee does and quite a bit more, and is used continually in every possible connection.  Another overworked word is belong.  Nothing stands alone.  Everything is related.  The thing desired is indicated by its relationship with other things.  A vocabulary means primitive expression, thus, the continuance of rain is expressed as rain he stop.  Sun he come up cannot possibly be misunderstood, while the phrase-structure itself can be used without mental in ten thousand different ways, as, for instance, a native who desires to tell you that there are fish in the water and who says fish he stop.  It was while trading on Ysabel island that I learned the of this usage.  I wanted two or three pairs of the large clam-shells (measuring three feet across), but I did not want the meat inside.  Also, I wanted the meat of some of the smaller to make a chowder.  My instruction to the natives finally into the following “You fella bring me fella big fella clam—kai-kai he no stop, he walk about.  You fella bring me fella small fella clam—kai-kai he stop.”
Kai-kai is the Polynesian for food, meat, eating, and to eat: but it would be hard to say whether it was introduced into Melanesia by the sandalwood traders or by the Polynesian drift.  Walk about is a phrase.  Thus, if one orders a Solomon sailor to put a tackle on a boom, he will suggest, “That fella boom he walk about too much.”  And if the said sailor asks for shore liberty, he will state that it is his desire to walk about.  Or if said sailor be , he will explain his condition by stating, “Belly belong me walk about too much.”
Too much, by the way, does not indicate anything excessive.  It is merely the simple superlative.  Thus, if a native is asked the distance to a certain village, his answer will be one of these four: “Close-up”; “long way little bit”; “long way big bit”; or “long way too much.”  Long way too much does not mean that one cannot walk to the village; it means that he will have to walk farther than if the village were a long way big bit.
Gammon is to lie, to exaggerate, to joke.  Mary is a woman.  Any woman is a Mary.  All women are Marys.  Doubtlessly the first dim white adventurer whimsically called a native woman Mary, and of similar birth must have been many other words in bêche de mer.  The white men were all , and so capsize and sing out were introduced into the lingo.  One would not tell a Melanesian cook to empty the dish-water, but he would tell him to capsize it.  To sing out is to cry loudly, to call out, or merely to speak.  Sing-sing is a song.  The native does not think of God calling for Adam in the Garden of Eden; in the native’s mind, God sings out for Adam.
Savvee or catchee are practically the only words which have been introduced straight from pigeon English.  Of course, pickaninny has happened along, but some of its uses are delicious.  Having bought a from a native in a canoe, the native asked me if I wanted “Pickaninny stop along him fella.”  It was not until he showed me a handful of hen’s eggs that I understood his meaning.  My word, as an with a thousand significances, could have arrived from nowhere else than Old England.  A paddle, a sweep, or an , is called washee, and washee is also the verb.
Here is a letter, by one Peter, a native trader at Santa Anna, and addressed to his employer.  , the captain, started to write the letter, but was stopped by Peter at the end of the second sentence.  Thereafter the letter runs in Peter’s own words, for Peter was afraid that Harry gammoned too much, and he wanted the straight story of his needs to go to headquarters.
“Santa Anna
“Trader Peter has worked 12 months for your firm and has not received any pay yet.  He hereby wants £12.”  (At this point Peter began dictation).   “Harry he gammon along him all the time too much.  I like him 6 tin biscuit, 4 bag rice, 24 tin bullamacow.  Me like him 2 rifle, me savvee look out along boat, some place me go man he no good, he kai-kai along me.
Bullamacow means tinned beef.  This word was from the English language by the Samoans, and from them learned by the traders, who carried it along with them into Melanesia.  Captain Cook and the other early navigators made a practice of introducing seeds, plants, and domestic animals amongst the natives.  It was at Samoa that one such navigator landed a bull and a cow.  “This is a bull and cow,” said he to the Samoans.  They thought he was giving the name of the breed, and from that day to this, beef on the and beef in the tin is called bullamacow.
A Sol............
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