More Wooden Verse

Here’s another set of aboriginal stereotypes, drawn on pieces of wood with some of their bark still attached, and described in some even more wooden verse.  The usual markers, by now readily recognizable, are present: the hooked noses, the war bonnet, the headband, the braids.  The wooden poems, not so readily readable from the photos, go like thus:

Him not big chief

By default, him

Big chief cause

Him use salt.


Her not chief’s squaw

Cause she pretty

Her use much pepper

She very witty

Note the bad grammar and the lack of reason: why would you choose the person who used the most salt as your leader?  In what way is using a lot of pepper to be identified with wit?  I mean, I’ve heard of salty humour, but peppery?

I suspect these are trying to be funny, the humour stemming from the supposed ignorant ungrammaticality of natives, and I guess, the silliness of their ideas about salt and pepper.  But it’s hard to believe that very much thought or effort went into dreaming up these poems.  It’s a kind of lazy humour, then, the knd you fall into when you just coast on cliches and stereotypes and aren’t actually trying very hard–or are actually trying very hard but don’t possess the pepper, I mean wit.  The sad and telling part is how often that kind of lazy person’s wit reaches so readily and automatically into the world of racist slurs.  If you can’t come up with anything else, you can always say a few familiar cruel things about minorities.

Like a surprisingly number of my salt-and-pepper sets that claim to represent a place, this one claims to reveal the spirit of Banff.  I don’t know why I have so many Banff sets–maybe it’s just because it’s a big centre of tourism and therefore there was a market for a lot of kitsch, including a wide variety of novelty salt-and-pepper shaker sets.

Published by pernodel

Children’s literature critic and author of books for children

3 thoughts on “More Wooden Verse

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