While visiting Ningbo last month, Barney Grubbs snapped this picture of a doggerel song featuring English words in local transcription at the Museum of the Ningbo Commercial Group ( Níngbō bāng bówùguǎn寧波幫博物館): Website, Wikipedia article.
The photograph is not clear (even with a magnifying glass it's hard to read), so a typed version is given below. [Update: Barney sent a clearer image of the verse — click to embiggen.]
Before taking a look at the language of the ditty, just a few words about Ningbo and the Ningbo Commercial Group.
Ningbo, located just south of the Hangzhou Bay, is a major seaport and commercial center. For centuries, merchants from Ningbo were active throughout East Asia, and some of the most influential entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and Taiwan (not to mention nearby Shanghai) come from Ningbo. Collectively, they are known as the Ningbo Commercial Group (English Wikipedia, Chinese Wikipedia).
Since I don't know Ningbonese, which belongs to the Wu branch of Sinitic, I cannot supply a transcription of the verse in that language. Though I tried to find a Ningbonese speaker who was able to provide a Romanized version, I was unsuccessful in doing so. Perhaps a Language Log reader will be able to help out in the comments (I'm sure that the phonetic resemblances would be much better in Ningbonese). Meanwhile, all that I can offer is a transcription in Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM):
lái jiào kèmǔ (come) qù jiào gē (go)
yīyuán yángqián hùn táoluó (one dollar)
niànsì tóngbǎn tūndefú (twenty-four)
shì jiào yěsī (yes) wù jiào ná (no)
rúcǐ rúcǐ shā xiányú suō (so and so)
zhēn huò shí jià fánlì gē (very good)
xuē jiào báituō (boot) xié jiào xuē'ā (shoe)
yángháng màilì jiǎngbáituó (comprador)
xiǎo huǒ lún jiào sītīngpó (steamboat)
chī tī chī tī qǐng chī chá (have tea)
shēng táng shēng táng qǐng nǐ zuò (sit down)
hōng shānyù jiào bǔtiětuō (potato)
dōngyáng chēzi lìkèsuǒ (rickshaw)
dǎ pìgu jiào bānpú chī'ā (bamboo; Wúyǔ āidǎ jiào"chī shēnghuó")
hùnzhàng wángbā dàn fēnglú (damn fellow)
nàmó wēn xiānshēng shì ā dà (number one)
pǎojiē xiānshēng shālǎofū (shroff)
màikè màikè chāopiào duō (muck)
yìnde shēngsī dàngpiào duō (empty cents)
hóngtóu āsān kāipō duō (keep door; hóngtóu ā sān zhǐ yìndù ménwèi)
zìjiā xiōngdì bólāchá (brother)
yé yào fāchái (father) niáng màichái (mother)
zhàngrén ābó fāyīnluō (father-in-law)
来叫克姆 (come) 去叫戈 (go)
一元洋钱混淘萝 (one dollar)
是叫也司 (yes) 勿叫拿 (no)
如此如此沙咸鱼梭 (so and so)
真货实价凡立哥 (very good)
靴叫白脱 (boot) 鞋叫靴呵 (shoe)
吃梯吃梯请吃茶 (have tea)
生堂生堂请你坐 (sit down)
打屁股叫班蒲吃呵 (bamboo; 吴语挨打叫 "吃生活")
混帐王八啖风炉 (damn fellow)
那摩温先生是阿大 (number one)
印的生丝当票多 (empty cents)
红头阿三开泼多 (keep door; 红头阿三指印度门卫)
爷要发柴 (father) 娘卖柴 (mother)
There's no need to provide a word for word translation, since each line consists of an expression in Ningbonese and its transcribed equivalent in English, with the original English words appearing in parentheses).
Brendan O'Kane, who not only sent Barney's photograph to me, but also kindly typed out the clear copy, offers these cogent remarks:
Lots of interesting stuff here, including the mention of Indian guards and the wonderful note about 吃生活 ("getting a taste of life?") being a Wu term for getting beaten. I wonder if 麦克麦克 isn't something more like "muckety-muck," given the gloss of 鈔票多 [VHM: "lots of cash"], though I see that the OED gives "money" as an obsolete sense of "muck." "Empty cents" was a new one for me, but according to Hanchao Lu's Street Criers: A Cultural History of Chinese Beggars, it was a term coined by compradors that eventually turned into the common Shanghainese biesan.
A couple of the transliterations (白脱 for "boot," 开泼 for "keep") sound kind of strange, but of course I've got no idea of how this sounds when read in Ningbohua.
A few additional notes:
jiào 叫 ("is called; means")
tóngbǎn 铜板 ("copper coins")
zhēnhuò shíjià 真货实价 ("real goods at a genuine price")
màilì 卖力 ("work hard; exert oneself")
dǎ pìgu 打屁股 ("beat on the buttocks")
hùnzhàng wángbā 混帐王八啖 ("bastard bastard")
xiānshēng 先生 ("Mister")
shì 是 ("is")
pǎojiē 跑街 ("salesman; travelling agent")
"Shroff" entered English in the 17th century. It comes from Portuguese xarrafo, which in turn derives from Hindi sarrāf ("moneychanger"), which is ultimately from Arabic. In Hong Kong English, you will still find "shroff" used to designate a cashier in a hospital, a government office, or a car park (parking garage). I was mystified when I first encountered this word at the newly opened Hong Kong International Airport on the island of Chek Lap Kok (there was a sign in the parking garage directing my host to "pay at the shroff").
For a detailed explanation of this term and its early usage, see Hobson-Jobson, pp. 831-832.
chāopiào duō 钞票多 ("lots of cash")
dàngpiào duō 当票多 ("lots of pawntickets")
hóngtóu āsān 红头阿三 ("red turbaned 'yessir' / 'I see'")
This is a word borrowed from Shanghainese hhongdhou'akse. It refers to Sikh policemen who were employed in the international settlements known as "concessions". They may still be seen in banks in Hong Kong and elsewhere, looking very imposing with their towering red turbans, full beards, and lethal weapons (often shotguns [sometimes sawed-off]).
zìjiā 自家 ("self" in Wu, corresponding to 自己 in Mandarin)
The potential of pidgin materials like this for understanding linguistic and cultural history is great, but we have barely begun to mine them. One of the first priorities in undertaking research on pidgin data is to gain better control of the local pronunciations and vocabulary on which they are based.
[Thanks to Richard VanNess Simmons]