Densho Digital Archive
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Title: Min Tonai Interview I
Narrator: Min Tonai
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: September 2, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-tmin-01-0005

TI: So, so Terminal Island had essentially its own dialect.

MT: Yes.

TI: I mean, that, that little village of three thousand... and so if, if a Terminal --

MT: But the thing about it, on top of the dialect they were fishermen, so the Isseis talking to each other would speak in a staccato language because when they're on board ship they can't use niceties. They can't speak politely to each other. You know, get this, do this, 'cause it's dangerous if you start saying "will you please go get this," "will you please do this." You can't do this kind of thing, so they speak in a very staccato language, a very quick and rough language, and so the kids picked it up and that's how they spoke. The Isseis themselves can speak politely when they had to, 'cause they knew the language, but the kids didn't know that as well because their basic language was the fishermen language. And so whenever they went outside of Terminal Island the other Japanese people thought they were terrible because they have this very crude, course speech, and so they didn't want their daughters, some of 'em didn't want their daughters even be associated with 'em.

TI: That's really interesting because you hear stories about how rough the Terminal Islanders were. Lot of it had to do with their language, just may not have been so much that they were rough but it was their language?

MT: Well, combination, Terminal Island were fishermen's sons and they generally were rougher, just the whole attitude. They were, physically did hard, heavy work and so they, they worked rougher. They were rougher. They were rougher, yeah.

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