A Language Problem

– story from Candy-Lea Chickite

My grandmother loved to tell this one to me. I think she may have had the wrong name of the lighthouse keeper. She said it was her father, or maybe she said her father told her the story – I was young when I heard it but I think it may have been a Mr. Grafton who was the fellow involved. I believe the story is true . . .  (a Thomas Grafton was on Point Atkinson lighthouse from 1889 – 1910 and his dates are right for this story – JC)

Back before the days of radios, when a ship entered the Vancouver Harbour they would use a megaphone and call in the name of their ship to the lighthouse at Point Atkinson

One pitch black evening a horn sounded, the keeper hailed his welcome and asked the vessel to identify itself. 

“Wat-a-matta Maru” was the echoed reply in a heavily accented Oriental voice. 

“I say again, what is the name of your vessel?” hollered the keeper enunciating each work emphatically. 

“Wat-a-matta Maru!” 

“This is the Point Atkinson lighthouse, and I DEMAND you identify your vessel before entering the harbour!” replied the keeper of the light. 

Again, “Wat-a-matta Maru!” was the return call. 

Incensed now, the lighthouse keeper yelled back, “There’s NOTHING the matter with me, WHAT the HELL’s the matter with YOU!”