19th Century Slang Dictionary
Compiled & Edited by Craig Hadley
Shecoonery? Useless truck or gum? Hornswoggling? Honey-fuggling?
Not in this book, dear sir! I swan to mercy, a huckle- berry
above anyone's persimmon. Some pumpkins, a caution, 100 percent
certified by a Philadelfy lawyer. If not, dad-blame it, I'll
hang up my fiddle, and you can sass me, knock me into a cocked
hat, give me jesse, fix my flint, settle my hash, ride me out
on a rail and have a conniption fit, you cussed scalawag. Now
ain't that the beatingest language you ever did hear? Sure beats
the Dutch! Pshaw! Do tell! Bully for you!
is just a small example of the period slang of the 19th century
that you would hear during the Civil War. This will help you
build your first person character if you learn some of the lingo
of the time.
We have also included period curse words and obscenities in
here as well. While the Civil War soldier was not supposed to
curse in front of officers or NCOs, he certainly used them,
so we felt it was important to include these as well. These
are located at the end of the regular slang dictionary under
a separate heading.
of these slang terms were taken from a book entitled "Writing
for the 19th Century: A Writers Guide for all things Victorian".
It is filled with wonderful information regarding slang terms
and other wonderful details of 19th century life. We have also
included, when we could, when the first recorded time this phrase
was known to be used, as well as a brief definition of the word.
so, dear reader, here be but a microcosm of America's nineteenth-century
colloquialisms and slang, some from the upper class, some from
the lower, and much from the strata in between.
19th Century Slang
to take leave, to disappear.
1843: A can of oysters was discovered in our office by a friend,
and he absquatulated
with it, and left us with our mouth watering. Missouri Reporter,
1862- Rumor has it that a gay bachelor, who has figured in Chicago
for nearly a year, has
skedaddled, absquatulated, vamosed, and cleared out. Rocky Mountain
accelerator: a velocipede. (See also Bicycling in Amusements,
p. 19 1.)
acknowledge the corn: to admit the truth; to confess; to
acknowledge one's own obvious
lie or shortcoming.
1840: David Johnson acknowledged the corn, and said that he
drunk. Daily Pennant,St. Louis, July 14
1846: I hope he will give up the argument, or, to use a familiar
phrase, acknowledge the
corn. Mr. Speight, Mississippi, U.S. Senate, Congressional Globe,
1850: He has not confessed the corn, as the saying is, that
he did preach disunion? Mr.
staniy, North Carolina, House of Reps., congressional Globe
across lots: to push on straight through despite obstacles.
1853: "Go to hell across lots."
Brigham Young, journal of Discourses, March 27
1869: 1 came cross lots from Aunt Sawin's and I got caught in
those pesky blackberry
bushes in the graveyard.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Old Town Folks
algerine: a pirate.
1844: They have called the law for punishing treason an Algerine
law; they have
denominated us the Algerine party; and they have talked a great
deal about Algerine
Mr. Potter, Rhode Island, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
all creation, all nature, all wrath: everything or everybody.
1819: Father and I have just returned from the balloon - all
nature was there, and More
too. Massachusetts Spy, November 3
1833: I could eat like all wrath ... I'll be down on him like
all wrath anyhow. J.K. Paulding, Banks of the Ohio
1839: He pulls like all creation, as the woman remarked when
the horse ran away with
her. Yale Literary Magazine
1835: His boss gin him a most all-fired cut with a horsewhip.
Boston Pearl, November 28
1852: In my opinion, Dan Baxter would make an all-fired good
1866: 0 Sall, did you ever see such an all-fired sight of shoes?
Seba Smith, Way Down East, p.289
1872: You were too all-fired lazy to get a stick of wood.
J.M. Bailey, Folks in Danbury, p.80
all on one stick: a conglomeration or combination.
1830: He kept a kind of hotel and grocery store, all on one
stick, as we say. N. Dana, A Mariner's Sketches, p.18
1855: 1 grew - all-overish - no other phrase expresses it.
Putnam's Magazine, December
allow: to admit; to be of the opinion.
1840: She said she would allow he was the most beautiful complected
child she had ever seen. Knickerbocker Magazine
1866: Where is Hamlin? I allow that he is dead, or I would ask
him too. C.,H. Smith, Bill
all possessed, like: like someone or something possessed
by the devil.
1857: He'd carry on like all possessed -dance and sing, and
jest as limber and lively as if he'd never hefted a timber.
Putnam's Magazine, January
1878: She dropped a pan o' hot oysters into the lap of a customer
and set him to swearin'
and dancin' like all possessed.
J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds, p.184
all to Pieces: completely; absolutely.
1839: "I know him all to pieces," replied the gentleman.
Charles Biiggs, Harry Franco
1847: 1 knew him all to pieces as soon as I caught sight of
Charles Briggs, Tom Pepper
1848-. 1 felt almighty blue. Stray Subjects, p.109
amalgamation: the mixing of blacks and whites.
1839: The Senator further makes the broad charge that Abolitionists
wish to enforce the unnatural system of amalgamation. We deny
the fact. Mr. Morris, Ohio, U.S. Senate, Congressional Globe
1847: Amalgamation, even by marriage, is not at all dreaded
[in Texas]. Parties of white and coloured persons not unfrequently
come over from Louisiana. Life of Benjamin Lundy, p. II 7
anti-fogmatic: raw rum or whiskey.
1829: The takers of anti-fogmatics, juleps, or other combustibles.
Savannah Mercury, July 1
1852: Tom Nettles [was] mixing a couple of rosy anti-fogmatics.
As Good as a Comedy, p.134
1855: A thirsty throat, to which anything like delay in an anti-fogmatic
is almost certain bronchitis. W.G Simms, Border Beagles, p.55
Arkansas toothpick: a long knife. Also known as a California
or Missouri toothpick.
1855: We mistrust that the author of that statement saw a Missouri
toothpick, and was frightened out of his wits.
Herald of Freedom, Lawrence, Kansas, June 9
1869: A brace of faithful pistols in his belt, and a huge Arkansas
tooth- pick, or bowie knife, in a leather sheath.
A.K. McClure, Rocky Mountains, p.377
backing and filling: Literally, the alternate movements
of a steamboat. Metaphorically, changing one's mind; waffling.
1848: The steam was well up on both boats, which lay rolling,
and back- ing and filling,
from the action of the paddles, at the dock.
Stray Subjecm p. 1 74
1854: Men will be sent to Congress who will not back and fill,
and be on one principle for one week, one month, and one moon,
and upon another principle another week, and month, and moon.
Mr. Stephens, Georgia, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
bad egg: a bad person; a good-for-nothing person.
1864: A bad egg-a fellow who had not proved to be as good as
his promise. The Atheneum, p.559
balderdash: nonsense; foolishness; empty babble.
bar, barr: the popular pronunciation and spelling of bear,
as used prolifically in the South.
1843: They say you've no barr nor turkey out thare in Filledelfy?
R. Carlton, The New Purchase
1847: All the marks left behind showed me that he was the bar.
T.B. Thorpe, The Big Bear of Arkansas, p.25
beans, don't know, don't care: anything; something; nothing.
1857: "Well, then," said the General, "I don't
care beans for the railroad, not a single old red-eyed bean,
not a string-bean."
Knickerbocker Magazine, February
beat the Dutch: to beat all or beat the devil.
1840: Of all the goings on that I ever did hear of, this beats
the Dutch. Knickerbocker Magazine, February
1854: Well, it does beat the Dutch, and the Dutch, you know,
beat the d --- 1. Knickerbocker Magazine, May
beatingest, beatemest, beatenest: anything or anyone that
beats the competition.
1874: I reckon I am the beatin'est man to ax questions in this
neck of timber. Edward Eggleston, The Circuit Rider, P. 119
bee: a gathering of friends, family and neighbors to carry
out a specific, time consuming job, e.g., a cornhusking or quilting
1829: This collection of neighbors is called a Bee, and is the
common custom to assist each other in any great piece of labor,
such as building a house, logging, etc. The person who calls
the bee is expected to feed them well, and to return their work
day for day. Basil Hall, Travels in North America, pp.311-312
b'hoy: a rowdy young man; reveler; ruffian. See also G'hal.
1847: [He] had lived too long in the wire grass region to misunderstand
the character of that peculiar class of b'hoys who dwell there.
Knickerbocker Magazine, March
1852: [The occupants of the sleigh] are of not-to-be-mistaken
Bowery cut - veritable b'hoys. Charles A. Bristed, The Upper
Ten Thousand, p.29
1853: My off-handed mannerjust suited the b'hoy, on whom any
superfluous politeness would have been thrown away.
Knickerbocker Magazine, July
biddy: a hen.
1874: [The English hens] had a contented cluck, as if they never
got nervous, like Yankee biddies. Louisa May Alcott, Little
big bugs: bigwigs; important people.
1853: Who is that walking there with the big bugs in front?
he eagerly asked. Why, don't you know? That is the Governor.
Daily Morning Herald, St. Louis, May 10
1856: Hiram was beloved by many of the big bugs at Washington.
Knickerbocker Magazine, March
1856: She's one of the big bugs here -that is, she's got more
money than almost anybody else in town. Widow Bedott Papers,
biggest toad in the puddle: the most important person in
bodaciously: an exaggeration of "bodily."
1833: It's a mercy that the cowardly varmints hadn't used you
up boda- ciously. James Hall, Legends of the West, p.38
1878: 1 saw a man in Stockton, California, who had been bodaciously
chawed up to use his own language, by a grizzly bear.
J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds, p.118
body: a person.
1798: This hot weather makes a body feel odd. How long would
a body be going to Washington? Davis, Travels in America, p.223
boodle: a crowd of people.
1833: He declared he'd fight the whole boodle of 'em.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p. 183
border ruffians: those living outside the civilized settlements.
1857: A great majority of the people of the West, on the borders,
may be emphatically termed Border ruffians. The Eastern people
call them by that name. John Taylor at the Bowery, Salt Lake
City, August 9
1860: I only wanted to convince gentlemen . . . that Indianians
made better border ruffians than we did.
Mr. Craig, Missouri, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, January
born days, in all one's: In all one's: lifetime; since one
1840s: Where have you been all your born days, not to know better
than that? Sam Slick in England, ch.ii
[not] born In the woods to be scared by an owl: refers to
one who is experienced and therefore unafraid.
brick in one's hat, to have: to be drunk.
1854: A seedy-looking old negro, with a brick in his old hat,
and a weed 'round it. Knickerbocker Magazine, August
bub and sis: brother and sister, especially applied to children.
1872: Many eminently genteel persons, whose manners make them
at home anywhere, are in the habit of addressing all unknown
children by one of the two terms, bub and sis, which they consider
endears them greatly to the young people. Poet at the Breakfast
bucket Shop: a gin mill; a distillery.
188 1: A bucket-shop in New York is a low gin-mill or distillery,
where small quantities of spirits are dispensed in pitchers
and pails [buck- ets]. When the shops for dealing in one-share
or five-share lots of stocks were opened, these dispensaries
of smaller lots then could be got from regular dealers and were
at once named bucket-shops.
New York Evening Post, October
buckskin: a Virginian.
1824: We suspect that Capt. Tribby Clapp doodled the Buckskins.
Franklin Herald, April 13
bully for you!: well done; good for you.
1861: Bully for youl alternated with benedictions, in the proportion
of two bullies to one blessing. Atlantic Monthly, June, p. 745
1864: The freckles have vanished, and bully for you.
Daily Telegraph, November 18
bummer: the original word for bum. A lazy hobo or drunk.
1857: The irreclaimable town bummer figured in the police court.
San Francisco Call, April 28
1860: Another great sham connected with our social life is that
of spreeing or bumming. Yale Literary Magazine
1862: A great majority of the bummers, who so long infested
this city, have either left or gone to work. Rocky Mountain
News, Denver, May 10
1827: This is an old and common saying at Washington, when a
member of Congress is making one of those hum-drum and unlistened-to
long talks which have lately become so fashionable.... This
is cantly called talking to Bunkum: an honorable gentleman,
long ago, having said that he was not speaking to the house,
but to the people of a certain county [Buncombe] in his district,
which, in local phrase, he called Bunkum. Niles' Weekly Register,
1843: Mr. Weller of Ohio thought the question had been sufficiently
debated, for nearly all the speeches had been made for Buncombe.
Mr. Underwood, Kentucky, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
December II, p.43
1810: From dinner to dark I give to Society; and from candle-light
to early bed-time I read. Thomm Jefferson, from Monticello,
1824: The Rev. Mr. Kidwell, a Unitarian Universalist, will preach
at the courthouse at early candle light on Sunday evening.
Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Gazette, March 26
1853: The dancing commenced at early candle-lighting, and continued
until long after midnight. Turnover, A Tale of New Hampshire,
1888: The meeting was appointed for early candle-lighting.
American Humorist, August
cap the climax: to beat all; to surpass everything.
1804: Your correspondent caps the climax of Misrepresentation.
Lancaster Intelligencer, Febrwty 21
1811: It caps the climax of French arrogance and turpitude.
Massachusetts Spy, September 18
1821: To cap the climax of his infamy and barbarity, he severed
the head from the body of the infant. Pennsylvania Intelligencer,
1860: All that was wanting to cap the climax to this absurd
(Lincoln] nomination was the selection of Hannibal Hamlin as
a candidate for Vice-Presidency. Richmond Enquirer, May 25,
carryings-on: frolicking, partying, etc.
1840s: Everybody tuck Christmas, especially the niggers, and
sich carry- ins-on-sich dancin' and singin'-and shootin' poppers
and sky- rackets -you never did see. Major Jones's Courtship
catawamptiously chewed up: utterly defeated, badly beaten.
An expres- sion largely confined to the South and West, from
at least the 1840s on.
a weasel asleep, to: referring to something impossible or
unlikely, in regard to someone who is always alert and is seldom
or never caught off guard, e.g., You can't trick old Joe any
sooner than you can catch a weasel asleep.
a: a warning. Also a ludicrous example, or someone or some-
1839: Off we hied to the prairie, and the way the feathers flew
was a caution. John Plumbe, Sketches in Iowa, p.56
1840: The way Mrs. N. rolls up her eyes when the English are
mentioned is certainly a caution. Mrs. Kirkland, A New Home,
1851: The way he squalled, rolled, kicked, puked, snorted, and
sailed into the air, was a caution to old women on three legs.
An Arkansaw Doctor, p.151
to frolic or prance about.
1834: Government's bought their land, and it's wrong for them
to be cavorting around quiet people's houses any more.
C.F. Hoffman, A Winter in the Far West, p.28
1845: She better not come a cavortin''bout me with any of her
carryins on. W. T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p. 1 78
1819: A considerable quantity is expressed by a smart chance;
and our hostess at Madison said there was a smart chance of
Yankees in that village. David Thomas, Travels, p.230
1833: "There's a smart chance of cigars there in the bar,
stranger, if you'd try some of them," said one of the hooshiers.
C.F. Hoffman, A Winter in the Far West, p.219
1833: There was a right smart chance of sickness when she came
to the settlement. jameshall, Legends of the West p.88
chirk: cheerful. Synonyms: chirp, chirpy.
1843: She is not very chirk, but more chirkier than she had
been; and all our folks appear more chirkier than they really
feel, in order to chirk her up. Yale Literary Magazine, p.26
1857: Chirk and lively we both were. Knickerbocker Magazine,
janua7y 1878: 1 didn't feel real cherk this week, so't I didn't
go to sewin' s'ciety. Rose T. Cooke, Happy Dodd
1878: Ef there's a mortal thing I can do to help ye, or chirk
ye up, I want to do it right off.
Rose T. Cooke, Happy Dodd
circumstance: anything to speak of
1836: [The new hotel] will be a smasher, to which the Astor
House will be no circumstance. Philadelphia Public Ledger, November
1854: You'd better think of all the pretty girls you ever seed,
all at once, and then it won't be a circumstance. Elvira takes
the rag off everything there's about these parts. Knickerbocker
1856: To be beaten by a mere circumstance of a gal-child.
W.G. Simms, Eutaw, p.394
1857: I've travelled on the cars in my day, but that kind of
going wasn't a circumstance to the way we tore along.
S.H. Hammond, Wild Northern Scenes, p.62
hat: To knock someone senseless or to shock him completely.
To knock into a cocked hat.
1833: I told Tom I'd knock him into a cocked hat if he said
word. J.K. Paulding, Banks of the Ohio, p.217
1840: Why pummel and beat over again that which is already beaten
to a jelly, jammed into a cocked hat, and flung into the middle
of next week?
Mr. Wick, Indiana, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, July
1848: It has completely knocked us into a cocked hat.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.306
1852: We will knock [the groggeries] into a cocked hat.
Ezra T. Benson, at the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, journal of
Discourses, September 12
Cockneyisms: speaking in a Cockney dialect or pronouncing
words with a Cockney accent, a popular speech affectation in
Philadelphia from the beginning of the century to 1860. Some
of the Cockneyisms were influenced by the writings of Charles
1800: [In Philadelphia, Noah Webster) will find the London Cockneyisms
flourish in perfection - veal - here converted into "weal,"
wine into "vine," -the hot-water-war he will find
described as a "hot vater var," etc. Aurora, June
1830: It is almost impossible to distinguish Americans from
English, especially Philadelphians, who like Cockneys talk about
"wery good weal and winegar." N. Dana, A Mariner's
codfish aristocracy: a contemptuous term for people who
have made money in business.
1850: We should regard it as somewhat strange if we should require
a codfish aristocracy to keep us in order.
Mr. Butler, South Carolina, U.S. Senate, Congressional Globe,
July 9, p. 1248
1853: D. is evidently a retainer of the codfish aristocracy,
who will only go where the price will match with his dignity.
Daily Morning Herald, St. Louis, April 22
1860: The defender of genius against vulgar money bags, alias
codfish aristocracy. Richmond Enquirer, May 15
cold as a wagon tire: dead.
1833: If a man was as cold as a wagon tire, provided there was
any life in him, she'd bring him to. James Hall, Legends of
the West p.88
coloured person, person of color: a Negro.
1812: Christopher Macpherson is a man of color, brought up as
bookkeeper by a merchant, his master, and afterwards enfranchised.
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 20
conniption fit: a fit of hysteria.
1833: Ant Keziah fell down in a conniption fit. Seba Smith,
Major Jack Downing, p.218
1842: The Vermont papers are going into conniption fits, because
their state is in debt
$150,000. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, August 23
1859: She went into a conniption at the sight of the poor Snap.
Harper's Weekly, November 19
considerable: no small specimen.
1816: He is considerable of a surveyor. Pickering, Vocabulary
1843: Wall You're considerable of a critur, you are, by thunder!
You eternal, great, green-eyed, black-devil! Yale Literary Magazine
1852: He is really. worth knowing, and considerable of a man,
as we say- no fool at all. Charks A. Bristed, The Upper Ten
the money issued by Congress during the Revolutionary War. It
eventually became synonymous with anything worthless.
1874: I tole him as how I didn't keer three continental derns
fer his whole band. Edward Eggleston, The Circuit Rider, p.120
1888: 1 am not worrying about the nomination. I don't care a
Continental if I don't receive it. Missouri Republican, February
coon's age: a long time.
1845: We won't hear the end of this bisness for a coon's age:
you see if we do. W. T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p.
1848: 1 never did like this Yanky way of married people livin'
all over creation without seein' one another more'n once in
a coon's age.
W.E. Burton, Waggeries, p.16
1851: This child hain't had that much money in a coon's age.
Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, p.155
coot: an idiot; a simpleton; a ninny.
1856: He's an amazin' ignorant old coot, tew.
Widow Bedott Papers, No.9
1857: It is a poor coot, let me tell you, that will make such
H.C. Kimball, Salt Lake City, journal of Discourses, September
20, v, p.251
1840: William McG. brought a load of corn to market, and got
corned on the strength of it. Daily Pennant St. Louis, May 27
cotton to: to take a liking to, a popular expression throughout
the South and West from early in the century on.
cow-hide, cow-skin: a whip made of cowhide. Also used as
a verb, to whip or flog.
1801: Dinah was armed with a cow-skin, while Cloe had nothing
but the simple weapons of nature. Massachusetts Spy, June 24
1818: The enraged barrister, with a hand-whip, or cow-hide as
they are called ... actually cut his jacket to ribbons.
M. Birbeck, Letters ftom Illinois, p.60
1855: His lady had cow-hided him in the streets of his native
Th,mo B. Gunn, New York Boarding Houses, p.21-5
cracker: a poor white of the South, named after the crackling
whips used by rural Southerners.
1842: We saw many of the country people coming into town; some
on horseback, some in waggons, and some on foot.... Single-breasted
coats without collars, broad-brimmed and low-crowned hats, and
gray hair floating in loose locks over their shoulders, were
among their perculiarities .... They are called by the townspeople,
Crackers, from the frequency with which they crack their whips.
J.S. Buckingham, Slave States, p.210
1847: I met one of the country crackers, as the backwoodsmen
are called, who, having been to Wetempka with a load of shingles,
was on his way home. Knickerbocker Magazine, May
crazy as a loon: very crazy.
1854: The old man'll run as crazy as a loon a-thinkin' 'bout
his house- hold affairs. H.H. Riley, Puddleford, p.140
critter: creature; varmint; a contemptible person.
1833: It would be ridiculous if it should be a bar; them critters
sometimes come in here, and I have nothing but my knife.
Knickerbocker Magazine, p.90
1836: My little critter [a mustang], who was both blood and
bottom, seemed delighted. Colonel Crockett in Texas, p. 149
1836: The old critter says he is married, and makes his wife
work in the printing office. Philadelphia Public Ledger, September
1842: One of the clerks in the Baltimore Post Office, on opening
a bag of letters, discovered a live garter-snake in the same.
The critter bore no postmark or frank. Philadelphia Spirit of
the Times, July 28
dang: euphemism for damn, e.g., dang it all or dang you.
dash!: euphemism for damn, e.g., dash it all.
dashing: showy, elegant or spirited, especially in dress.
dead meat: a corpse, from 1860 on.
death on: very fond of or very talented at.
1847: A long, lanky, cadaverous lawyer, who was death on a speech,
powerful in chewing tobacco, and some at a whisky drinking.
Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life, p.30
1896: You're a-goin' to do what? I reckon I'm a-goin' a little
Ella Higgimon, Tales from Puget Sound, p.68
designs: plans; schemes; intentions. Commonly used throughout.
1846: 1 like gentlemen's society when I know they have no designs
upon my heart and when I know any cordiality of mine will not
be misinterpreted. Mary Butterfield, letter to fiance, October
didoes: to cut up didoes was to get into mischief.
1835: Must all the world know all the didoes we cut up in the
lodgeroom? D.P. Thompson, Adventures of Timothy Peacock, p.
1838: If you keep a cutting didoes, I must talk to you like
a Dutch uncle. J.C. Neal, Charcoal Sketches, p.201
diggings: one's home; lodgings; community.
1838: It's about time we should go to our diggings. J.C. Neal,
Charcoal Sketches, p.119
1842: With whom did the idea originate? It's novel in these
diggins at least. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, May 6
1853: How dare you talk thus in these days, and above all in
these diggings. Fun and Earnest, p.239
dipping: chewing snuff.
1853: This horrible practice, called in lower Virginia and North
Caro- lina dipping, is of respectable standing.
Putnarn's Magazine, February, p.142
1857: She was suspected of a mysterious habit denominated in
Southern parlance dipping-in other words, of chewing snuffi
Thomas B. Gunn, New York Boarding Houses, p.221
dirk: to stab with a dirk or dagger.
1825: He had changed his mind as to the dirking.... [He] swore
the fellow ought to be dirked, the usual phrase for the punishment
of slight offences among these humane republicans.
J.K. Paulding, John Bull in America, pp.39,146
1830: The assassin determined to dirk him in the street on his
return. Massachusetts Spy, June 2
doggery: a cheap drinking establishment; in modern lingo,
1848: The drunkard, while reeling homeward from the doggery,
is at- tracted by both sides of the street, which accounts for
his diagonal movements. Dow, Patent Sermons, p.99
1850.- A doggery is too contemptible for any man who has a soul
more elevated than the swine to condescend to. Frontier Guardian,
1854: And then the doggery-keepers got to sellin' licker by
the drink, instead of the half-pint, and a dime a drink at that.
J.G. Baldwin, Flush Times in Alabama, p.65
1855: Some say that this fellow-feeling between him and the
marshal results from the fact that he was a doggery-keeper in
Weekly Oregonian, April 7
doings: "fixins" for a meal.
1843: A snug breakfast of chicken fixins, eggs, ham-doins, and
slapjacks. R. Carlton, The New Purchase, p.58
1847: Flour doins an' chicken fixins, an' four uncommon fattest
big goblers rosted I ever seed. Billy Warwick's Wedding, p.104
1859: Tell Sal to knock over a chicken or two, and get out some
flour, and have some flour-doins and chicken fixins for the
stranger. Knickerbocker Magazine, March
done gone: a pleonasm (redundancy) used frequently by Negroes
of the period.
1836: He had done gone three hours ago.
"A Quarter Race in Kentucky, " New York Spirit of
the Times, p.22
do tell: phrase used to express fascination with a speaker's
subject. 1842: Among the peculiar expressions in use in Maine
we noticed that,
when a person has communicated some intelligence in which the
hearer feels an interest, he manifests it by saying: "I
want to know"; and when he has concluded his narrative,
the hearer will reply: "0! do telll " J.S. Buckingham,
Eastern and Western States, p. 177
1853: Do tell! I want to know! Did you ever! Such a powerful
right smart chance of learning as you have is enough to split
your head open right smack. Daily Morning Herald, St. Louis,
1853: At last sez I, "Jidge, did you ever have your portrait
tuck?" "No," sez he, as ugly as you please. "Dew
te," says I.
Knickerbocker Magazine, September
dram shop: a small drinking establishment, from early in
dude: a dandy.
1883: The new coined word dude ... has travelled over the country
with a great deal of rapidity since but two months ago it grew
into general use in New York. North Adams Transcript, June 24
1888: If the term dude had been invented [in 1866] it would
have been applied to a Texas horseman.
Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Tenting on the Plains, p.212
1891: Joe then went east, and married a young dudine out there.
A. Welcker, Woolly West p.69
elephant, to see the: to see it all, to experience it all.
Sometimes pertaining to war, to see battle.
1840: That's sufficient, as Tom Haynes said when he saw the
elephant. A.B. Longstreet, Georgia Scenes, p.10
1851: I think I have seen the elephant, as far as public life
Mr. Hale, New Hampshire, U.S. Senate, Congressional Globe, janua7y
1854: I am a miner, who wandered away from down-east, and came
to sojourn in a strange land, and see the elephant.
Knickerbocker Magazine, April
1873: He had lost all his money, consisting of seven twenty-dollar
pieces, and a bundle containing a valuable steam gauge. He had
seen the elephant (rather too close a view, he thought), was
many hundred miles from home, among strangers, and without a
dollar in his pocket. Edward Savage, Police Records and Recollections,
exfluncticate: to utterly destroy.
1839: The mongrel armies are prostrate-used up-exfluncticated.
Chemung (New York) Democrat November 30
1840: ... the Administration is bodaciously used up, tetotaciously
Mr. Wick, Indiana, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, July
express: the mails; a mail stage.
1851: The religious papers which have the greatest circulation
are pa- pers of a small size, and are transmitted mostly by
Mr. Dunean, Massachwetts, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
January 15, p.245 1854: There are two large express companies,
Adams & Co. and Wells,
Fargo & Co., which carry mail matter by Nicaragua, charging
from twenty-five to fifty cents on a letter.
Mr. Lathan, California, Congressional Globe, April 7, p.872
F.F.V.: First Families of Virginia, of which many claimed
to be members to gain special treatment, but eventually used
1850: [He was] the first of his race to acknowledge that he
was not an F.F.V. Odd Leaves, p. 178
1857: Mr. Floyd, as everybody knows, as an F.F.V., and the soul
of honor accordingly. Harper's Weekly, April 11
1861: They must do better down in Virginia than they have done,
or EF.V., instead of standing for First Families of Virginia,
will get to mean the Fast Flying Virginians. Oregon Argus, August
fice, fiste, tyst: a worthless dog; a mongrel.
1843: Did you ever see a pack composed of five or six little
fice dogs, barking furiously? Missouri Reporter, St. Louis,
1863: What other Pete can I mean but your dirty little fice
J.B. ]ones, Wild Western Scenes, p. 15
1874: [The barking ranged] all the way from the contemptible
treble of an ill-mannered fice to the deep baying of a huge
Edward Eggleston, The Circuit Rider, p. 72
1890: All the dogs of the regiment were with us, apparently,
from the lofty and high-born staghounds down to the little feist,
or mongrel, of the trooper. Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Following
the Guidon, p.78
fist, make a: to succeed at something.
1834: A chap would make a blue fist of takin'a dead aim through
double sights, with the butt end of a psalm in his guzzle.
The Kentuckian in New York, p.25
1838: He reckoned he should make a better fist at farming than
edicating. Caroline Gilman, Recollections of a Southern Matron,
1841: You made a poor fist of this business.
W.G. Simms, The Kinsmen, p.24
fit: popular slang for fought.
1835: Any body can get in, if only he fit big battles enough.
I'd give a year's sellary in a minute, if Mr. Van Buren had
ever fit a great battle so as to be called a hero. Bucks County
Intelligencer, November 4
1839: Here's a going to be one of the peskiest battles that
ever was fit. Chemung (New York) Democrat, April 17
1845: There's a mighty chance of lawyers' lies in the papers
... but some of it is true. I did strike the old lady, but she
fit me powerfully first. Cornelius Mathews, A Court Scene in
1869: He hadn't fit the Arminians and Socinians to be beat by
a tom- turkey. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Old Town Stories
fix: a dilemma; a problem; a jam.
183 3: When a man has head religion, he is in a bad fix to die
-cut off his head, and away goes his body and soul to the devil.
James Hall, Legends of the West, p.43
1839: The Americans are never at a loss when they are in a fix.
Marryat, Diary in America, p. 106
fixings: trimmings, accessories, etc.
1825: The veteran trapper was furnished with such other appliances,
or fixens, as he would term them, as put him in plight again
to take the field. New Hampshire Patriot, Concord, May 23
1842: Our friends who love oysters and sparkling rosy wine,
and other little fixens in the eating way, will do well to drop
in at the Bath House Refectory. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times,
1842: People can't afford to purchase the rich golden and rosy
beef- steaks, as formerly. They keep soul and body together
with greens and onions, shad, and such like fixins.
Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, April 16
1845: Our ladies are sadly in want of the little fixins made
by the milliners. Letter to the Bangor Mercury
1848: [He] makes a heap of money by selling Yankee made Ingin
fixins, sich as moccasins, bead-bags, card-cases, and a heap
of fancy articles, sich as the Ingins themselves never dreamed
of makin. Major Jones's Sketches of Travel p. 167
fix one's flint: to settle a matter.
1837: 1 thought I had fiked your flint yesterday.
Knickerbocker Magazine, April
1843: "Take it easy, Sam," says 1, "Your flint
Sam Slick in England
1847: Stranger, if you don't shet your mouth a little closer
than a Gulf clam, I'll fix your flint in short order.
J.K. Paulding, American Comedies, p.197
1807: A large, fleshy, rugged, strong, active child.
Massachusetts Spy, August 26
1840: Mrs. Ferret is what we call a fleshy or lusty woman; she
weighed two hundred and twelve, in Neal Hopper's new scale at
John P. Kennedy, Quodlibet, p.110
frolic: a celebration; a party; a wild time. Also, a fight.
1815: He happened to get both eyes gouged out yesterday in a
frolic. J.K. Paulding, John Bull in America, p.218
1833: They meant to have a reaping frolic when the corn should
be ripe. Harriet Martineau, Briery Creek, p. 18
full chisel: at full speed; executed with everything you've
1832: 1 met an express coming on full chisel from Philadelphia.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p. 168
1878: The only way to get that fellow to heaven would be to
set out to drive him to hell; then he'd turn and run up the
narrow way full chisel. HaiTiet Beecher Stowe, Poganuc People
funeral, not one's: not one's business; none of one's concern.
1875: Wanted: A nice, plump, healthy, good-natured, good-looking
domestic and affectionate lady to correspond with, object -Matrimony.
She must be between 22 and 35 years of age. She must be a believer
in God and immortality, but no sectarian. She must not be a
gad about or given to scandal.... Such a lady can find a correspondent
by addressing ... Post Office Box 9, Yuma, A.T. Photographs
exchanged! If anybody don't like our way of going about this
... business, we don't care. It's none of their funeral. Lonely
hearts classified ad in the Arizona Sentinel, July 10
1896: It ain't any of your funeral, I guess, if I did turn (the
clock] back. Ella Higginson, Tales from Puget Sound, p.184
gallnipper: a large mosquito.
1842: The gallnippers of Florida are said to have aided the
Seminoles in appalling our armies. Mrs. Kirkland, Forest Life,
1888: Our rainwater was full of gallnippers and pollywogs ...
banks of mud all bred mosquitoes, or gallnippers, as the darkies
call them. Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Tenting on the Plains, pp.
g'hal: a rowdy girl; a reveler or ruffian girl. See also
1848: Go it, all ye g'hals, and ye b'hoys, as much as you can,
while you are young. Dow, Patent Sermons, P.167
gone coon, gone sucker: a goner.
1840: 1 was afeared you were a gone coon.
C.F. Hoffman, Greyslaer, p.221
1845: The acquisition of Canada ... is put down on all sides
as a gone coon. Mr. Giddings, Ohio, in Congress
185 1: I feared that I should lose my way, and then I knew I
was a gone sucker. An Arkansaw Doctor, p.109
Gotham: New York City.
1836: An Albany or Newark dog is well worth fifty cents, if
brought to Gotham's authorities, as if actually killed in Gotham's
streets.... We understand that a dog's flesh is quite a luxury
in Gotham market. Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 5
1840: Col. Johnson was in New York, drinkingjuleps at Delmonicos.
He was warmly received by Gothamites. Daily Pennant St. Louis,
go the whole hog: to go all the way.
1830. As ladies now wear pantaloons and boots, I see no reason
why they should not go the whole hog and mount the hat and swallow
tail coat likewise. N. Dana, A Mariner's Sketches, p.186
1833: T. Hamilton quotes a placard, "Jackson for ever.
Go the whole hogl" The expression, I am told, is of Virginian
origin. In that state, when a butcher kills a pig, it is usual
to demand of each customer, whether he will go the whole hog.
Men and Manners in America, pp. 17-18
gouge: to gouge at your opponent's eyes in a fight, a widely
referred to tactic
throughout the century.
1820: In most cases both parties were severely bruised, bitten,
and gouged, and would be weeks in recovering.
Peter Burnett, Recollections, p. 19
1826: ... I saw more than one man who wanted an eye, and ascertained
that I was now in the region [on the Mississippi] of gouging.
T. Flint, Recollections, p.98
1830: "Gouge himl Gouge himl" exclaimed a dozen voices.
George Prentice, Northern Watchman, Troy, New York
1843: Rowdy Bill was famous as a gouger, and so expert was he
in his anti-optical vocation, that in a few minutes he usually
bored out his adversary's eyes, or made him cry "peccavi."
R. Carlton, The New Purchase, p.158
greased lightning: anything very fast.
1833: He spoke as quick as greased lightning.
Boston Herald, January 15
1837: If I didn't fetch old dug-out through slicker than snakes,
and faster than a greased thunderbolt. R.M. Bird, Nick of the
1842: The horse went up the street like a blue streak of greased
lightning. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, September 7
grist: a quantity.
1833: There has been a mighty grist of rain lately up above.
J.K. Paulding, Banks of the Ohio, p.133
1847: He owes old Sambo a whull grist of fourpences for blackin'
his boots, runnin' of ar'nds, and sich like small chores.
J.K. Paulding, American Comedies, p.142
1853: That old Greke that folks tell so much about never poured
out sich a grist of oratory in all his born days.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.411
grit: guts; courage; toughness.
1834: Mother says before I was a week old I showed that I was
real grit. Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.25
1855: They are full of grit, and ready to swallow Cuba alive.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.434
grocery: a drinking establishment. See also Doggery, Dram
1830: Wilson told the Sheriff to take thejury to a grocery,
that he might treat them, and invited every body that chose
to go. Some men who have held a good standing in society followed
the crowd to the gro- cery. Jeffersonian, June 30
1857: Some will set up a small grocery or groggery; they go
into debt to those who have a bigger groggery.
John Taylor at the Bowery, Salt Lake City, Journal of Discourses,
August 9, v, p.119
groggery, grog Shop: a low drinking establishment; a dive.
1835: Long lines of unpainted, wretched looking dwellings, occupied
as groggeries. Ingraham, The South West P. 190
1843: To enlarge the Congressional districts ... would break
the power of mere shake-hands and grog-shop influence.
Mr. Underwood, Kentucky, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
grum: surly; gloomy; glum.
1834: The poet looked gloomily, or what is vernacularly called
grum. Robert Sands, Writings, P.187
1842: The sun seems extraordinarily sulky and grum.
Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, June 18
gum: lies; exaggerations. As a verb, to dupe someone.
1843: Now this was all gum; Sam could not read a word.
R. Carlton, The New Purchase, p.255
1844: He was speaking of the moon hoax, which gummed so many
learned philosophers. Yale Literary Magazine, xiv, p.189
guttersnipe: a homeless child who roamed and slept in the
streets. Hundreds roamed the larger cities throughout much of
1890: Guttersnipe is the name which has been given to the more
weakly street arab, the little fellow who, though scarcely more
than a baby, is frequently left by brutalized parents at the
mercy of any fate. This little chap generally roams around until
he finds some courageous street arab, scarcely bigger than himself,
perhaps, to fight his battles and put him in the way of making
a living, which is generally done by selling papers. In time
the guttersnipe becomes himself a full- fledged street arab
... with two hard and ready fists, and a horde of dependent
and grateful snipes. Darkness and Daylight in New York, p. 116
hang up one's fiddle: to give up.
hankering: a strong desire, used throughout the century.
1847: 1 took an awful hankerin after Sofy M -, and sot in to
looking for matrimony. Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life
hash, settle one's: to settle one's business.
1824: The parties settled the hash, and retired to comfortable
quarters, to quaff cogniac. Microscope, Albany, February 28
1837: I've settled his hash, though. Knickerbocker Magazine,
1849: I completely settled his hash. Yale Literary Magazine,
xiv, p. 179
high-falutin: highbrow; stuck up.
1854: Old Mrs. Peabody was allers a dreadful high-falutin critter,
with stuck-up notions, and old P. is a soft head, driven by
his wife, just as our old rooster is driven about by that cantankerous
crabbed Dorking hen. J. W. Spaulding, Weekly Oregonian, December
1862: Educated peepul, kernel, ain't got any more wit or common
sense than other folks, but they try to make you believe they
have, an' will talk high falutin words just to frighten you
if they kin.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, August 14
hoe-down: a Negro dance.
1855: The revellers set to sprawling through various rude high-legged
reels and hoedowns. Knickerbocker Magazine, September
1885: [the negroes] danced their vigorous hoe-downs.
Library Magazine, New York, July 1
hook, on one's own: on one's own; one's own doing.
1836: Did he make these forgeries on his own hook, or at the
instigation of the big bug? Philadelphia Public Ledger, August
1837: The enthusiastic jerseyman, who, without belonging to
either side, was found at the battle of Monmouth, fighting on
his own hook entirely. R.M. Bird, Nick of the Woods
hooter: an atom; a tiny amount.
1839: Now the Grampus stopt, and didn't buge one hooter.
"Major Jack on Board a Whaler," Havana Republican,
1848: Politicians don't care a hooter, so long as their own
selfish ends are obtained. Dow, Patent Sermons, p.6
1853: Let him be as dirty as the mortal in Missouri, who is
assessed as real estate, still it makes not a hooter of difference.
Dow, Patent Sermons
horn: a glass of liquor or ale.
1824: 1 went to be after taking one horn. Microscope, Albany,
1840: I'll bet a horn of Monongahela whiskey that you have had
your supper. Knickerbocker Magazine, September
1840: He called lustily for a horn of baldface and mollasses.
Daily Pennant, St. Louis, April 28
horn spoon, by the: an exclamation of surprise, shock or
1853: "By the horn spoons!" repeated the skipper suddenly.
Knickerbocker Magazine, February
hornswoggle, honey-fuggled: to cheat; to pull the wool over
1856: Pardon me for using the word; but Sharp honeyfuggled around
Mr. Bennet, Nebraska, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, July
1860: P.E is going to hornswoggle the Democrats. Oregon Argus,
May 12 1862: Now we want the particulars as to how much honey
wool pulling was done. Rocky Mountain News, Denver, August 14
1865: 1 ain't no giant killer. I ain't no Norwegian bar. I ain't
no boar constrikter. But I'll be hornswoggled if the talkin
an the writin an the slanderin has got to be done all on one
side any longer. Some of your folks have got to dry up, or turn
our folks loose.
Bill Arp, Letter to Artemus Ward, September I
hoss: widely used for horse.
1852: That was a long race, I tell you, hosses.
H.C. Watson, Nights in a Blockhouse, p.29
1853: Hello, old hoss, whar hev you been this coon's age?
Paxton, A Stray Yankee in Texas, p.201
huckleberry above a persimmon: a cut above. The phrase had
many variations and shades of meaning.
1836: It is a huckleberry above my persimmon to cipher out how
I find myself the most popular bookmaker of the day.
Colonel Crockett in Texas, p.13
1844: She's a great gal that! Show me another like her any whar,
and I am thar directly. She's a huckleberry above most people's
persim- mons. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, August 24
1885: I'm a huckleberry above that persimmon.
Admiral Porter, Incidents of the Civil War, p.204
huffed, huffy: angry; irritated; offended.
1800: The Philadelphia Gazette is huffed at our stating a fact.
Aurora, Philadelphia, December 18
1855: They said that some mischief was going on, and some of
them were right huffy about it.
George Smith at the Mormon Tabernacle, Journal of Discourses,
hull: frequently used for whole.
1835: Six months ago, this hull country was the most prosperous
in the world. Colonel Crockett's Tour, p. 79
1845: "I've bought out the hull grocery," sings outjake
Miller, standin' in Capn' Todd's store with a hull raft of tellers.
St. Louis Reveille, September 1
1849: 1 vow my hull share o' the spoils wouldn't come nigh a
V spot. Biglow Papers, No.8
hum: frequently used for home.
1819: When he talked of hum, I took him for a wag, but soon
found he so pronounced home.
"An Englishman," in the Western Star, quoted in Massachusetts
Spy, May 12
1848: Wen I left hum, I hed two legs, an' they worn't bad ones
neither. Biglow Papers, No.8
1856: There wa'nt nobody to hum but her, so I went right in
ker dash, and sot down. Weekly Oregonian, August 2
1860: I was a little shaver, helping the bigger boys Calvin
and Enoch ... to drive the cows hum of an evening. Knickerbocker
humbug: a deception; a hoax; an imposter; the equivalent
of the modern B.S.
1836: Dissection of Joice Heth -Precious Humbug Exposed. The
anatomical examination of the body of Joice Heth yesterday,
resulted in the exposure of one of the most precious humbugs
that ever was imposed upon a credulous community. [Ed. Note:
P.T Barnum had claimed the woman was 161 years old.] New York
Sun, February 25
1873: Wherever these lectures were holden, it became necessary
to de- tail a large force of police to preserve the peace, and
rough times we often had of it. Indeed, it really seemed that
everybody was bent on a row, and perfectly infatuated with humbug.
Edward Savage, Police Records and Recollections, p. 114
husking bee, husking frolic: a social event in which the
community came together to husk corn and to drink; they often
ended with drunken brawls.
1838: A fight came off at Maysville, Kentucky in which a Mr.
Coulster was stabbed in the side, and is dead; a Mr. Gibson
was well hacked with a knife; a Mr. Farr was dangerously wounded.
This entertainment was the winding up of a corn husking frolic,
when all doubtless were right merry with good whiskey. New York
1847: 1 must pass on to the antagonisms of the cornhusking.
When the crop was drawn in, the ears were heaped into a long
pile or rick, a night fixed on, and the neighbors notified,
rather than invited, for it was an affair of mutual assistance.
As they assembled at nightfall, the green glass quart whiskey
bottle, stopped with a cob, was handed to every one, man and
boy, as they arrived, to take a drink.
Dr. Drake, Pioneer Life in Kentucky, pp.54-56
I snore, I swan, I Swow: socially acceptable alternatives
to the expression "I swear," which was considered
impolite, originating with the youth of New England.
Johnny, John: a Chinaman.
1857: He knows. He's seed the johnnies goin' into that there
doorway next block. Thomas Gunn, New York Boarding Houses, p.275
1873: 1 passed out of the Chinese theater, with a lady and two
children. We had to walk through a crowd ofjohns.
Charles Nordhoff, California, p.85
1878: The melancholy Johns with glazed caps and black pigtails,
like a lot of half-drowned crows. J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds,
the American people. Also known as Brother Jonathan or Uncle
1846: Jonathan was hard to provoke; but when once you did get
him up, he remained at a dead white heat for a long while.
Mr. Root, Ohio, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, December
1848: Jonathan is declared to be in his right in supporting
his diplomatic agents like private gentlemen.
Mr. Ingersoll, Pennsylvania, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
a downeaster; a yankee.
1827: A tall, boney, Jonathan, whose appetite was in proportion
magnitude of his frame. Massachusetts Spy, November 14
1843: Occasionally you will see some honest country Jonathan,
waggon full of yankee notions. Yale Literary Magazine, ix, p.44
kick: to protest or to object to something; to complain.
1842: [Members of Congress] kicked against receiving any more
tions. Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, January
1857: 1 have to live under their laws, and when they take a
notion to swear away my character, I musn't kick.J.G. Holland,
The Bay Path, p.69
1888: The tariff is of no good to [the colored man]. But that
is not what he kicks about. New York Herald, July 29
knee-high to a ... : humorous description of short stature
or youth. 1824: He has lived with me ever since he was knee-high
to a musquitoe.
Letter to the Microscope, Albany, June 12
1833: A bit of a rogue he was, too, when he wasn't more'n knee-high
to a bumblebee. John Neal, The Downeasters, p.78
1841: He has been known in the Congaree ever since I was knee
high to a splinter. W.G. Simms, The Kinsmen, p.63
1853: To see little saplings, some of them scarce knee-high
to a milk- stool ... bigger b'hoys, green as unsunned pumpkins....
Dow, Patent Sermons
land sakes: socially acceptable alternative for Lord's sake,
considered to be a profanity.
1846: jedediah, for the land's sake, does my mouth blaze?
Knickerbocker Magazine, January
1888: Land sakesl Thet poor cretur never had the spunk to kill
himself. Harper's Weekly, Januay 21
lay: price; terms; salary.
1816- He bought a large drove [of cattle] at a good lay.
Massachusetts Spy, September 4
1853: A few months saw him handling the ropes upon a whaler,
at a good lay. Captain Priest, p.49
let her rip: let it go!
1853: [Captain Muggss] spirited "let her rip" was
an infinite improvement on the "fire" of the old Steuben
manual. Life Scenes, p.209
1854: As it is all for the good of the party, Let her rip.
Weekly Oregonian, April 22
1857: Presently I heard, "All set; let her rip."
Knickerbocker Magazine, November
like a book: to speak eloquently or with a large vocabulary.
1829: You talk like a book, Mr. Bond. Massachusetts Spy, January
1833: [She] sang like a nightingale and talked like a book.
James Hall, Legends of the West, p. II
1833: An educated and travelled Yankee ... talking like a book,
even to the washerwoman. John Neal, The Downeasters, p.26
likely: able-bodied; attractive; serviceable.
1823: Notice. Will be sold at the mansion house of John Vivion
deceased, all the personal estate of said deceased, consisting
of Seven Negroes.... Two likely young Girls, between the ages
of 20 and 25. Two likely Boys, between the ages of 16 and 20.
And one likely young Girl of the age of five years. Missouri
Intelligencer, August 5
limb: the socially acceptable or polite word for leg.
1854: [The Indian maiden] was seated on a rock, her legs (beg
pardon, her limbs) stretched far asunder. Knickerbocker Magazine,
liquor: to take a drink.
1836: Having liquored, we proceeded on the journey.
Colonel Crockett in Texas, p. 70
1839: It's a bargain then ... come, let's liquor on it.
Marryat, Diary in America, p.239
little end of the horn: same as short end of the stick.
To come out of a situation disadvantaged.
1805: 1 am very much afraid I shall come out at the little end
of the horn. Baltimore Evening Post, July 5
1817: If the farmers and the traders, instead of attending closely
to their proper callings, are busy here and there, they will
assuredly come out at the little end of the horn. Massachusetts
Spy, February 19
1855: You used to hear brother Joseph tell about this people
being crowded into the little end of the horn, and if they kept
straight ahead they were sure to come out at the big end. Brighamn
Young, April 8
log-rolling: a community effort to roll logs and clear land
for a cabin's construction.
1833: The good villagers resorted to what, in woodland phrase,
is called log-rolling, which means a combined effort of many
to do what is either difficult or impossible to one. J.K. Paulding,
Banks of the Ohio
1889: In some localities more thickly settled than others, neighbors
render each other mutual assistance. In this case, the trunks
of very large trees were cut down, chopped into logs, rolled
together, and set on fire. Hence the phrase log-rolling in the
vocabulary of our political common-places. Phelan, History of
mad as a March hare: very angry, from early in the century.
a die: to die.
1825: I wonder [the dog] didn't go mad; or make a die of it.
John Neal, Brother Jonathan, p.398
1845: They said Billy was gwine to make a die of it, and had
sent for lem. W.T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, P. 72
1848: I'm afraid I'm going to make a die of it. I'm going to
create a vacancy. Stray Subjects, p. 195
man alive: popular exclamation expressing surprise, shock,
1840: Man alive! what do you put yourself in such a plaguy passion
for? Mrs. Kirkland, A New Home, p.168
1845: Man alive! I never heard of sich a audacious perceedin'in
my life. This town's got a monstrous bad name for meanery and
shecoonery of all sorts, but I never know'd they 'low'd pirates
W.T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p.47
mind, have a: to have a notion; to be willing.
1803: He, having a mind to coax the dog to stay with him, took
a piece of bread. Massachusetts Spy, March 2
1829: If they have a mind to take the trouble, let them tell
fourty lies a week. Massachusetts Spy, January 28
1830: I s'pose a Governor has a right to flog anybody he's a
mind to. Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.87
1878: Well, figger it as you're a mind to; maybe you'll die
of somethin' else after all. Rose T. Cooke, Happy Dodd, ch.
mitten, to get or give the: a lady, in turning down a proposal,
is said to give the gentleman the mitten.
1838: Young gentlemen who have got the mitten, and young gentlemen
who think they are going to get the mitten, always sythe [sigh].
Joseph C. Neal, Petter Ploddy, p. 14
1853: Uncle Jo's gal gin him the mitten, to the singing school.
Turnover, A Tale of New Harnpshire, p.8
1855: He went off suddenly to California; likely enough, Kitty
gave him the mitten. D.G. Mitchell, Fudge Doings, p.116
mosey: to saunter or shuffle along.
1836: You're not going to smoke me. So mosey off.
Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 2
1846: Lanty Oliphant! bawled Dogberry; ... Mosey in and be sworn.
A Quarter Race in Kentucky, p.38
1888: A third moseyed off some distance, to sit down and lick
his wounds. Chicago Inter-ocean, February 6
most: used for almost.
1815: Dorothy vows she will heat some water and scald any man
that comes for any further taxes. I'm most afraid to see a stranger
ride up. Massachusetts Spy, June 14
1830: I'm plagued most to death with these ere pesky sore eyes.
Massachusetts Spy, October 13
1840: 1 reckon he drank most two quarts of [catmint tea] through
the night. A.B. Longstreet, Georgia Scenes, p.193
mought: used for might, especially in Philadelphia, where
Cockneyisms (see entry) were popular.
1843: It was about two o'clock, he guessed it mought be more,
or it mought be less. Cornelius Mathews, Writings, p.14
1848: You mought as well look for a needle in a haystack, as
try to find a nigger in New York. Majorjones, Sketches of Travel,
1855: The reglar Fakilty mout have save life, then agin they
mout not. Knickerbocker Magazine, March
mudsill: the uneducated, working class.
1858: In all social systems there must be a class to do the
menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class
requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill....
It constitutes the very mudsill of society and of political
Mr. Hammond, South Carolina, U.S. Senate, Congressional Globe,
March 4, p.71 1862: [The secessionists] speak of the labouring
millions of the free
States as the mudsills of society, as a pauper banditti, as
greasy mechanics and filthy operatives.
Mr. Julian, Indiana, Home of Reps., Congressional Globe, janua7y
1863: It pleased certain Southern orators and writers to characterize
[the North] as the abode of the mudsills and tinkers.
O.J. Victor, History of the Southern Rebellion, p.93
nigger In the woodpile: a way of explaining the disappearance
of fuel or any unsolved mystery.
1862: These gentlemen ... spoke two whole hours ... in showing
-to borrow an elegant phrase, the paternity of which belongs,
I think, to their side of the House -that there was a nigger
in the woodpile.
Mr. Kelley, Pennsylvania, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
June 3, p.252 7
1853: Yes, Massa, dem no'count calves done fool me again.
Paxton, A Stray Yankee in Texas, p.282
1881: Mitchell of Oregon is another of the no-account men. Philadelphia
Record, February 8
1888: Did I come way off down in this here no count country
to wash white counterpanes for dogs?
Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Tenting on the Plains, p.255
nohow, no way you can fix it: not at all.
1833: They don't raise such humans in the Old Dominion, no how.
James Hall, Harpe's Head, P.91
1833: This ain't no part of a priming to places that I've seed
how. jameshall, Legends of the West, p. 190
1836: [They] would have nothing to do with the affair, nohow
fix it. Colonel Crockett in Texas, p.125
1843: I couldn't read a chapter in the Bible no how you could
bless the Lordl R. Carlton, The New Purchase, P.141
1854: Here's my six-shooter, but you can't toll me up thar,
Knickerbocker Magazine, June
not a jugful: not at all.
1835: Did you ever follow the business of peddling? Not by a
jugful, Mister; I never was one of your wooden nutmeg fellers.
D.P. Thompson, Adventures of Timothy Peacock, p.87
1854: Take medicine, said 1. "Not by a jugful," said
H.H. Riley, Puddleford, p. 162
1855: Not by a jugful, Mr. Souley; Cuba is the most valuable
patch of ground we've got. Seba Smith, Major Jack Downin. p.429
notions: a wide range of miscellaneous articles for sale.
1819: This cleared up the mystery of the toys and play-things,
which, with hats, bonnets, shoes and stockings of various sizes,
[and] Webster's spelling-books, were part of the notions.
"An Englishman, " in the Western Star, May 12
1830: I thought I'd go and see about my load of turkeys and
other notions. Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.49
1846: She had a cargo of notions, consisting of Boston china,
onions, apples, coffins in nests, cheese, potatoes, etc.
Cornelius Mathews, Writings, P.309
adds, ask no: ask no favor.
1857: 1 ask no odds of them, no more than I do of the dirt I
walk on. H.C. Kimball at the Bowe7y, Salt Lake City, Journal
of Discourses, July 12
1857: 1 swore I would send them to hell across lots if they
meddled with me; and I ask no more odds of all hell today.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, July 26, P. 78
off the reel: immediately.
1833: [I had a mind] to have a fight with him off the reel,
and settle the right of soil at once. J.K. Paulding, Banks of
the Ohio, p. 78
1856: You have got to promise right off the reel that you won't
say another word. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dred, ch.xlviii
old man, old woman: one's spouse. Also, one's father or
1843: "He's your old man, mam?" Mrs. C. assented.
R. Carlton, The New Purchase, p.62
1855: As we were talk about the war [she] said . . . "What
does your old man think about it?" I answered as well as
I could, and am amused at this appellation, purely western,
she has given my husband.
Sara Robinson, Kansas, p. 138
1859: [She] feels that she has a right to spend every cent that
man allows her. J.G. Holland, Titcomb's Letters, p. 195
old orchard: whiskey.
18 1 0: Come, ye lovers of Old Orchard, let us take a walk into
Robert Thomas, The Farmer's Almanac, September
1844: The old orchard went merrily around ... tea, coffee, and
old orchard served to wash down the good things. Lowell Offering
one-horse: small, limited, inferior.
1854: I'm done with one-horse bedsteads, I am.
Aneed, New York journal of Commerce
1857: A Mormon elder says he has visited and preached in the
following places in Texas: Empty-Bucket, Rake-pocket, Doughplate,
Buck- snort, Possum Trot, Buzzard Roost, Hardscrabble, Nippentuck,
and Lickskillet; most of which, however, he says, are merely
one-horse towns. Harper's Weekly, November 14
1858: A country clergyman, with a one-story intellect and a
one-horse vocabulary. Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, ch.ii
1859: Close by the little one-horse church, skirted by the belt
of cedars. Knickerbocker Magazine, March
opine: to be of the opinion.
1830: Not a few leeches in that city, we opine, will vote for
him. Northern Watchman, August 17
1842: [General Winfield Scott] had better keep his fingers to
scratch his own ears with, we opine. Philadelphia Spirit of
the Times, August 27
1854: We opine that he would have carried with him ... prayers
and good wishes. Weekly Oregonian, October 7
1830: You ornery fellow! do you pretend to call me to account
for my language? Massachusetts Spy, May 28
1854: [He was] sent to Freehold court-house last term for 'busin'
his wife. Awful ornary! Knickerbocker Magazine, March
1857: That poor ornary cuss of a red-haired, cross-eyed grocery-keeper.
Knickerbocker Magazine, November
painter, panter: popular pronunciation and spelling of panther.
1803: My master ... said that I ought to live among painters
and wolves, and sold me to a Georgia man for two hundred dollars.
John Davis, Travels in the U.SA., p.382
1845: It might be a painter that stirred [the dog], for he could
scent that beast a great distance. W.G. Simms, The Wigwam and
the Cabin, p.48
1850: The bar and painter got so sassy, that they'd cum to the
tother side of the bayou, and see which could talk impudenest.
"Don't you want some bar meat or painter blanket?"
they'd ask; bars is monstrous fat, and painter's hide is mighty
warm. Odd Leaves, p. 170
pardner, pard: friendly variation of partner, popularly
used in mining
1854: Pardners keep clus arter one another.
H.H. Riley, Puddleford, p.126
1883: The mine is wirked by two pardners, who dig and wash by
turns. D. Pidgeon, An Engineer's Holiday, p.132
1893: Many an old hunter has buried his pard in the Missouri
River. Alex Major, Seventy Years on the Frontier, p.260
peaked: thin or sickly in appearance.
1859: He looks peakeder than ever. Professor at the Breakfast
Table, ch.9 1860: 1 lived on bread-and-milk nearly six weeks,
until my face grew as
peaked as a crow's beak. Yale Literary Magazine, xxv, p.169
187 1: His mother was jest about the poorest, peakedest old
body over to Sherburne. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Miss Elderkin's
1878: When I came here, she was as peaked as a young rat.
Rose T. Cooke, Happy Dodd, ch.36
peart: fresh and happy; sprightly.
1820: These little fixins make a man feet right peart.
Hall, Letters fi-om the Wes% p.304
1833: 1 wish that fellow would shut the door; he must think
that we were all raised in a saw-mill; and then he looks so
peart whenever he comes in. C.F. Hoffman, A Winter in the Far
1888: [The boys] from being starved, wretched, and dull, grew
quite peart under [Eliza's] good care.
Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Tenting on the Plains, p. 171
person of color: a Negro.
1801: People of color.... This new fangled name for the black
race, which has ... crept into the vocabulary of the U.S., seems
to have been borrowed from that fruitful source of innovations,
the philosophical school of Paris. "Z," Port Folio,
1806: At the white ball-room [in New 'Orleans] no lady of colour
is admitted. Thomas Ashe, Travels in America
1815: (Died] in Grafton, Sarah, a woman of color.
Massachusetts Spy, November 29
1833: "Well, as I was saying, the nigger"-"I
think he might call um gemman of choler," muttered blackey.
I.K. Paulding, Banks of the Ohio, p.213
Philadelphia lawyer: popularly credited with nearly superhuman
intellect by the masses.
1803: It would puzzle a dozen Philadelphia lawyers to unriddle
the conduct of the democrats. Balance, November 15, p.363
1824: The New England folks have a saying, that three Philadelphia
lawyers are a match for the very devil himself. Salem Observer,
1824: Politics has got into a jumble that a Philadelphy lawyer
couldn't steer through them. John P. Kennedy, Quodlibet p. 160
1848: It would puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to pint out the
latitude of enything like [the United States] in all creation.
W.E. Burton, Waggeries, p.68
picayune: used to signify something small or frivolous.
(See also Money and Coinage, p. 148.)
1837: The hon. senator from Kentucky by way of ridicule calls
this a picayune bill.
Mr. Young, Illinois, U.S. Senate, Congressional Globe, December
1841: Some gentlemen affected to consider it a small concern,
a pica- yune affair.
Mr. Underwood, Kentucky, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
picture: one's face; one's person.
1825: Young Bob's dad - consarn his pictur - spry as a cat,
swom like a fish. John Neal, Brother Jonathan, iii, p.387
1829: "Consarn his picture!" said Jeff in a low tone.
John P. Kennedy, Swallow Barn, p.448
1847: Wall, my sister Marth made me a bran new pair of buckskin
trowsers to go in, and rile my pictur if she didn't put stirrups
to 'em to keep 'em down. Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life, p.61
Pilo on the agony: to add insult to injury.
1852: If you have any more agony to pile on him, put it on.
Knickerbocker Magazine, October
1856: 1 haven't piled on the agony as I might have done.
Knickerbocker Magazine, December
185 7: Three raving, lying, free-negro journals, is piling up
the agony a little too steep. Oregon Weekly Times, November
plank, plank down, plank up: to pay in cash.
1824: His guardy was sent for, and he planked the cash.
Nantucket inquirer, April 19
1835: His patient returned, and, planking ten dollars, took
possession of her invaluable medicine. Daniel P. Thompson, Adventures
of Timothy Peacock, P.104
1851: He would plank down the very money he had received.
Daniel B. Woods, Sixteen Months at the Gold Diggings, p. 75
plug-ugly: a Baltimore rowdy; any rowdy or ruffian.
1857: The city of Baltimore, from whose midst the plug uglies
claim to hail. Oregon Weekly Times, August 1
1863: Colonel Butler is a tall, fully developed, imposing man,
devoid of the slightest resemblance to an ideal Plug Ugly.
James Parton, Butler in New Orleans, p. 79
1865: A brawny fellow, with a plug-ugly countenance, looked
over my shoulder at the book. A.D. Richardson, The Secret Service,
plum, plumb: entirely; completely
1850: His breeches split plum across with the strain, and the
wearin' truk wot's next the skin made a monstrous putty flag.
Odd Leaves, P.51
1858: He wur plum crazy an'jumped over the frunt ov the pulpit.
Olympia Pioneer, February 26
1893: "You're plumb crazy," she remarked. Harper's
personal belongings; baggage.
1815: We heard these men uniformly calling their baggage plunder.
T. Flint, Recollections, p.6
1817: [We carried] our plunder (as the Virginians call baggage)
in a light Jersey wagon. J.K. Paulding, Letters from the South,
1818: When you arrive at a house [in Kentucky], the first inquiry
is, where is your plunder? as if you were a bandit; and out
is sent a slave to bring in your plunder- i.e. your trunk, or
Arthur Singleton, Letters from the South and West, p. 1 06
1842: [In Virginia] you hear the driver say, "Here, you
nigger fellow, tote this lady's plunder to her room." Upstairs
is pronounced "upst- arrs"; the words "bear"
and "fear" are pronounced "barr" and "farr"
; and one passenger was told, "The room upstarrs is quite
preparred, so that your plunder may be toted. . ., whenever
you've a mind."
J.S. Buckingham, Slave States, p.293
pony up, post the pony: pay up.
1838: It was my job to pay all the bills. "Salix, pony
up at the bar, and lend us a levy."J.C. Neal, Charcoal
poor as Job's turkey: very poor.
1840s: The professor is as poor as job's turkey, if it wasn't
for that powerful salary the trustees give him.
R. Carlton, The New Purchase, Vol. 11, p.85
great; extreme; a large quantity.
1833: Gentlemen, good evening; this has been a powerful hot
James Hall, liarpe's Head, p.86
1835: He was powerful tired. Washington Ining, Tour of the Prairies,
1869: Our men has mostly gone across to Californy to see what's
the chances for fodder. Folks tell us it's powerful dry over
J. Ross Browne, Apache Country, p.461
pucker: in a state of irritation or anger.
1826: My wife will be in a fine pucker when she finds this sum
ex- hausted. Massachusetts Spy, November 1
1837: A terrier dog in a pucker is a good study for anger.
J.C. Neal, Charcoal Sketches, P.124
1847: If I am delayed, Blair and Rives will get in a pucker.
Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life, p. 15
puke: a Missourian.
1838: The suckers of Illinoy, the pukes of Missouri, and the
of Virginia. Haliburion, The Clockmaker, ii, p.289
1852: Sundry Hoosiers, Buckeyes, Suckers, Pukes, and Wolvereens,
all wide awake, and ready for business. Knickerbocker Magazine,
1856: You can search the house, but as for this puke of a Missourian,
he shall not come in. Sara Robinson, Kansas, P.205
pull foot: to leave in a hurry.
1825: Yahl how [the Indians] pulled foot, when they seed us
John Neal, Brother Jonathan, p. 107
183 1: Jerry pulled foot for home like a streak of lightning.
Seba Smith, Major lack Downing, p. 142
1837: He had pulled foot for Baltimore, and sold the rest of
powder. Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 6
quilting bee: a social event in which women get together
to make a quilt. 1832: The females have ... meetings called
quilting bees, when many
assemble to work for one, in padding or quilting bed coverings
comforters. S.G. Goodrich, System of Universal Geography, p.107
1835: He informed us that his wife had got a number of her neighbors
with her for a quilting frolic.
C.J. Latrobe, The Rambler in North America, p. 135
rambunctious: rowdy, disorderly or boisterous.
1847: [An old he-bar] is as ramstugonous an animal as a log-cabin
in the dog-days. A Swim for a Deer, P. 120
1851: The old lady bawled out, "There comes our ramstuginous
doctor." An Arkansaw Doctor, p.81
1856: You rambunctious old wool-grower!
San Francisco Call, December 17
reckon: to think or guess.
1819: Asking very civilly, "Can we breakfast here?"
I have received a shrill "I reckon so." Massachusetts
Spy, January 8
1855: Boys say with us, and everywhere, I reckon, "You
worry my dog, and I'll worry your cat." Dr. Ross, Tennessee,
in the "New School" General Assembly, Buffalo
1843: I'd a powerful sight sooner go into retiracy, nor consent
to that bill. R. Carlton, The New Purchase, p. 74
1851: If we didn't elect him, I'd go into retiracy.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.341
ride out on a rail: to be forced to leave town.
1866: Others proposed giving him a good coat of tar and feathers,
and riding him out of town on a rail. Seba Smith, Way Down East,
rip-roaring, rip-staver, rip-snortin': an impressive person
1833: In ten minutes he yelled enough, and swore I was a rip-stavur.
Sketches of Davy Crockett, p.144
1846: What a rip-snortin' red head you have got! Yale Literary
Magazine 1856: "Hallo, judge," said Major H., "that's
a rip-roaring hat you've got." San Francisco Call, December
rum-hole: a small drinking establishment, especially in
1872: The State of New York alone, we believe, uses the term
rum-holes for its smaller grog shops. De Vere
Sabbaday, Sabberday, the Sabbath day.
1833: He makes poetry himself sabbadays- made more poetry 'an
you could shake a stick at. John Neal, The Downeasters, p. 135
1848: Capting, I sorter recking it ain't entered into your kalkilation
as this here is Sabberday. W.E. Burton, Waggeries, p.16
sakes alive: the equivalent of good heavens or for God's
1846: "Law sakes alive," was the reply, "I ain't
Mrs. Kirkland, Western Clearings, p. 78
Salt River: to row someone up Salt River is to beat him
up or to give him hell.
1833: See if I don't row you up Salt River before you are many
days older. J.K. Paulding, Banks of the Ohio, p. 133
1838: When you want to be rowed up Salt River again, just tip
me with the wink. B. Drake, Tales and Sketches, p.36
1843: If I don't row you up Salt Crick in less nor no time,
not Sam Townsend. R. Carlton, The New Purchase, p.261
Sam Hill: euphemism for the devil.
1839: What in sam hill is that feller ballin' about?
"Majorjack on a Whaler," Havana Republican, August
1868: He had bought him a little bobtailed mouse-colored mule,
and was training him like Sam Hill. Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Following
the Guidon, p.142
Savage as a Meat Axe: extremely savage.
1835: A little dried up man, who was whetting his knife against
the side of the fire-place, and looking as savage as a meat
axe. James Hall, Tales of the Border, p.58
1842: Ridin' makes one as savage as a meat axe.
Mrs. Kirkland, Forest Life, p.126
1837: The strongest man in Kentucky, and the most sevagerous
at a tussle. R.M. Bird, Nick of the Woods, P.96
1849: The turtle popped out its head, and rolled its eyes, while
a sort of wheeze issued from its savagerous mouth. Frontier
Guardian, August 8
school-ma'am, school-marm: a woman teacher.
1840: At the age of fifteen were we qualified for the responsible
station of country school ma'ams. Lowell Offering, p.74
1864: Before this day of larger ideas, to be a school-ma'am
was to be a stiff, conceited, formal, critical character.
J.G. Holland, Letters to the Joneses, p.254
1878: He up and married one o' them school-marms sent out from
Boston. J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds, p.188
seed: often used for saw or seen.
1825: Yah! how [the Indians] pulled foot, when they seed us
comin. John Neal, Brother Jonathan, P.107
set by, set much by: to regard; to esteem. From early in
set store by, to: to set value upon; to appreciate.
1840s: He [the Ohio boatman] observed very feelingly, that he
set more store to this song than to all the rest. Hall, Letters
from the West
seven by nine: something or someone of inferior or common
quality, originating from common window panes of that size.
1846: [The charge was] re-echoed by every little paltry seven
by nine Locofoco print, and every brawling bar-room politician.
Mr. Root, Ohio, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, December
shakes, great: of great consequence.
1825: I'm no great shakes at braggin'- I never was. John Neal,
Brother Jonathan, P.195
shaw, pshaw!: an expression of contempt or incredulity.
1845-. 0, shaw, 'taint gwine to rain, no how, and I'm all fixed.
W. T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p. 165
1846: She hollered fur her fiddler, but oh, shaw, he couldn't
do hir a bit of good. Quarter Race, P.89
1850: P'shaw, gal, your wits are turned through going to school.
Knickerbocker Magazine, September
1857: Pshal nonsense! will nothing satisfy you? Knickerbocker
Shecoonery: a corruption of chicanery.
1845: This town's got a monstrous bad name for meanery and shecoonery
of all sorts. W.T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p.47
Shines, to cut: to pull practical jokes or tricks; to make
1839: We cut a few shines with the girls, and started to the
History of Virgil A. Stewart, p.69
1842: It is said that some females in England cut up a shine
in order to go to Botany Bay, where they are sure of finding
Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, September 15
1851: My horse snorted, he kicked, he rared up, and cut more
than a snapping turtle on hot iron. An Arkansaw Doctor, p.87
shucks: worthless people or things (&orn corn or pea
1847: He ain't wuth shucks, and ef you don't lick him for his
onmannerly note, you ain't
wuth shucks, nuther. Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life, p.135
1851: I kalkilated them curs o' hisn wasn't worth shucks in
a bar fight.
Polly Peablossom's Wedding, p.51
Shut pan: shut up; shut your mouth.
1833: Shut pan, and sing small, or I'll throw you into the drink.
J.K. Paulding, Banks of the Ohio, p.213
1835: 1 shut pan on the subject, and fell to eating my dinner.
Colonel Crockett's Tour, p. 102
1853: Spicer raised his hand to stop the speech, but the lawyer
wouldn't shut pan. Paxton, A Stray Yankee in Texas, p.139
sin to Moses, sin to Crockett: something that would shame
or Davy Crockett.
1833: The way he fights is a sin to Crockett.
Sketches of Davy Crockett, p.30
1838: "Ay, ay, sir; it's a sin to Moses, such a trade ....
said the stoker. E. Flagg, The Far West, p. 71
1861: The way some of your city wags stuff our honest clod-hoppers
is a sin to Moses. Oregon Argus, March 23
skedaddle: to nee.
1861: No sooner did the traitors discover their approach than
they ske- daddled, a phrase the Union boys up here apply to
the good use the seceshers make of their legs in time of danger.
Missouri Democrat, Augwi
1862: Skadaddle is a newly invented word, now greatly in vogue
among our brave soldiers on the Potomac. It is equivalent to
the verb to absquatulate, and is like that other army verb (to
vamose) which our soldiers brought from their campaign in Mexico.
Oregon Argus, January 18
skeery: to be afraid or cautious.
1845: I was skeery and bashful at first, in meeting with a young
and beautiful creature
like her. W.G. Simms, The Wigwam and the Cabin, p.108
1847: 1 ain't easy skeer'd, but I own up that old fellow did
kind a make me skeery. Robb,
Streaks of Squatter Life, p.144
1851: My! I feel so skeary-like, for I've never been aboard
one of these steaming boats. Lady E.S. Wortley, Travels, p.108
1832: This is sorter a slantindickelar road, stranger [said
the Yankee). Memoirs of a Nullifier, p.37
1833: He looked up at me slantendicular, and I looked down at
him slantendicular; and he took out a chaw of turbaccur, and
said he, "I don't value you that." Sketches of Davy
slick: to fix or dress up.
1840: Mr. F. was slicked up for the occasion.
Mrs. Kirkland, A New Home, p.243
1847: H. went to work, loading up his big bore, with as much
care as a girl fixes herself when she slicks up. The Great Kalamazoo
smart, right: a large quantity.
1842: 1 asked whether the people made much maple-sugar when
a planter answered, "Yes, they do, I reckon, right smart,"
meaning in great quantities. J.S. Buckingham, Slave States,
1855: Thar ain't been much rain lately, but thar's right smart
of snow, and its about half melted snow. Famham, Travels in
Prairie Land, p.361
1856: 1 sold right smart of eggs dis yer summer.
Har7iet Beecher Stowe, Dred, ch.39
smart as a steel trap: particularly intelligent and quick.
1830: A feller with an eye like a hawk, and quick as a steel
trap, for a trade. Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p.49
1856: [A little girl] with sparkling, intelligent eyes, thin,
and as smart as a steel trap. Knickerbocker Magazine, September
smile: a drink; to take a drink.
1852: 1 imbibed a final smile to my own health, and left my
Yale Literary Magazine
1870: [This gentleman] asked me to smile. I had learned by experience
that this is the slang phrase for taking a drink. I smiled all
the more readily, because the morning was intensely cold.
W.F. Rae, Westward by Rail, p.337
1888: We took a smile of old Bourbon apiece.
Chicago Inter-Ocean, February 6
soaplock: a rowdy. Named after a hairstyle (cut short behind
and long in front and parted to fall below the ears on the sides,
sometimes as far as the collar) worn by such a rowdy.
1840: In that living, moving, ranting band, the boys, negroes,
loafers, and a new species of the same animal, familiarly known
in the city of New York as soap-locks, took the lead. Mr. Watterson,
Tennessee, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, April 2, p.376
1840: The hostility between the Yankee soap locks and the Dutch
musi- cians, in regard
to Ellsler serenade, has come to a happy termination.
Daily Pennant, St. Louis, September 12
1848: You will behave yourselves as men, patriots, and gentlemen
should; and not like soaplocks and rowdies. Dow, Patent Sermons,
sockdologer: a powerful punch or blow.
1837: 1 hit him one polt-it was what I call a sogdolloger-that
him dance like a ducked cat. R.M Bird, The Hawks of Hawk-hollow,
1848: As I aimed a sockdollager at him, he ducked his head.
Jones's Fight, p.41
1860: Anti rushed on, with great force, and planted a sockdologer
on the bridge of Wheel-horse's smeller. Oregon Argus, June 16
some pumpkins: someone or something impressive.
1846: One of them thinks he's got a scrub (horse) that's some
pumpkins. A Quarter Race in Kentucky, p. 118
185 1: We went on until the third or fourth set, and I thought
I was some pumpkins at dancing. An Arkansaw Doctor, p.97
1853: "Got a smart chunk of a pony thar." "Yes,
Sir, he is some pump- kins sure; offered ten cows and calves
for him; he's death on a quarter." Paxton, A Stray Yankee
in Texas, p.44
Sot: a corruption of set or sat.
1833: The elegantest carriage that ever mortal man sot eyes
James Hall, Legend of the West, p.185
Why don't you buy a digestion of the laws, so as to know what's
right and what's wrong? It's all sot down. J.C. Neal, Charcoal
1857: Well, Squire, I sot right down on a stone. J.G. Holland,
The Bay Path, p.197
sour on: to get sick of someone or something; to give up
something out of disgust.
1862: Guess the M.P. will sour on William C., when he has seen
him for about fifteen minutes. Rocky Mountain News, Denver,
spree: to go out on a spree is to go out and carouse; to
party and get drunk.
1834: He is not quarrelsome, even when he gets caught in what
they call in the West a spree. Albert Pike, Sketches, p.32
1846: [He had] struck him with a fire-brand, and burnt his body
in several places, during a drunken spree. Rufus Sage, Scenes
in the Rocky Mountains, p. 73
1864: You came into the neighborhood with a cigar in your mouth,
and a reputation for spreeing. J. G. Holland, Letters to the
Square: sometimes used for Squire.
1850: Look o' here, Square, one o' them quarters you gin me
last was a pistareen. Knickerbocker Magazine, February
1857: Well, Square, I don't feel in fighting trim.
J.G. Holland, The Bay Path, p.55
squatter: one who settles on land without legal title, a
widespread prac- tice in the West. (See also Cowboys and the
Wild West, p.250.)
1809: This unceremonious mode of taking possession of new land
was technically termed squatting, and hence is derived the appellation
of squatters. Washington Irving, History of New York, p. 188
1810: If the nation were put to action against every Squatter,
for the recovery of their lands, we should only have law suits,
no lands for sale. Thomas Jefferson, 'The Batture at New Orleans,"
Works, viii, p.588
1821: A squatter is a person who plants himself in the wilderness
upon any piece of ground which he likes, without purchasing
it of the proprietor. Large tracts have been occupied in this
T. Dwight, Travels, p.221
Squire: a justice of the peace or magistrate.
1817: He is not in the least danger of receiving an uncivil
answer, even if he should address himself to a square. John
Bradbury, Travels, p.320
1822: It was proposed by some of them to couple themselves,
and go to a young justice and be married. This it was thought
would be fine fun, and a clever joke on the young Squire. Massachusetts
Spy, May 22
1844: I've snaked it about these woods for a week, looking for
to hitch us. Yale Literary Magazine, x, P.167
States, the: used in the western territories to denote the
organized states back east.
1845: Here we met Dr. White, a sub-Indian agent, accompanied
by three others, on their way from Oregon to the States. Joel
Palmer, Journal, P.50
1854: President Young says he does not know of but one old bachelor
in all the Territory
of Utah, and he has gone to the States.
Orson Hyde, at the Momon Tabernacle, Journal of Discourses,
October 6, ii, p.84 1857: A man writing from Southern Oregon
to the N.Y. Tribune says
that some of the people are going to California, and others
are talking of going back to America. New York Tribune
steady habits: the land of steady habits was New England.
1813: Troops were assembled, ready to repel any invasion of
the soil of steady habits. Massachusetts Spy, June 16
1828: Ours is the land of steady habits. And this town is remarkable
for severity of religious discipline, if not for morality.
Yankee, Portland, Maine, April 2
1830: A real blue-nose, fresh from the land of steady habits.
Northern Watchman, Troy, New York, November 30
store: the word shop was used most popularly throughout
the 1700s but gradually gave way to store in the early 1800s.
1883: In America, the word shop is confined to the place where
things are made or done, as barber-shop, carpenter-shop; a place
where things are sold is a store. E.A. Freeman, impressions
of the U.S., p.61
streaked: frightened or annoyed.
1834: 1 felt streaked enough, for the balls were whistling over
our heads. Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p. 18
1878: I felt orful streaked, but I knowed [my rifle] had never
failed yet. J.H. Beadle, Western Wilds, p.416
suspicion: to suspect.
1834: They began to suspicion, maybe, that they had got the
wrong sow by the ear. The Kentuckian in New York, p.64
1836: 1 suspicion he's one of that bounding brotherhood.
Knickerbocker Magazine, January
1851. He didn't know I was thar. If he had er suspicioned it,
he'd no more swore than he'd dar'd kiss my Sal.
Polly Peablossom's Wedding, p.51
1890: They kinder suspicioned from my looks that I had found
good prospects. Haskins, Argonauts of California, p.250
1833: In our day, merchants were well enough satisfied to tote
their plunder upon mules and pack horses. James Hall, Legends
of the West, p.49
1833: I brought at four turns as much as I could tote, and put
it on the
bank. Sketches of Davy Crockett, p.103
1851: Thar goes as clever a feller as ever toted an ugly head.
Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs, p.140
1852: I heard it said when I was a child, that it was allowable
to make the Devil tote brick to build a church.
Mr. Stanley, North Carolina, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
June 12, p.693
trace: a trail or path.
1829: George offered to take the trace through the woods to
the bank of the Mississippi, where the physician resided.
Timothy Flint, George Mason, p.41
1833: On either side was the thick forest, sometimes grown up
with underbrush to the margin of the trace. James Hall, Legends
of the West, p.187
1834: The trace had been rudely cut out by some of the earlier
travellers through the Indian country, merely traced out, -and
hence perhaps the name -by a blaze, or white spot, made upon
the trees by hewing them from the bark. W.G. Simms, Guy Rivers,
truck, spun truck: garden produce intended for market. Later,
it came to mean any quantity of "stuff."
1833: [It was remarked that] it took a powerful chance of truck
to feed such a heap of folks. James Hall, Legends of the West,
1840: And what did they do for Lucy's cough, Mis' Barney? 0
dear me, they gin her a powerful chance o' truck. I reckon,
first and last, she took at least a pint o' lodimy. A.B. Longstreet,
Georgia Scenes, p.193
1857: Women exchanging their wool-socks, bees' wax, tow-linen,
etc., for spun truck, apron check, dye-stuff, and so on.
Knickerbocker Magazine, August
1862: School larnin is mighty poor truck to put into a feller's
head, onless he's got a good deal of brains there.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, December 6
tuckered out: exhausted.
1853: Set us to runnin, an I could tucker him; but he would
beat me to
jumpin, all holler. Turnover, A Tale of New Hampshire, p.59
1857: You got all tuckered out, playin'and runnin'out doors,
and would come in with your eyes lookin' as heavy as lead.
J.G. Holland, The Bay Path, p.59
to leave quickly.
1848: The united faces of the company would have reached a mile.
They bolted, mizzled, flew, vamosed. Stray Subjects, p. 198
1855: Our hero vamosed rather hurriedly. Oregon Weekly Times,
1857: Another pair ofjail-birds have vamosed the logjail at
The new institution, it is hoped, will not prove so leaky.
Oregon Weekly Times, August 1
varment, varmint: a wild animal or objectional person.
1827: They scent plunder; and it would be as hard to drive a
hound from his game as to throw the varmints [Indians] from
James Fenimore Cooper, The Prairie, p.93
1837: The fossil remnant of some antediluvian varmint, in the
shape of a molar tooth, was dug up. Baltimore Commerical Transcript,
1842: Killed. A mad dog in Locust Street yesterday. The varmint
had run into the midst of a colored temperance meeting.
Philadelphia Spirit of the Times, June 6
1858: For nearly a fortnight a regular live comet has been visible.
Time of appearance, early in the evening. It is rumored to us
that the same varmint is occasionally seen flitting athwart
the sky of mornings. Oregon Weekly Times, October 2
Virginia fence: a staggering drunk was said to make this
(a zigzagging fence) when he walked. Anyone or anything that
meanders. Any fence constructed in this manner.
1824: You pass no stone walls [in Virginia] but hedge, or in-and-out
zig- zag cedar rails, or wattled fences. Arthur Singleton, Letters
from the South and West, p.59
1826: The universal fence [in the West] is split rails, laid
in a worm trail, or what is known in the North by the name of
Virginia fence. T. Flint, Recollections, p. 206
1853: His acres were enclosed with harsh stone walls, or an
unpicturesque Virginia fence, with its zig-zag of rude rails.
Life Scenes, p.99
wake snakes: to raise a ruckus.
1848: This goin' ware glory waits ye hain't one agree'ble feetur.
An ef it worn't for wakin' snakes, I'd come home again short
Biglow Papers, No.2
1852: Wake snakes, and come tojudgement- the times are big with
the fate of nations.
Mr. Brown, Mississippi, House of Reps., Congressional Globe,
March 30, p.359
want to know: a New England expression equivalent to today's
"Really? What else happened?"
1842: Among the peculiar expressions in use in Maine we noticed
that, when a person has communicated some intelligence in which
the hearer feels an interest, he manifests it by saying "I
want to know"; and when he has concluded his narrative,
the hearer will reply "0! do tell!" J.S. Buckingham,
Eastern and Western States, p.177
1853: Jedediah Homespun up and spent a quarter to see the Siamese
Twins (Eng and Chang). "How long you fellows been in this
'ere hitch?" "Forty-two years," was Eng's reply.
"Du tell! Gettin' kind o' used to it, I calculate, ain't
you?" "We ought to," said they. "Want to
knowl wall, I swar you air hitched queer. Weekly Oregonian,
whip: to defeat or beat an opponent.
1815: If the enemy attack us in our present position, we must
whip five to one. Massachusetts Spy, February 8
1838: Three hundred Indian warriors have thought proper to whip,
on our soil, two companies of militia. Jeffersonian, Albany,
1852: I felt as though I could whip all the mobs in Missouri.
Ezra T. Benson, at the Mormon Tabernacle, Journal of Discourses,
August 28, vi, p.263
whip one's weight In wild cats: to defeat a powerful opponent.
1829: Every man who could whip his weight in wild cats burned
with desire of reaping renown by an encounter with Francisco.
Massachusetts Spy, February 11
1841: That confidence of a western man, which induces him to
believe that he can whip his weight in wild cats, is no vain
boast. A Week in Wall Street, p.46
whitewash: to gloss over or hide one's faults or shortcomings.
1800: If you do not whitewash [President Adams] speedily, the
Democrats, like swarms of flies, will bespatter him all over,
and make you both as speckled as a dirty wall, and as black
as the devil.
Aurora, Philadelphia, July 21
1839: 1 am conf ident every effort will be used by the committee
to white- wash the black frauds and corrupt iniquities of Swartwout,
and to blackwash the Administration.
Mr. Duncan, Ohio, House of Reps., Congressional Globe, January
17, p. 103
1834: This kinder corner'd me, and made me a little wrathy.
Seba Smith, Major Jack Downing, p. 90
1842: Ohl you're wrothy, an't ye? Why, I didn't mean nothing
but what was civil. Mrs. Kirkland, Forest Life, i, p.126 .
1857: On Sunday morning, if breakfast is delayed, he is apt
to be wrathy. Thomas B. Gunn, New York Boarding Houses, p.34
1888: Some grew hot and wrathy if laughed at, and that increased
our fun. Mrs. Elizabeth Custer, Tenting on the Plains, p.420
Yankee nations: things made in New England, made widely
known by traveling Yankee peddlers.
1825: The tallow, corn, cotton, hams, hides, and so forths,
which we had got in exchange for a load of Yankee notions.
John Neal, Brother Jonathan, ii, p.298
1826: Pit-coal indigo, wooden nutmegs, straw baskets, and Yankee
notions. T. Flint, Recollections, p.33
1828: People abroad have no idea of what is meant here by Yankee
notions, and are liable therefore to mistake our wooden ware
for intellectual ware. Yankee, Portland, Maine, January 1
1843: Occasionally you will see some honest country Jonathan,
with his wagon full of Yankee notions. Yale Literary Magazine,
1889: The camps were full of pedlers of Yankee notions, which
soldiers are supposed to stand in need of.
John D. Billings, Hard Tack and Coffee, p.213
The speech of ordinary, down-home or uneducated folk of Appalachia,
particularly that of the southern regions, as it evolved throughout
the 1800s, with many terms or peculiar pronunciations still
in use today.
body: person, man or woman.
didje: did you.
druther: I'd rather.
hesh up: hush up.
Law, Laws: euphemism for Lord. nary: never.
pone: corn bread.
puny feelin': sick.
richeer: right here. shortsweetenin': sugar.
spell: for a time.
study on it: think about it.
stump liquor: corn liquor. tolable: tolerable/mediocre. tother:
Words, Taboo Words, Euphemisms
seldom found in print, swear words or taboo words were undoubtedly
uttered just as profusely in the streets as they are now. In
polite or mixed company, of course, euphemisms were used, especially
by women and children. Many connotations of words used today
remain curiously unchanged from the nineteenth century to the
twentieth. In cases where no definition appears, the reader
can use his or her imagina- tion and extrapolate from current
usage. Also note that some words that seem harmless today were
considered highly vulgar not so long ago.
euphemism for a prostitute or wild woman.
ass, ass-backwards (also bass-ackwards), asswipe: used throughout
balls: shortened from ballocks, used throughout the century.
bastard: used throughout the century.
in the sense of a slutty, promiscuous Person (as a dog in heat)
and actually applied to either sex early in the century. Its
use to denote a crabby person, especially as applied to a female,
came much later.
euphemism for damn, used throughout the century and especially
in New England.
1840s: I wasn't goin'to let Dean know; because he'd have thought
him- self so blam'd cunning. Mrs. Claver's Western Clearings,
euphemism for hell or the devil.
bloody: British swear word, from mid-1700s on.
boat-licker: the equivalent of an ass-kisser.
breast' not used in mixed company. "Delicate"
citizens went so far as to call a chicken breast a bosom.
bull: a taboo word due to its association with sexual potency.
Polite folk spoke of a cow brute, a gentleman cow, a top cow,
or a seed ox.
bull: in reference to lies or exaggerations, widely popularized
by Civil War soldiers, from 1860s on.
cherry: vulgar term for a young woman, from at least mid-century
clap: for venereal disease, from the 1700s on.
cockchafer, cocksucker, cockteaser: all from at least mid-century
condom: taboo because contraceptives were illegal for most
of the century.
euphemism for shit, from at least mid-century.
highly vulgar, used throughout the century.
cussed: a somewhat acceptable swear word, meaning cursed,
contemptible, mean, etc.
1840: Blast the cussed old imp! Knickerbocker Magazine, xvi,
1841: Billy, Billy, you are a cussed fool! S. Lit. Messenger,
1869: I told Simpson I didn't want to go among a set of folks
who were such cussed fools they couldn't speak English. Barnum,
Struggles and Triumphs, p.250
1880: At another time she stopped them by planting herself directly
on the track, out of pure cussedness. Harper's Magazine, April
1892: This is the cussedest business I was ever in.
Harper's Magazine, January, p.287
dad: a euphemistic form of God, e.g., dad-blame it.
1834: I'll be dad shamed if it ain't all cowardice.
Carmthen, Kentuckian I, p.216
1845: I'll tetch 'em together quicker'n lightnin,-if I don't,
me! W.T. Thompson, Chronicles of Pineville, p.182
damn: a more powerful swear word in the nineteenth century
than now. Acceptable euphemisms included blame, dang, darn,
dern, ding, and others. Gol was sometimes used as an euphemistic
prefix, e.g., the Golderned idiots.
devil: a more powerful expletive in the nineteenth century
dickens: a euphemism for devil, e.g., What the dickens are
on about now? Popularly used from the second half of the century.
drafted: a mild expletive, sometimes used as an euphemism
for damned, throughout most of the century.
1840s: I was never so dratted mad; for the fellows were coming
in in gangs, and beginnin' to call for me to come out and take
the command. Major Jones's Courtship, p.22
fart: used throughout the century, e.g., I don't give a
fart. Not worth a fart in a whirlwind.
french pox: euphemism for syphilis.
fuck: used throughout the century.
bell: euphemistically known as blazes, heck, Jesse, Sam
Hill, thunder, and others.
bell-fired: euphemistically known as all-fired orjoe-fired.
horny: sexually aroused. Used throughout the century.
inexpressibles: euphemism for pants or trousers. See Pants.
(See also Clothing and Fashion, p. 116.)
Jesse: hell. To give one Jesse is to give one hell or to
beat the hell out of him.
1845: He turned on the woman and gave her Jesse.
Cornelius Mathews, Writings, p.243
1847: You've slashed the hide offer that feller in the lower
town, touched his raw, and rumpled his feathers, -that's the
way to give him Jessy. Robb, Streaks of Squatter Life, p.31
Jew: to drive a hard bargain, from early in the century;
used by Jew and non-Jew alike.
jo-fired: a variation of all-fired and hell-fired.
1834: It's jo-fired hard, though, I'll be hanged if it ain't.
Vermont Free Fress, July 19
knock up: to impregnate, from as early as 1813.
leg: considered a naughty term; limb was used as a polite
lickfinger: the equivalent of a kiss-ass, used throughout.
lick-spittle: same as lickfinger.
limb: used as a polite substitute for leg, which was considered
Mary: an effeminate homosexual, from the 1890s.
Nancy, Nancy-boy: an effeminate man, from 1800 on.
necessary: euphemism for the outhouse or water closet; the
Used throughout the century.
Negro: considered taboo because it had been used as a euphemism
for a slave during the eighteenth century.
oath: any swearing involving the name of God or Jesus; any
1872: 0, the cold-blooded oaths that rang from those young lips!
James McCabe, Lights and Shadows of New York Life, p.480
pants, trousers: not spoken of aloud in polite circles,
especially during the first half of the century. Acceptable
alternatives: inexpressibles, unmentionables, nether garments,
piss, piss spot: used throughout the century.
piss proud: a term for a false erection, i.e., one produced
in the morning and not necessarily by sexual arousal. Used throughout
prick: used throughout the century.
puss, pussy: dual meaning. Used widely as endearing appellations
for women throughout the century, but also used in the vulgar
sense (female genitalia) in some circles.
quim: female genitalia, used throughout the century.
randy: wanton or lecherous, from 1847 on.
redneck: a poor, white rural Southerner, &om 1830 on.
scalawag: a mean, rotten or worthless person, from at least
screw: euphemism for sexual intercourse, used throughout
Also, to drive a hard bargain, used throughout the century.
shit: used throughout the century.
snatch: female genitalia, used throughout the century.
snore, swan, swow: Euphemisms used by New Englanders for
the word swear, which was once itself considered a swear word.
Used throughout the century.
1848: "Welll I swant" exclaimed the mamma, giving
a round box on the ear to a dirty little urchin, "what
made you let the little huzzy have your specs?" Mrs. Claver's
Forest Life, Vol. I., p.29
1848: 1 took a turn round Halifax, and I swan if it ain't the
thunderinest, drearyist place I ever seen and the people they
call blue-noses. Letter from Hiram Bigelow in Family Companion
sodomite: homosexual, used throughout the century.
Son of a b!tch: a very popular epithet throughout the American
West from mid-century on.
Strumpet: a whore, used throughout the century.
tarnal: a Yankee swear word, ftom the 1700s on.
1825: 1 know your tarnal rigs inside and out, says 1.
John Neal, Brother Jonathan, i, p. 158
1848: The ship drifted on tew a korril reef, and rubbed a tarnal
big hole in her plankin. W.E. Burton, Waggeries, p. 17
tarnation, nation: euphemisms for damnation, widely used
throughout the century.
1801: The Americans say, Tarnation seize me, or swamp me, if
I don't do this or that. Colonel G. Haner, Life, ii, p.151
1824: General Key is a tarnation sly old fox, for one that looks
so dull. Microscope, Albany, April 3
1827: [The Militia system] by burning a nation sight of powder,
makes way with a good deal of villainous saltpetre.
Massachusetts Spy, October 31
1843: You've got this child into a tarnation scrape this time.
Knickerbocker Magazine, August
1847: [He remarked to me that it was] all-nation hot inside
the clap- boards. Knickerbocker Magazine, July
twat: female genitalia, used throughout the century.
whoremonger: not a pimp, but one who patronized prostitutes