|Montana cowboys, c1910|
arc light = light produced by an electric arc inside a bulb filled with gas, e.g. neon, argon, or xenon. “The man drew out a cigarette case that flashed in colors from the nearby arc-light.” Will Lillibridge, Ben Blair.
bad cess to = may evil befall. “‘Red Slavin, bad cess to him!’ and her eyes regarded her questioner with renewed anxiety.” Randall Parrish, Bob Hampton of Placer.
|Angold arc lamp, 1898|
bulge = an advantage. “Of course them fellers has got the bulge; they kin starve us out, maybe they kin smoke us out, and they kin sure make things onpleasant whenever they git their long-range guns to throwin’ lead permiscous.” Randall Parrish, Bob Hampton of Placer.
duck on a/the rock = a children’s game of tag involving the pitching of stones at a rock. “‘Let's play duck on the rock,’ suggested Florence.” Will Lillibridge, Ben Blair.
fandango = a ball or dance. “We’ve got them fellers roped and tied, gents, and they simply won’t be ace-high with the ladies of this camp after our fandango is over with.” Randall Parrish, Bob Hampton of Placer.
|Meadow lark, 1919|
ginger = enliven. “He tried to ginger things up a bit when he was new here.” Will Lillibridge, Ben Blair.
Jehu = a king of Israel known for riding his chariot furiously; a coach or cab driver who drives fast or recklessly. “She sat comfortably ensconced in the back seat of the old, battered red coach, surrounded by cushions for protection from continual jouncing, as the Jehu in charge urged his restive mules down the desolate vally of the Bear Water.” Randall Parrish, Bob Hampton of Placer.
overhaul = to catch up with, overtake. “I didn’t know that we’d fail to overhaul you.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
owly = cranky, uncooperative, negative. “Every minute is valuable now. The outlook is owly.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
|Pasteboard book cover|
plead the baby act = plead ignorance or inexperience as an excuse for a mistake or wrongdoing. “Of course I believe ye. Not that you’re any too blame good, Bob, but you ain’t the kind what pleads the baby act.” Randall Parrish, Bob Hampton of Placer.
pre-emptor = someone who acquires or uses land without permission. “Three months dragged out their slow length before the pre-emptors could file and escape from their claims.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
rack-a-bone = an emaciated person or animal, a skeleton. “I was on my way to the store, but when I saw his old rack-a-bone team, I turned off to see you.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
scantling = a timber of relatively slight width and thickness, as a stud or rafter in a house frame. “Bailey went out to the front of the shanty to look at the lantern he had set up on the scantling.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
|Shot tower, by Jesster79|
straddlebug = tripod commonly constructed of three planks of wood with a settler’s name attached to notify others that a plot of land was being claimed. “And so at last they came to the land of ‘the straddle-bug’ – the squatters’ watch dog – three boards nailed together (like a stack of army muskets) to make a claim.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
strawboard = a coarse yellow cardboard made of straw pulp; used in hardcover bookbinding. “Mr. Demilt had written to his firm explaining the advantages of starting a straw-board factory in Fairfield.” Henry Wallace Phillips, Red Saunders.
tidy = a small covering, usually ornamental, placed on the backs and arms of upholstered furniture to prevent wear or soiling; an antimacassar. “It’s more fun than working red poppies on tidies – that’s about all they’ll let you do back East.” Hamlin Garland, The Moccasin Ranch.
|Weary Willie (far right), 1898|
yellow boy = gold coin; originally a gold guinea. “There’ll be another yellow boy waiting when you come.” Randall Parrish, Bob Hampton of Placer.
Weary Willie, lambiek.net
All others, Wikimedia Commons:
Meadow lark illustration from The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927)
Pasteboard prayer book cover by By Wikipedia Loves Art participant "shooting_brooklyn"
Coming up: “Doc” (1971)
I love these. I hope you do like a kindle book dictionary of these once you get through them. Would be a handy reference work.ReplyDelete
I've heard 'fandango' used in a more general sense too, I think - referring to any kind of commotion or celebration.ReplyDelete
Thanks for this.ReplyDelete
Fascinating how some you can guess and others not.ReplyDelete
There's an annoying co-worker I'm itching to accuse of "pleading the baby act." Love that phrase...it's going straight into my idiolect!ReplyDelete
Charles, that's a good idea; I've been wondering just what to do with them.ReplyDelete
Elisabeth, I've heard it that way, too.
Leah, you're welcome.
Patti, some of the really obscure ones can be real head-scratchers.
Bybee, it's definitely a phrase that needs reviving.
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