Monday, April 29, 2013

Old West glossary, no. 62


Here’s another set of terms and forgotten people gleaned from early western fiction. Definitions were discovered in various online dictionaries, as well as searches in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, The Cowboy Dictionary, The Cowboy Encyclopedia, The Dictionary of Victorian Slang, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from Robert Dunn’s The Youngest World, about a young man’s adventures in gold-rush era Alaska. Some I could not track down are at the bottom of the page.

Alnaschar = a character in an Arabian fable who dreams of becoming rich from the sale of his glassware and then accidentally breaks all of it; cf. counting chickens before they are hatched. “It was there that he had beheld the star-like glitter, faint in the afternoon light, yet so necromantically conjured, of gold ‘in place,’ the free-milling lode which is the North’s dream of Alnaschar.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Aneroid barometer
aneroid = a barometer regulated by air pressure. “Gail swallowed tea and gnawed pemmican; drew the aneroid from Bob’s pocket; saw with a sinking, desolate heart that it registered but 13,000 feet.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

astrakhan = the dark curly fleece of young karakul lambs from central Asia. “The stout and pock-marked Joe Overheiser stood in a knot of men elaborately dressed for the trail in flat astrakan caps and embroidered moccasins.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Astrakhan jackets
barrabara = an Eskimo home. “Half sunk underground, the native barrabaras, with their rotted logs patched or gaping, and on each mud roof a brown wrack of tall weeks, now seemed floating away on its glazy surface.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

bean hole = a hole in the ground lined with stones or bricks that is heated to serve as a slow-baking oven, especially for beans. “‘Gar-rub!’ called Mac from the bean-hole, as he lifted the cover from the dutch-oven in a cloud of steam.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

bidarki = a skin covered boat. “The bearded priest, Mike Azoff, on his year’s round of the bleak coast in his bidarki—marrying, baptizing, burying—having shed his odorous kamaleika for the lavish robes kept in the tiny vestry, had smilingly repeated the rigmarole of his Greek faith.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Aleut barrabara, 1914
bitch = to spoil, ruin. “With an hysterical half-laugh, half-shout, ‘I—I’ll bitch him, bitch him!’—he threw himself into the river after the raft.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

breeching / britching = a strong leather strap passing around the hindquarters of a horse harnessed to a vehicle. “Lena and Bleven, crouching under the horse, were tightening its britching.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

cap of liberty = a close-fitting conical cap used as a symbol of liberty by the French revolutionists and in the U.S. before 1800; a name given to similar mountain formations. “‘Don’t forget the look,’ breathed Bob into Gail’s ear, each crouching on their hands and knees. ‘Shaped like a pointed cap o’ liberty, tilted to the west.’” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Harness
chechawko = Chinook word for newcomer or tenderfoot. “Len took this as the text of a bantering comparison between dogs and men, at the expense of chechawko mining experts.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

dudeen = a short clay tobacco pipe. “‘Straight and dry, like a Geological Survey report, ain’t it?’ said Jon at last, into the bowl of his dudeen.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

duff = a flour pudding boiled or steamed in a cloth bag. “She was lifting the big kettle, steaming with the last duff of rice, bacon rind, and the raw-hide of moccasins.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Liberty Cap, Yosemite
esker = a long ridge of gravel and other sediment, typically winding, deposited by meltwater from a retreating glacier or ice sheet. “The distance down the slope, across the esker and up among the silt mounds of the gridded ice, appeared to shrink.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

fireweed = an herb found in open fields, pastures, and particularly burned-over land. “Across moist flats in the jaundicing shade of big cottonwoods, over windy passes where the air was white with the filmy spore of fireweed.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Esker
fusel oil = alcohol formed by fermentation and present to varying degrees in cider, beer, wine, and spirits. “Gumboot Sal, who peddled fusel oil from the rear of her travoy loaded with a piano swathed in red blankets.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

hipped = enthusiastic. “The way you’ve brought Jonesy back to life, made him a dog at your heels and a fire-brand against Lamar, has got John hipped.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

hiyu = Chinook word for a party, gathering. “Hartline thinks you’re the hiyu rustler of this outfit.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Fireweed
jimber jaw = a projecting lower jaw. “Soon the buck came in with his gun, a tall young Siwash in a worn fur cap, with thin, handsome upper features, but a brutal jimber-jaw.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

jointweed = a slender, nearly leafless, American herb, with joined spikes of small flowers. “A few gaunt rosebushes with shriveled hips sprang from a velvety carpet of green and clammy joint-weed.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

jumper = sweater. “Sodden grey shirts and decaying jumpers lay all about in the smell of rotting canvas, simulating corpses.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Kamaleika
kamleika / kamaleika = an Aleut robe (parka) made from sea mammal skin, which was light and waterproof, or similar clothing. “The bearded priest, Mike Azoff, on his year’s round of the bleak coast in his bidarki—marrying, baptizing, burying—having shed his odorous kamaleika for the lavish robes kept in the tiny vestry, had smilingly repeated the rigmarole of his Greek faith.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

klootchman = from Chinook jargon, an Indian woman. “Invisible within, the bucks lolled and smoked, the klootchmen forever mended moccasins.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

lay down = to give up, quit. “The prime thought shook Gail that, since he was certain that Bleven would be the first to ‘lay down’ and steal at a crisis, the man was deceivingly preparing his rôle for that, bluffing to cover his tracks to the food.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Sled dogs
malemute = a breed of sled dog developed in Alaska. “A scrubby little habitant with a black moustache, addressed as Sinjon, whose lithe and show-white malemute got a favourite’s encouragement.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

musher = a person who drives a sled dog team. “As a swarm of ‘mushers,’ they found life to be that sardonic changeling of reality that corrupts the clean struggle for all great visions.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

pearl = of the eyes, having cataracts. “In that gloom he suggested uncanny countenances, such as Gail had seen pictured from catacombs, except for his blue eyes—bulging ‘pearl’ eyes, watery and burning, which did not blink.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

popple = any of various poplar trees, found in northern forests. “Where the Siwash had pointed, he made out only a clump of popple, pale in the somber sea of spruce, and started toward it.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

rat = a hair-pad with tapering ends used as the base of the elaborate pompadour hairstyles affected by women in the late 19-th century. “Her mussed bang ejected the big, woolly sausage of a ‘rat.’ But no one guffawed.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Revenue cutter, 1860s
revenue cutter = a small lightly armed boat used to enforce customs regulations and catch smugglers. “He had once been a revenue cutter engineer, on the Pribyloff patrol.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

rock and rye = a bottled drink made with rye whiskey, rock candy, and fruit. “Len, loosening his nimble tongue with rock-and-rye, read their histories from feature and get-up, satirizing each with a playful cynicism.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

rope = a cigar. “‘Have a rope?’ He took the cigar that Joe offered.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

sawbuck = a saddle for packing goods on a mule, donkey, or horse. “He threw an empty sack across the pinto’s saw-buck and lifted Gail upon it.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

shin = to quickly climb or clamber. “Bob shinned down to the river for water.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
squdgy = squat, pudgy. “It ran the length of the settlement, on a strip of shore under the sculptured terraces of the estuary, between a squdgy tidal creek and the sea-arm.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

whang = a thong or whip of hide or leather. “He whipped out the aneroid, dangling at the end of its whang-leather.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Wilcox, Ella Wheeler = American author and poet (1850-1919), in whose poem “Solitude” are the lines “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone.” “It always sounded more like Ella Wheeler Wilcox, than in the Bible I mention.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

Witches' broom
witches’ broom = a disease or deformity in a tree where a dense mass of shoots grows from a single point, looking like a broom or a bird’s nest. “Each morning, white frost gleamed on the scarlet buck-brush of the little tundras girded by stunted spruces that were capped with nest-like ‘witches’ brooms’.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.


The rest more or less stumped me. Anyone with an idea, please feel free to comment below.

clap slope = “They came out on top of an abrupt clap slope, and leaping over it, sent down jumping and scittering slides of gravel.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

cracker wagon = “Sheep-faced old Martin, with his club-foot, who had driven a cracker wagon in St. Louis.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

dill = “But his pride hurts him. And he was pulling up on ‘dills’ and the booze, till this woman grabs him. Now he’s owned.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

dog rice = “Lena’s lip began to curl, over the steaming kettle of dog-rice that she was cooking.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

duck-skins = “Bleven doffed his duck-skins, perched himself on the seat opposite Gail, and heaped his plate with beans.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

interferers = “‘What is it, Luke, a pair of interferers to keep your pants from chafing you?’ he asked, handing him a bulky package, which unrolled a knit, scarlet muffler.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

marmuck = “He ‘marmucked’ wood, and camped alone in the furtive murmur of ice-bound waters.” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.

photograph tube = “‘Ain’t it up to a man that wants to prove you wrong,’ put in McConighy, ‘to drag his eyes up to there for a look-see at that photograph tube?” Robert Dunn, The Youngest World.


Image credits:
Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)

8 comments:

  1. Great stuff, as usual. I think "dog rice" refers to a cheap grade of rice not considered fit for people, but used in animal feed.

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    1. You could be right. Sounds like a good guess. Dogs can be fed rice, and since these folks are traveling by dog sled, that might account for why they would have it.

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  2. Re cracker wagon - I found a few old photos of what was called a cracker wagon: a simple wagon with a tarp over it that poor southern whites traveled about in, looking for work, usually as tenant farmers. But, there was also a photo of a wagon with "Crackers" printed on the side, so maybe the character actually drove a cracker wagon. It's like having been a bread truck driver, I suppose.

    I thought dog rice might be rice with dog meat, but I think J.R. Sanders' thought makes more sense.

    I really enjoy these mind-benders.

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    1. A wagon with the word "crackers" on the side sounds like a good bet. "Cracker" in my dictionary of slang is "a poor white Southern US farmer." Thanks.

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  3. I've heard of fusel oil somewhere. Probably in my reading over time. Esker, I knew.

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  4. After doing some research online, I got my first electronic cigarette kit from VistaVapors.

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