Below is a list of mostly forgotten terms, people, and the occasional song, drawn from a reading offrontier fiction, 1880–1915. Each week a new list, progressing through the alphabet, “from A to Izzard.”
earthen and iron pots = a fable in which an earthen pot is shattered by an iron pot, the moral being that one should keep the company of one’s own kind. “Nothing will satisfy them but a human sacrifice on the altar of a questionable nobility, and a repetition of the old fable of the earthen and iron pots.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.
|Edward Eggleston, 1912|
Eggleston, Edward = American author and historian (1837-1902), best known for novels set in Indiana. “This serial (which involved my sister and myself in many a spat as to who should read it first) was The Hoosier Schoolmaster, by Edward Eggleston, and a perfectly successful attempt to interest western readers in a story of the middle border.” Hamlin Garland, A Son of the Middle Border.
elevate = to execute by hanging. “‘We’ve got a half-breed here,’ said he, ‘who’s got to be elevated.’” John Neihardt, The Lonesome Trail.
elflocks = tangled hair. “‘To be sure you’re not the man,’ he said, nodding his head until his elf-locks danced around his face.” James Oliver Curwood, The Courage of Captain Plum.
ell = a lean-to. “This old bar, the last remaining bit of furniture in the place, guarded the sagging door of a small ell evidently once used as a tap-room.” Ada Woodruff Anderson, The Heart of the Red Firs.
embonpoint = plumpness, stoutness. “They were met at the door by a plump-faced lady of ample proportions who was evidently fighting a losing battle with a tendency toward embonpoint.” James Hendryx, The Promise.
entryman = one who enters upon public land with intent to secure an allotment under homestead, mining, or other laws. “I didn’t know Senator had his drag net out for parsons as dummy entrymen!” Agnes C. Laut, The Freebooters of the Wilderness.
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.
everlasting = flowers or foliage that retains form or color for a long time when dried. “It was the Ranger in his sage green Service suit wearing a sprig of everlasting in his Alpine hat.” Agnes C. Laut, The Freebooters of the Wilderness.
Previous: D (drench - dyke)
Sources: Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Dictionary of the American West, The Cowboy Dictionary, The Cowboy Encyclopedia, Cowboy Lingo, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and various online dictionaries
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Mark Mitten, Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave