Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Old West glossary, no. 31

Montana cowboys, c1910
Here’s another set of terms garnered from early western novels. Definitions were discovered in various online dictionaries, as well as searches in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Dictionary of The American West, The New Encyclopedia of The American West, The Cowboy Dictionary, The Cowboy Encyclopedia, The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms, and The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

These are from Grace and Alice MacGowan’s Aunt Huldah, about a paragon of generosity in a West Texas town; Frances Charles’ In the Country God Forgot, about family troubles on an Arizona ranch; and Willis George Emerson’s Buell Hampton about the carryon in a small town in west Kansas. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “over-slawed,” “Texan’s measure,” or “chiricahua look,” leave a comment below.

boom = to promote, extol. “He was too new to flaunt his authority, and boom a reformation, before he felt sure of its chance in the place.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

by the great horn spoon = an emphatic expression, origin disputed. “Here, waiter, by the great horn spoon, I’ve got to have another drink!” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

chinch bug = small black-and-white insect that feeds on cereal grasses. “He frequently prophesied as to a scourge of grasshoppers,—of chinch-bugs,—of hot winds, but seldom foretold a rain.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

corn juice = whiskey. “You’ll find lots uv pore corn-juice, canned goods, ig’nance, and side-meat.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

coupon clipper = a person holding a large number of bonds, with detachable coupons that are exchanged for interest payments. “The bloated bondholder and coupon-clipper—even the millionaire, with his ill-gotten gains—are as princes compared with these Ishmaelites who have bartered away their very souls with their votes.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

cove = man, boss. “They thought he wasn’t such a bad un for a rich cove, while his following words won them into loud, ringing hurrahs.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

1890s edition
“Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight” = a narrative poem written in 1867 by 16-year-old Rose Hartwick Thorpe, about a young woman who saves a lover from execution in 17th-century England. “The trapeze suggestion, however, led the teacher to contemplate the acting out of Curfew Shall Not Ring To-night.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah.

deal = soft wood, pine or fir. “He sat down by a small deal table.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

fairy lamp = a small, glass candle lamp that gained popularity during the 1880s and '90's. “A fairy lamp burned over the great open fireplace, and by this he saw her go to the child’s little crib.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

fall into snap = achieve success easily. “Brother Josh, now he was little fellow, fell right into snap t’once.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

fanning mill = a device consisting of two vibrating screens and using an air blast to clean and separate grain. “His tooth wobbled like the side motion of a fanning-mill.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

fly driver = a mechanical device for shooing away flies. “These were amateur attempts at fly-drivers, and were manipulated from time to time by a wire hung from end to end of the room.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

frost = a failure. “The first dance was almost a frost; but soon a man got to calling out numbers, and every one warmed up.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

gosh all fish hooks = a mild oath (God Almighty). “The major knows what he’s talkin’ ’bout. Gosh all fish hooks!” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

“Gypsy Countess, The” = a ballad of a nobleman’s lady who runs off with a band of gypsies. “Those who did not hear The Gypsy Countess in their youth would never know from cold type and paper what its charms are.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah. Lyrics here.

jobbery = the practice of using a public office or position of trust for one's own gain or advantage. “The result is, that robbery and jobbery are alike legalized; not by the consent of the governed, but by bribed legislatures.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

La France roses, late 1800s
La France rose = a rose developed in 1867 by Jean-Baptiste Guillot (1803–1882); generally accepted to be the first hybrid tea rose. “Marie Hampton was attired in a beautiful evening gown of white silk, with a knot of La France roses at her corsage.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

lay over = to surpass, to excel. “‘A preacher,’ repeated Gilbert, gently and reverently. ‘Well, that lays over my play, doesn’t it, honey?’” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah.

lead pipe cinch = an absolute certainty. “That’s where you, as a member of the Barley Hullers, would have a special lead-pipe cinch on these other bankers.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

“Maiden’s Prayer, The” = a composition for piano by Tekla Badarzewska, first published in 1856. “It was announced to the audience very loudly that this piece was called The Maiden’s Prayer.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah. Listen here.

milk pan = a small type of saucepan, with a lip, used for heating milk. “Callie Grainger sang it, and the moon was managed by means of the traditional milk-pan and candle.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah.

“Mistletoe Bough, The” = a ghost story, first appearing as a song in 1830, popular in the 19th century at Christmastime. “The most ambitious undertaking in the whole exhibition was the acting out with tableaux of The Mistletoe Bough.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah. Listen here.

moquette = a carpet with a deep, tufted pile. “Its moquette carpet, easy chairs, Turkish divan, beautiful pictures, and shelves well filled with books—all combined to make this little editorial ‘den’ one of surprising elegance.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

mudcat = any of several large North American catfish living in muddy rivers. “This cool retreat was the summer home of the lazy turtle, of sunfish and of ‘mud-cat.’” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

Wookpecker, 1892
peckerwood = woodpecker; poor white. “Laws, honey, it makes me look like a peckerwood—I do p’intedly look like I was sent fer an’ couldn’t come.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah.

Phyllis = a country girl; a girl’s name in ancient pastoral poetry. “I did not need a mother’s love then, nor a home to make me an old-fashioned Phyllis, —I have always been too up-to-date.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

picket house = a dwelling with walls made of stakes or poles driven into the ground. “A picket house is sorter like a Mexican jacal; it’s jest poles driv’ in the ground, clost together, an’ chinked, for a wall; the dirt fer a floor; an’ a roof put over of some sort.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah.

pothook = a curved stroke in handwriting. “She has mastered the pothooks of shorthand so thoroughly that she is able to report the speeches of our public men, although some of them are very rapid talkers.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

“Roll on, Silver Moon” = a popular 19th-century song. “One of Aunt Huldah’s favorite songs was Roll on, Silver Moon; and despite her protests, Mrs. Patterson fastened upon it as an excellent one for exhibition purposes.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah. Listen here.

Sangreal = Holy Grail. “In reality, life was approaching its climax, and his Sangreal yet unwon.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

seminary = private girls school. “When Simmons, the bookkeeper, was not looking, he gave a side study to the seminary handwriting on an envelope.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

side meat = salt pork and bacon taken from the sides of a hog. “You’ll find lots uv pore corn-juice, canned goods, ig’nance, and side-meat.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

snake feeder = dragonfly. “Here the gaudy-winged ‘snake feeder’ skipped from side to side, across the waters.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

spirky = spirited. “I seen the same girl, only with changes on her, for all she tried to be brave and spirky-like.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

sure pop = a certainty. “Kind of coincident’l like, unless they came together on purpose. Then it’s sure pop.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

trammer = a mine worker loading broken ore or mineral into carts for transport. “The little thin, nervous lady, whose husband was merely a trammer in the mine, had no such violence of energy either for or against in her mind.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

Typesetter, Chicago, 1942
typo = a compositor, typesetter. “In addition to this she is the ‘typo’ of the Patriot.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

undress = informal, casual attire. “A child clad in leathern breeches, a miniature undress shirt, such as is affected by cow-boys, a great collar to boot, and a rough steeple-crowned form of straw sombrero, appeared.” Frances Charles, In The Country God Forgot.

wambling = wobbling, rolling. “Whenever he spoke, Dan had a habit of wambling and grinning, thereby disclosing his tobacco-colored teeth, and quivering like a creature in convulsions.” Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton.

whole kit and biling = everything, all of it; “biling” from “boiling,” the entire batch of soup or stew. “We-all have got ye now, an’ we’ll take keer of ye—the hull kit an’ bilin’ of us.” Grace and Alice MacGowan, Aunt Huldah.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Coming up: Willis George Emerson, Buell Hampton (1902)

10 comments:

  1. Peckerwood, side meat, fairy lamp, I've heard of "Whole kit and kaboodle" but not the last one on your list. I've heard of mudcat of course. Use it myself. And my mom used to talk about milk pans

    ReplyDelete
  2. Charles, I figured you'd know these. For someone not from the South, they're likely to be unfamiliar. Interesting how so many regional terms from there found their way into early western novels. Many originate in Scots. Thanks for dropping by.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My brother-in-law used to say it's a "Lead-pipe cinch" all the time. And "gosh all fish hooks" on occasion. "Cove" I've seen or heard in Brit books and movies. "Undress" blues is a a Navy uniform to differentiate from "Dress" blues. Undress blues don't have the white stripes on the collar. There is also "undress" whites. "Chinch bugs" I've ran across many times and we used to use "milk pans" in our old house. Keep going with the glossaries, they're great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Oscar, for the background on dress and undress. I suspect the term was being used metaphorically in the novel where I found the term. Gosh all fish hooks was a favorite expletive of one of my aunts. I was tickled to find it in a book.

      Delete
  4. I know Chiricahua is an Apache tribe, but I don't know what "chiricahua look" means. I've actually seen a whole lot of this batch—by the great horn spoon, corn juice (also "corn squeezings"), cove, deal, frost, fairy lamp, gosh all fishooks, lead pipe cinch, pothook, seminary and I think Sangreal. And I've heard of most of the songs and poems.

    Regarding "typo"—I've read some older literature where a typist was referred to as a "typewriter," as well as the machine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elisabeth, you may go to the head of the class. I was familiar with Chiricahua, too, a term that shows up in old westerns set in southern Arizona. But this use really threw me. Horn spoon I knew before, as well, but only in reference to an actual spoon made from horn. Deal is still in use today, and likely to be known by carpenters and furniture experts. Researching the songs was delightful, especially finding them on youtube.

      Delete
  5. I know I've read a book...historical fiction of some kind...with a chapter titled "By The Great Horn Spoon!" My memory isn't helping me out right now...it'll come back to me one day. I remember "The Mistletoe Bough" being sung in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins, and "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight" quoted (misquoted, actually) in Anne of Green Gables.

    Mudcat rings a bell too, now that I think of it. In Samuel Young's True Stories of Old Houston and Houstonians he recalls how when he was growing up, Galveston boys used to call the Houston boys "mudcats"—I guess because they lived on the river? The Houston boys returned the compliment and called them "sandcrabs," and as Young put it "the use of such names was considered a deadly insult and always resulted in a fight."

    These glossaries are a lot of fun!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gosh all fishhooks! Heard that all the time in South Carolina. Another fine entry in the series.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm thinking of taking "fishhooks" and using it to break my unfortunate habit of saying something else.

    ReplyDelete