|Montana cowboys, c1910|
These are from Herman Whitaker’s The Settler, about a homegrown tycoon on the plains of Manitoba. Once again, I struck out on a few. If anyone has a definition for “fool killer,” “lumberman’s cake,” “gillypot,” or “put a head on,” leave a comment below.
ahint = behind. “Been riding ahint of you this half-hour, but you never looked back.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
back-setting = turning broken sod back to its original place with additional fresh soil to cover it. “I was back-setting the thirty acres down by the lake when I heard a shot an’ a yell.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
bluestone = copper sulphate, used in solution to treat varieties of wheat and oats. “He intended a visit to the barn, where his man was dipping seed wheat in bluestone solution to kill the smut.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
by the ears = in close contest with an unrelenting opponent. “For the settlement would be by the ears, she said, just as long as she stayed in it.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
= an iron hook at the end of a long handle used for rolling logs. “Ole, that big Swede, is chain lightning on a cant-hook.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
choke-bored = the manufacture of a shotgun barrel with a constriction towards the muzzle end to reduce the area of concentration of pellets, perfected by 19th-century English gunsmith, W.W Greener. “It was choke-bored, Mrs. Ravell. At eighty-yards it would put every shot inside of a three-foot circle.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
cookee = a cook’s assistant. “His greenish face aglow with insolence, he was holding an empty platter out to the nearest cookee.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
crammer = a lie. “‘Poor child!’ Mrs. Leslie patted her shoulder. ‘But why did you tell her such crammers?’” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
diamond = the intersection of two railways. “He has put two of our heaviest engines into the ditch and ten men into hospital. Not bad, but—he didn’t lay the diamond.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
Greener = a rifle or shotgun developed and manufactured in England by the W.W. Greener family, starting in 1829. “She brought him the famous double-barrelled Greener which, having disarranged the lock action in trying to clean it, Danvers had left with the trustee for repairs.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
haps = events; fortunes (good or bad). “They smoked and revamped the day’s haps, its dips, jams, duckings.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
key log = the log which, if removed, would free up a whole logjam. “She reproduced every detail for her pale audience of one—Carter astride of the key-log; his men, bating their breath with the ‘huh’ of his stroke; Bender’s distress; the cynical grin of Michigan Red.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
levies = men enlisted for some purpose. “Bender and the woodmen beat back the monopoly’s levies while the trackmen laid the ‘diamond.’” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
|Letter A, London alphabet|
mizzle = make a sudden departure. “You’d better mizzle—go home, you know.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
Mrs. Grundy = the mythical standard bearer of conventional social proprieties; originated as a character in Thomas Morton’s play, Speed the Plough (1798). “If, so far, she had lived in the fear of Mrs. Grundy, her conformity inhered in two causes.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
peavey = a lumberer’s cant-hook with a spike at the end; named after the inventor. “With axe, pevees, cant-hooks, Bender and his men broke the jams.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
per mensem = by the month. “Having rejected his heart with a pecuniary attachment of thirty-five dollars per mensem, she fell like a shooting-star and became a mere receptacle for his succeeding passions.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
port = deportment, carriage, bearing. “And there’s the sky pilot! What a Jovelike port!” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
prink = to preen oneself. “She sang at her work—warbling that was natural as that of the little bird which prinks and plumes for its mate in the morning sunlight.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
ruffle it = to swagger. “Alas! as well expect a rabbit to ruffle it with wolves.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
ruth = a feeling of distress or grief. “Why, for instance, is it that pitilessness, ferocity, ruth, which were good in the youth of the world, should cause such evil in its old age?” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
|River scour, USGS, 1906|
shortening = beginning to dress a baby in short clothes. “Behold the pair fussing and sewing certain small garments with much tucking, trimming, insertioning, regulating said processes by the needs of some future mystery dight ‘shortening.’” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
smut = any of several fungal plant diseases characterized by the formation of black powdery spores. “He intended a visit to the barn, where his man was dipping seed wheat in bluestone solution to kill the smut.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
spalpeen = a rascal. “There’ll be no way for thim spalpeens to fire us av the boord?” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
undying worm = a reference to biblical prophecies regarding eternal punishment of the wicked. “The evangelist, a stout man of bull-like build, proceeded to cut off yards of the ‘undying worm,’ and to measure bushels of the ‘fire that quencheth not.’” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
wet = drink to. “Not till we wet your wedding.” Herman Whitaker, The Settler.
London alphabet, spitalfieldslife.com
River scour, USGS archive
London alphabet, spitalfieldslife.com
River scour, USGS archive
All others, Wikimedia Commons
Coming up: Frederick Thickstun Clark, In the Valley of Havilah (1890)
Choke bored and smut I've heard.ReplyDelete
This page (bottom paragraph and footnote) might shed a little light on "fool killer." Here is the O. Henry story that's referred to. But since it apparently has a Southern origin, I wonder if it would appear in a British/Canadian novel?ReplyDelete
Thanks for the word sleuthing, Elisabeth. My guess is that the phrase was in common usage and may originate in some folk tale. But I've been surprised that I've turned up nothing despite several searches.Delete
Well done, Ron! I always learn a lot from your glossaries.ReplyDelete
An especially good entry. Smut was a common concern in the cornfields where I grew up. Liked seeing Mrs. Grundy again. And "peavey." Is it the source of our modern "pet peaves?"ReplyDelete
I remember smut well, too. The peavey was actually named after its inventor, so pet peaves probably comes from elsewhere.Delete
Clete, Dave Robicheaux's sidekick in the James Lee Burke detective series, set in Louisiana, often greets Dave with "What's the haps?"ReplyDelete
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