Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Americanisms, Old & New

John Stephen Farmer - Americanisms, Old & New (1889)

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Apparently the former colonies didn't speak quite right so this dictionary appeared to help confused Britons.  "America" in this case includes the U.S., Canada, West Indies and other near-by English speaking areas.  This copy is a tad dark but well worth browsing.  Check out the detailed explanation of a storm for the term "barber" (Canadian backwoods we're told) or next page find out how to "bark a squirrel".  The still very much alive "ouch" is "a Southern exclamation of pain. It appears to be a survival for it is quoted in ancient glossaries."  "Gnarler" is the "generic name among burglars for a watch-dog".  "Pork and beans" is "the American national dish".  One that's changed a bit is "ding-bat" described as "applied to anything that can be thrown with force or dashed violently at another object, from a cannon-ball to the rough's traditional 'arf brick, and from a piece of money to a log of wood".  And I'm recommending to comics writers "cosouse" which is an "onomatopoetic word representing the fall of a heavy body into water".  As you expect from such a book from this period nearly everything sexual is carefully avoided while some today offensive material appears (though I can't help but mention "wife" as a "fetter fixed on one leg only").