« PreviousContinue »
SLASIES. “Swampy or wet lands over- OFF-Ox: an unmanageable fellow. New grown with bushes. Southern and West- England. ern." Csed also in New York.
OLD DRIVER: euphemistic for the SPAN of horses is Dutch (High or Low). Old Split-Foot:1 Devil.
To WALK SPANISH ; to “walk" a boy ONHITCH (unhitch): to pull trigger. out of any place by the waistband of his ROTE: sound of the surf before a storm. trousers, or by any lower part easily pre- Used also in England. New England. hensible. N. E. This is, perhaps, as old SEEM: I can't seem to see, for I can't as Philip and Mary.
She couldn't seem to be suited, for To SPREAD One's Self is defined by couldn't be suited. Mr. Bartlett “to exert one's self.” It means STATE-House. This seems an Amerirather to exert one's self ostentatiously. It canism. Did we invent it, or borrow it is a capital metaphor, derived, we fancy, from the Stad-huys (town-hall) of New Amfrom the turkey-cock or peacock, — like sterdam ? As an instance of the tendency the Italian paroneggiarsi. We find in the to uniformity in American usage, we noTatler “spreading her graces in assem- tice that in Massachusetts what has alblies.” This last, however, may be a Gal- ways been the State-Ilouse is beginning to licism, from étaler.
be called the Capitol. We are sorry for it. STRAW BAIL. “ Worthless bail, bail STRIKE: | terms of the game of ninegiven by “men of straw.!" This is surely
String:T pins. no Americanism, and we have seen its SWALE : a hollow. New England. Engorigin very differently explained, namely, lish also; see Forby. that men willing for a fee to become bail TORMENTED : euphemistic, as "not a walked in the neighborhood of the courts tormented cent." New England. with straws stuck in their shoes, - though WELL-SWEEP. Mr. Bartlett's explanation is ingenious. We have gone through Mr. Bartlett's
SUNFISH. Mr. Bartlett thinks this a book with the attention which a work so corruption ; but the resemblance of the well done deserves, and are thoroughly fish, as seen in the water, to the ordinary impressed with the amount of care and portraits of the sun in almanacs and on tav- labor to which it bears witness. We have ern-signs seems to us enough to account quarrelled with it wherever we could, befor the name.
cause it cannot fail to become the stand. A few phrases occur to us that have es- ard authority in its department. Its value caped Mr. Bartlett.
will increase from year to year. For inA CARRY: portage. Passim.
stance, the Spanish words, in which it is Cat-VAP: a short doze. New England. especially rich, are doomed to undergo
CHOWDER-HEAD: muddle-brain. New strange metamorphoses on Anglo-Saxon England.
lips ; for it is the instinct of the unlearned Cohees (accent on the last syllable): to naturalize words as fast as possible, and term applied to the people of certain settle- to compel them to homebred shapes and ments in Western Pennsylvania, from their sounds. There is often an unwitting huuse of the archaic form, Quo' he.
mor in these perversions,* and they are alΤο CoTTON TO.
ways interesting as showing that it is the Don' KNOW AS I KNOW: the nearest nature of man to use words with underyour true Yankee ever comes to acknowl- standing, however appearances might lead edging ignorance.
us to an opposite conclusion. GANDER-PARTY: a social gathering of The least satisfactory part of Mr. Bartmen only. New England.
lett's book is the Appendix, in which he LAP-TEA : where the guests are too many has got together a few proverbs and simito sit at table. Massachusetts.
les, which, it seems to us, do no kind of Last of PEA-TIME: day after fair.
* We remember once hearing a man say LOSE-LAID (loose-laid): weaver's term,
of something, that it was written in a “ very and probably English; means weak-willed.
grand delinquent [grandiloquent] style,"— a Massachusetts.
phrase certainly not without modern appliMOONGLADE: a beautiful word for the
cation. We have heard also Angola-Saxons track of moonlight on the water. Massa
and Angular-Saxons,– the latter, at least, not chusetts.
an unhappy perversion.
justice to the humor and invention of the people. Most of them have no characteristic at all, except coarseness. We hope there is nothing peculiarly American in such examples as these :—“Evil actions, like crushed rotten eggs, stink in the nostrils of all ” ; and Vice is a skunk that smells awfully rank when stirred up by the pole of misfortune.” These have, beside, an artificial air, and are quite too long-skirted for working proverbs, in which language always “takes off its coat to it," if we may use a proverbial phrase, left out by Mr. Bartlett. We contess, we looked for something racier and of a more puckery flavor. One hears such now and then, mostly from the West,-like “Mean enough to steal acorns from a blind hog”; “I take my tea bar-foot,” the answer of a backwoodsman, when asked if he would have cream and sugar. Some are unmistakably Eastern : as, “ All deacons are good,- but there's odus in deacons”; “He's a whole team and the dog under the wagon”; “ That's firstrate and a half”; “ Ilandy as a pocket in a shirt” (ironical). Almost every county has some good die-sinker in language, who mints phrases that pass into the currency of a whole neighborhood. We picked up two such the other day, both of the same coinage. The countyjail (the only stone building where all the dwellings were of wood) was described as “the house whose underpinning comes up to the eaves ” ; while the place unmentionable to ears polite was “ where they don't rake up the fires at night.” A man, speaking to us once of a very rocky clearing, said, “ Stone's got a pretty heavy mortgage on that farm”; and another, wishing to give us a notion of the thievishness common in a certain village, capped his climax thus: -"Dishonest! why, they have to take in their stone walls o' nights.” Any one who has driven over a mountain-stream by one of those bridges made of slabs will feel the force of a term we once heard applied to a parson so shaky in character that no dependence could be placed on him, —"A slab-bridged kind o'feller!” During some very cold weather, a few years ago, we picked a notable saying or two. “The fire don't seem to git no kind o’ purchase on the cold.” “They say Cap'n M'Clure's gone through the Northwest Passage." “ Has? Think likely, and left the door open, too!” Elder Knapp, the once noted
itinerant preacher, had a kind of unwashed poetry in him. We heard him say once, “Do you want to know when a Unitarian" (we think it was) “will get into heaven? When hell's froze over, and he can skate in !” We quote merely for illustration, and do not mean to compare the Elder with Taylor or South.
The element of exaggeration bas often been remarked on as typical of American humor. In Dr. Petri's “ Compact Handbook of Foreign Words," * (from which Mr. Bartlett will be surprised to learn that Hoco-pocos is a nickname for the Whig party in the United States,) we are told that the word humbug “ is commonly used for the exaggerations of the North-Americans." One would think the dream of Columbus half-fulfilled, and that Europe had found in the West the near way to Orientalism, at least of diction. But it seems to us that a great deal of what is set down as mere exaggeration is more fitly to be called intensity and picturesqueness, symptoms of the imaginative faculty in full health and strength, though producing, as yet, only the raw material. By
* Gedrängtes Handbuch der Fremulcórter, etc., etc., Leipzig, 1852.
† Take, for instance, the "negro so black that charcoal made a chalk-mark on him," or the “ shingle painted to look so like stone that it sank in water," – itself overpersuaded by the skill of the painter. We overheard the following dialogue last winter. (Thermometer, -120.) “Cold, this morning."-" That's 80. Hear what happened to Joe?"--"No, I didn't.”—“ Well, the doctors had ben givin' him one thing another with merc'ry in't, and he walked out down to the Post-Office and back, and when he come home he kind o felt somethin' hard in his boots. Come to pull 'em off, they found a lump o' quicksilver in both on 'em." — " Sho!" -“ Fact; it had shrunk clean down through him with the cold.” This rapid power of dramatizing a dry fact, of putting it into flesh and blood, and the instantaneous conception of Joe as a human thermometer, seem to us more like the poetical faculty than anything else. It is, at any rate, humor, and not mere quickness of wit, - the deeper, and not the shallower quality. Humor tends always to overplus of expression; wit is mathematically precise. Captain Basil Hall denied that our people bed humor; but did he possess it himself ? for, if not, he would never find it. Did he alvars feel the point of what was said to himself? We doubt, because we happen to know a
and-by, perhaps, the world will see it work- "• The gentleman need not make such a ed up into poem and picture, and Europe, fuss about getting such a rascal; everybody which will be hard-pushed for originality
knows that I have shot three, and two of ere long, may thank us for a new sensa
them I saved.'" tion. The French continue to find Shak- We have but one fault to find with Mr. speare exaggerated, because he treated
Bartlett's Dictionary, and that it shares English just as our folk do when they with all other provincial glossaries. No speak of “a steep price," or say that they accents are given. No stranger could tell, "freeze to” a thing. The first postulate for example, whether hacmatack should be of an original literature is, that a people pronounced hac'matack, hacma'tack, or use their language as if they owned it. hacmatackl. The value of Mr. Wright's Even Burns contrived to write very poor otherwise excellent dictionary is very English. Vulgarisms are often only poe- much impaired by this neglect. Ignotry in the egg. The late Horace Mann, in rance of the pronunciation enhances tenone of his Addresses, commented at some fold the difficulty of tracing analogies or length on the beauty of the French phrase detecting corruptions. s'orienter, and called on his young hearers The title of Mr. Coleridge's volume (the to practise it in life. There was not a second on our list) is enough to give scholYankee in his audience whose problem ars a notion of its worth. It is the first inhad not always been to find out what was stalment of the proposed comprehensive “about east” and shape his course accord- English Dictionary of the Philological Soingly. The Germans have a striking prov- ciety, a work which, when finished, will be erb : Was die Gans gedacht, das der Schwan beyond measure precious to all students vollbracht: What the goose but thought, that of their mother-tongue. At the end of the the swan fullbrought; or, to de-Saxonize it volume will be found the Plan of the Soa little, pace Mr. Bartlett, What the goose ciety, with minute directions for all those conceived, that the swan achieved;-and who wish to give their help. Coöperation we cannot help thinking, that the life, inven- on this side the water will be gladly wel. tion, and vigor shown in our popular speech,
comed. and the freedom with which it is shaped to Of Dean Trench's two volumes, one is the need of those who wield it, are of the new, and the other a revised edition. No best omen for our having a swan at last. one has done more than he to popularize Even persons not otherwise interested
the study of words, which is only another in the study of provincialisms will find name for the study of thought. His new Mr. Bartlett's book an entertaining one. book has the same agreeable qualities The passages he quotes in illustration are which marked its forerunners, maintainsometimes strangely comic. Here is one : ing an easy conversational level of schol" TO SAVE. To make sure, i. e., to kill arly gossip and reflection, the middle game, or an enemy, whether man or beast.
ground between learning and information To get conveys the same meaning. .. for the million. Without great philologiThe notorious Judge W — of Texas cal attainments, and without any pretence
once said in a speech at a bar- of such, he gives the results of much good becue, (after his political opponent had reading. been apologizing for taking a man's life Mr. Craik's book is a compact and handy in a duel,)
The Slang Dictionaries are both as illchance he once had given him in vain. The done as possible, and the author of the Captain was walking up and down the piazza smaller one deserves to be put under the of a country tavern while the coach changed horses. A thunderstorm was going on, and,
pump for taking the name of the illustri
ous Ducange, one of those megatheria of with that pleasant European air of indirect
erudition and industry that we should look self-compliment in condescending to American merit, which is so conciliating, he said to
on as an extinct species, but for such men a countryman lounging near, Pretty heavy
as the brothers Grimm. The larger book thunder, you have here.” The other, who
has the merit of including a bibliography had taken his measure at a glance, drawled
of the subject, for which the author degravely, “ Waal, we du, considerin' the num- serves our thanks, though in other reber of inhabitants."
spects showing no least qualification for land. rified into “ multee kerterer, very bad." Mr. Swinton's book, the last on our list, Very bad, indeed! For one more good is an entertaining one, and gives proof of thing beside the Bibliography, we are in- thought, though sometimes smothered in debted to the “ London Antiquary.” In fine writing. It is written altogether too bis Introduction he has reprinted the ear- loosely for a work on philology, one of the liest list of cant words in the language, exactest of sciences. But we have a grav. that made by Thomas llarman in Eliza- er fault to find with Mr. Swinton, and that beth's time. We wish we could only feel is for his neglect to give credit where he sure of the accuracy of the reprint. In is indebted. He seems even desirous to this list we find already the adjective rum conceal his obligations. The general acmeaning good, fine,-a word that has crept knowledgment of his Preface is by no into general use among the lower classes means enough, where the debt is so large. in London, without ever gaining promo- The great merit of Dr. Richardson's Diction. The fate of new words in this re- tionary being the number of illustrative spect is curious. Often, if they are con- passages he has brought together, it is venient, or have knack of lodging easily hardly fair in Mr. Swinton so otien to in the memory, they work slowly upward. make a show of learning with what he has The Scotch word flunky is a case in point. got at second hand from the lexicographer. Our first knowledge of it in print is from Dr. Trench could also make large reclaFergusson's Poems. Burns advertised it mations, and several others. There is bemore widely, and Carlyle seems fairly to side an unpleasant assumption of superiorhave transplanted it into the English of ity in the book. An author who says that the day. As we believe its origin is still paganus means village, who makes oeula obscure, we venture on a guess at it. the plural of oculus, and who supposes that French allies brought some words into in petto means in little, is not qualified to Scotland that have rooted themselves, like settle Dr. Webster's claims as a philologer, the Edinburgh gardyloo. Flunky is defined much less to treat him with contempt. in Fergu-son's glossary as a better kind The first two blunders we have cited of servant.” This is an exact definition may be slips of the pen or the press, but of the Scotch hench-man, the most probable this cannot be true of the many wrong etyoriginal of which is haunch-man or body- mologies into which Mr. Swinton has fallguard. Turn haunch-man into French and We hope that in another edition he you get flanquier; corrupt it back into will correct these faults, for he shows a Scotch and you have flunky. Whatever power to appreciate ideas which is worth liberties we take with French words, the more than mere scholarship, vastly more Gauls have their revenge when they take than the reputation of it among the un. possession of an English one. We once scholarly.
the task he has undertaken. We trust saw an Aris of the police in Paris, reguthere are not many “London Antiqua- lating les chiens et les boule dogues, dogs and ries " so ignorant as he. One curious fact bull-dogs. we glean from his volume, namely, the Vocabularies of vulgarisms are of intercurrency among the London populace of est for the archaisms both of language and certain Italian words, chiefly for the small- pronunciation which we find in them. The er pieces of money. What a strident in- dictionaries say coverle, as if the word were vasion of organ-grinders does this seem to a diminutive; the rustic persists in the indicate! The author gives them thus: termination lid, which points to the French “Oney saltee, a penny ; Dooe saltee, two- lit, bed. On the other hand, he still says pence; Tray saltee, threepence,” etc., and hankercher, having been taught so by his adds, “ These numerals, as will be seen, betters, though they have taken up the are of mongrel origin, — the French, per- final f again. Sewel, in the Introduction haps, predominating.”! He must be the to his Dutch Dictionary, 1691, gives hengentleman who, during the Exhibition of ketsjer, and Voltaire, forty years later, han1851, wrote on his door, “No French spok- kercher, as the received pronunciation. Sew. en here.” Dooe saltee and tray saltte difler el tells us also that the significant I was little but in spelling from their Italian still sounded in would and should, as it still originals, due soldi and tre soldi. On an- is by the peasantry in many parts of Eng. other page we find molio cattivo transmog.
A History and Description of New England, stand the politics of our New England
General and Local. By A. J. COOLIDGE ancestors. We confess that we were surand J. B. MANSFIELD. Illustrated with prised, the other day, to see a journal so Numerous Engravings. In Two Vol- able and generally so philosophical as the
Vol. I. Maine, New Hampshire, London“ Saturday Review” joining in and Vermont. Boston: Austin J. Coo- the outcry about the treatment of the Acalidge, 1859. pp. XXV., 1023.
dians. If our forefathers were ever wise
and foreseeing, if they ever showed a caThis is a book of great labor, being pacity for large political views, it is provnothing less in plan than a condensed ed by their early perception that the first town-history of New England. In spite question to be settled on this continent of all efforts to the contrary, one is forced was, whether its destiny should be shaped to admit that there is very litile poetry in by English or Keltic, by Romish or ProtAmerican history. It is a record of ad- estant ideas. By what means they atvances in material prosperity, and scarce tempted to realize their thought is quite anything more. The only lumps of pure another question. Great events are not ore are the Idea which the Pilgrims were settled by sentimentalists, nor history writpossessed with and its gradual incarnation ten in milk-and-water. Uninteresting in in events and institutions. Beyond this many ways the Puritans doubtless were, all is barren. There is a fearful destitu- but not in the least spoony. tion of the picturesque elements. It is The volume before us contains a vast true that our local historians commonly amount of matter and fulfils honestly what avoid all romance as if it were of the En- it promises. It tells all that is to be told emy; but if we compare their labors with
in the way of fact and statistics. The first “ The Beauties of England and Wales,” settlers, the clergymen, the enterprising for example, the work certainly of unin- citizens, the men of mark,--all their names spired men, we shall be convinced that and dates are to be found here. Of the the American Dryasdust suffers from pov- literary execution of the book we cannot erty of material. There is no need to re- speak highly. The style is of the worst. mind us of Hawthorne ; but he is such a If a meeting-house is spoken of, it is a genius as is rare everywhere, and could “church edifice”; if the Indians set a conjure poetry out of a country meeting- house on fire, they "apply the torch " ; it house.
a man takes to drink, he is seduced by In books of this kind we see evidence " the intoxicating cup”; even mountains of what is called the “enterprise” of our “ located.” On page 68, we read that people on every page,-one almost hears 'the pent-up rage that had long heaved the hum of the factory-wheels, as he reads, the savage bosom, and which had only —but that is all. It is not to be wondered been smouldering under the pacific policy of at that foreigners fail to find our country Shurt, now knew no bounds, and burst interesting, and that the only good book forth like the fiery torrent of the volcano”; of American travels is that of De Tocque- on the same page, “the impending doom ville, who deals chiefly with abstract ideas. which, like a storm-cloud in the heavens, It is possible to conceive minds so consti- had overhung with its sable drapery the tuted that they may reach before long settlements along the coast, and Pemaquid the end of their interest in the number in particular.” Of a certain tavern we are of shoes, yards of cotton, and the like, told that the daughters of the landlord which we produce in a year. The only were“ genteel, sprightly, intelligent young immortal Greek shoemaker is he who had ladies, ambitious of display and setting the good luck to be snubbed by Apelles, a rich and elegant table.” This is no and Penelope is the only manufacturer doubt true, but surely History should sift in antiquity whose name has come down her facts with a coarser sieve. to us.
In spite of these faults, the book is one One thing in the narrative part of this which all New Englanders will find intervolume is striking,- the continual recur- esting, and we hope that in their second rence of massacre by the French and In- volume the authors will balance their comdians. This is something to be borne in mendable profusion of industry with a cormind always by those who would under responding economy of fine writing.