[To "Voices from 19th-Century America"]

Dictionary of Americanisms, by John Russell Bartlett (1848)

John Russell Bartlett (1805-1886) was well educated in history and literature before he and a partner opened a bookstore that became popular with scholars and literary figures. Bartlett also helped to found the American Ethnological Society. A stint as boundary commissioner wasn't as successful as his many years as Rhode Island's Secretary of State or his work as an historian and compiler of the Dictionary of Americanisms.

The Dictionary of Americanisms went through at least four editions between 1848 and 1877. As a record of the "colloquial language of the United States," it's a fascinating look at the words that actually came out of the mouths of early 19th-century Americans. It's also a window into U. S. history, with tiny essays on early political parties, economics, and culture; its collection of quotes offers later readers examples from a wide variety of early-19th-century works.

My copy is of the first edition, which is also available on microcard as part of the Library of American Civilization (LAC 12141).

[This table of contents is not in the original:

"Introduction" | "Dialects of England" | "American Dialects"
a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | k | l | m | n | o | p | q | r | s | t | u | v | w | y
"Appendix A"]


Dictionary of Americanisms, by John Russell Bartlett. (NY: Bartlett and Welford, 1848)

[title page]

see below


[copyright page]

Entered, According to Act of Congress, in the year 1848, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District
of New York.

114 Nassau St., New York.

[p. iii]



In venturing to lay before the public a Vocabulary of the colloquial language of the United States, some explanation may be necessary for the broad ground I have been led to occupy.

I began to make a list of such words as appeared to be, or at least such as had generally been called Americanisms, or peculiar to the United States, and, at the same time, made reference to the several authors in whose writings they appeared; not knowing whether, in reality, they were of native growth, or whether they had been introduced from England. When this list had expanded so as to embrace a large number of the words used in familiar conversation, both among the educated as well as among the uneducated and rustic classes, the next object was to examine the dialects and provincialisms of those parts of England from which the early settlers of New England and our other colonies emigrated.

The provincialisms of New England are more familiar to our ears than those of any other section of the United States, as they are not confined within the limits of those States, but have extended to New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan; which States have been, to a great extent, settled by emigrants from New England.

On comparing these familiar words with the provincial and colloquial language of the northern counties of England, a most striking resemblance appeared, not only in the words commonly regarded as peculiar to New England, but in the dialectical pronunciation of certain words, and in the general tone

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and accent. In fact, it may be said, without exaggeration, that nine tenths of the colloquial peculiarities of New England are derived directly from Great Britain; and that they are now provincial in those parts from which the early colonists emigrated, or are to be found in the writings of well accredited authors of the period when that emigration took place. Consequently, it is obvious, that we have the best authority for the use of the words referred to.

It may be insisted, therefore, that the idiom of New England is as pure English, taken as a whole, as was spoken in England at the period when these colonies were settled. In making this assertion, I do not take as a standard the nasal twang, the drawling enunciation, or those perversions of language which the ignorant and uneducated adopt. Nor would I acknowledge the abuse of many of our most useful words. For these perversions I make no other defence or apology, but that they occur in all countries, and in every language.

Having found the case to be as stated, I had next to decide between a vocabulary of words of purely American origin, or one in which should be embraced all those words usually called provincial or vulgar--all the words, whatever be their origin, which are used in familiar conversation, and but seldom employed in composition--all the perversions of language, and abuses of words into which people, in certain sections of the country, have fallen, and some of those remarkable and ludicrous forms of speech which have been adopted in the Western States. The latter plan seemed the most satisfactory, and this I determined to adopt.

With so broad a ground, many words must necessarily be embraced, which are to be found in the dictionaries of Drs. Johnson and Webster, with the remark that they are low, or vulgar, or only to be heard in familiar conversation. Another class, not in the dictionaries referred to, is contained in the provincial glossaries of England. A third class, entirely distinct from the preceding, consists of slang words which are not noticed by lexicographers, yet are so much employed as to deserve a place in a glossary.

Such is the plan which I have though most advisable to

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adopt, and which I hope will give satisfaction. In carrying out this plan, I have endeavored to give the most accurate definitions, citing the authorities in all cases where I have been enabled to find any. Except as regards words of purely American origin, (e. g. those derived from the Indian languages and from the Dutch,) I have generally kept aloof from etymologies and etymological discussions. These the reader will find in abundance--such as they are--in the works of Johnson, Todd, Webster, and others.

Words of a provincial character, and such as have become obsolete in composition, are often of doubtful signification. Illustrations, from well known authors, wherein such words are employed, are of service in arriving at their true meaning. These have been employed in the present glossary, and serve the double purpose of illustration, and of rendering the book more readable than of confined to a dry collection of definitions. This mode of showing the sense in which words have been employed by authors, was first practised on a comprehensive scale by Dr. Johnson, whose labors are thereby greatly enhanced in value to the philologist; and has since been carried out more completely in Mr. Richardson's dictionary.

The class of words which are purely American in their origin and use, I have also attempted to illustrate, by extracts from American authors, whose writings relate to that class of people among which these words are chiefly found. These books contain descriptions of country life, scenes in the backwoods, popular tales, &c., in which the colloquial or familiar language of particular States predominates. The humorous writings of Judge Haliburton of Nova Scotia, give a tolerably correct though exaggerated specimen of the provincialisms of New England. The letters of Major Downing are of the same character, and portray the dialect of New England with less exaggeration. There are no books in which the Western words and phrases are so fully exhibited; though all the works which aim to illustrate Western life, contain more or less of the idioms peculiar to the people. Judge Hall, Mrs. Kirkland (Mary Clavers), the author of the New Purchase, Charles F. Hoffman, and various tourists, have displayed in their several

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works the peculiarities of the people of the West, and occasionally their language. Mr. Crockett, however, himself a native of that region, associating form infancy with its woodsmen, hunters, and farmers, whose language is full of quaint words and figures of speech, has unintentionally made us better acquainted with the colloquial language of the West than any other author.

I am also indebted to a series of books published by Messrs. Cary and Hart, called the "Library of Humorous American Works," which consist of a series of tales and adventures in the South-west and West by Wm. T. Porter, editor of the New York Spirit of the Times; John S. Robb and J. M. Field, Esquires, of St. Louis, Missouri; the editor of the New Orleans Picayune, and some anonymous writers. In these several works, the drolleries and quaint sayings of the West are admirably incorporated into tales of the settlers, their manner and customs, vivid descriptions of Western scenery, political and dramatic scenes, etc. We have no books which present so graphic an account of Western life, related in the exaggerated and metaphorical language peculiar to the people of that region.

In Southern provincialisms I find myself most deficient, having seen no books except Major Jones's "Courtship" and "Sketches," "Georgia Scenes," and "Sherwood's Gazetteer of Georgia," in which however a considerable number of local words are to be found.

The newspapers have afforded me many illustrations of the use of words, which I have not failed to make use of. These illustrations, it will be seen, are chiefly from the New York papers, viz. the Commercial Advertiser, the Tribune, and the Herald, for the simple reason that I have been in the practice of reading them daily. When I met with a word or phrase peculiarly American, or one which was employed in a sense differing from the use of the same in England, it was at once noticed and secured. All our newspapers contain more or less colloquial words; in fact, there seems no other way of expressing certain ideas connected with passing events of every day life, with the requisite force and piquancy. In the English newspapers

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the same thing is observable, and certain of them contain more of the class denominated slang words than our own. The Whig papers throughout the United States employ certain political terms in advocating the principles of their party, and in denouncing those of their opponents. The Democratic papers pursue a similar course. The advocates and opponents of Abolition, Fourierism, etc., invent and employ many words peculiar to themselves. So with the religious sects; each new-fangled notion brings into existence some addition to our language, though that addition is not always an improvement.

The value of this glossary would have been greatly enhanced, if, as is usual in the compilation of similar works, I had been able to avail myself of the assistance of persons residing in various parts of our country. No collection of words, professing to contain the colloquial languages of the entire country, can approach any degree of completeness or correctness, without the aid of many hands and heads. None but a native of New England, educated on her soil, and who has mingled with all classes of society, has the requisite familiarity with the words and phrases peculiar to her people. So with the Western and Southern provincialisms. One born and brought up where they are spoken, who has heard and used them when a boy, and grown up in their midst, can portray them in their true sense. The aid of such persons it was impossible to procure, and the words here brought together have been, with very few exceptions, collected by myself. The deficiencies and imperfections are such, therefore, as could not be avoided under the circumstances.

The words of Dutch origin, most if not all of which are used or understood in the city of New York and those portions of its vicinity colonized by natives of Holland, were furnished by Mr. Alexander J. Cotheal, a gentleman born and educated in New York, whose learning in other branches of philological science is well known to many. A few other words have been given me from time to time by other friends, who knew that I was making this collection. To all of these I am happy to express my acknowledgments.

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When the work had advanced far towards completion, and one half had been put in type, the occurrence of some terms, common in political language, the exact meaning of which was not clear, led me to apply to my friend John Inman, Esq., editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser, for aid. He readily compiled with my request, and kindly furnished the definitions of several terms of daily occurrence in the political language of the day. I regret that I did not have his valuable aid in defining and illustrating the use of words and phrases which occur in the early part of the glossary. The contributions of Mr. Inman are acknowledged where they appear.

To my friend Mr. Wm. W. Turner, I am under great obligations for aid rendered me in preparing this work for the press. Mr. Turner's extensive acquaintance with the European and Oriental languages, together with an unusual sagacity in philological criticism, have peculiarly fitted him to give aid in the preparation of a work like this. I have, therefore, submitted the whole to his supervision, and adopted his views in all my conclusions. At his suggestion, I have struck out many etymologies taken from standard dictionaries, which it was evident were wholly erroneous.

In noticing the words embraced in this glossary, the reader will probably think that many have been admitted which ought not to have a place in a Dictionary of American Provincialisms. From what has already been said, it will be seen that it is very difficult to draw the line between what should be admitted and what excluded; and I have thought it better to err on the side of copiousness, than by too rigid a system of selection to run into the opposite extreme.

A careful perusal of nearly all the English glossaries, has enabled me to select what appeared most desirable to embrace, and what to avoid, in an American book of a similar kind. Cant words, except such as are in general use, the terms used at gaming houses, purely technical words, and those only known to certain trades, obscene and blasphemous words, have been discarded.

For a better understanding of the subject, as well as to show the importance of collecting and preserving the colloquial

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dialects of our country, I have prefixed to the Vocabulary some remarks on language, in which the reader will find that the study of dialects and provincialisms is considered as worthy the attention of philologists, as the investigation of the language of literature.


The most recent investigations in which the science of philology has been brought to bear on the English language, have shown that it is of purely Gothic origin, descended through languages of which sufficient remains to make grammatical as well as etymological comparisons practicable. It is true that some have regarded it as a perfect mongrel, without any natural parent, compounded of various languages and dialects, Greek, Latin, Saxon, French, Welsh, etc., etc. But although the language is very much mixed, it is a question whether it is not as pure, and as closely allied to the Anglo-Saxon and Mœso-Gothic, as the languages in the south of Europe are to the Latin. Or, in other words, it is probable that the English is not more impregnated with words of the Latin stock, than the Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are with words of the Teutonic stock.

The natural tendency of language is to improve; and when a people cannot express in a comprehensive manner a particular idea or shade of meaning, they either form a word to denote it from a root or roots already in the language, or borrow a word from other languages which expresses it already.

The natural tendency of language is to improve; and when a people cannot express in a comprehensive manner a particular idea or shade of meaning, they either form a word to denote it from a root or roots already in the language, or borrow a word from other languages which expresses it already.

With regard to the English language this last mentioned process has been adopted to an extent which, while it has enriched our vocabulary with a vast number of terms, has, it must be confessed, greatly impaired its reproductive power. The original substratum of Anglo-Saxon speech has been overlaid with multitudes of common and conversational words from

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the French, literary and ecclesiastical terms from the Latin, and technicalities from the Greek; and the process is constantly going on. Yet in spite of these immense accessions to its vocabulary, the structure of the English has remained in all essential respects the same from the period when it first became a language. Moreover, the number of foreign importations contained in our dictionaries gives by no means a correct idea of the number of such words which we actually make use of. The greater part of our household, colloquial, and poetical expressions are Saxon, and so are all those important words called particles, on which the whole structure of speech hinges; whereas an immense number of the words derived from other sources belong exclusively to the language of books, and many even to particular sciences.

There is another fact to be observed, which is that these different classes of words are not used in the same proportion by all members of society. Persons without education, and who are consequently not familiar with the language of literature, employ almost exclusively in their conversation the simple and expressive Saxon terms; while persons belonging to the more favored classes of society, supply the place of many of these terms by others derived from the language of books. The old words thus discarded, which are often far more expressive and more consonant to the genius of the language than the apparently more elegant novelties by which they are supplanted, are from that time considered as the exclusive property of the common people, and receive the name of provincial, colloquial, or vulgar.

But notwithstanding all this, the common speech often enters largely into composition, and in some instances constitutes the chief excellence of a writer. In dramatic composition the colloquial language predominates. In Shakspeare we find every variety of idiom of which the English language is susceptible, from the loftiest flights of the statesman and philosopher to the familiar language of the lowest of the people. In Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, Shirley, and other dramatic authors, we find the familiar idiom to be the most prevalent.

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If we examine the literature of other countries, we shall find that the colloquial tongue has been employed in written compositions of a similar kind and with equal success. In addition to Aristophanes and Plautus among the ancients, Don Quixote may be mentioned as an example in Spain, and the writings of Rabelais and Molière in France. The colloquial dialect is generally more ancient than the literary language; as the latter is constantly changing, while the former remains nearly stationary.

If any person will take the trouble to examine the early dictionaries of the English language, or the dictionaries of which English forms a part, he will be surprised at the large number of words which have become so completely obsolete as to be undeserving a place in modern compilations. Even the English dictionary of Bailey, which, at the time Dr. Johnson published his, was the standard, abounds in words which are now never used in composition. This class of words was employed by authors from Chaucer's time, or about the year 1400, to the beginning of the seventeenth century. By the middle of that century they had ceased to be used in books, but were preserved in dictionaries for a century longer. The great mass of them, however, are found in one or more of the numerous provincial dialects of England to the present day.

The dialects of the English language now spoken in England have existed from a very early period. It is not pretended by writers on the subject that any are of recent origin. "In early times," says Dr. Bosworth, "there was clearly a considerable dialectic variety in the writings of men residing in different provinces. The differences observable in the language of the most cultivated classes would be still more marked and apparent in the mass of population, or in the less educated community. These, from their agricultural pursuits, had little communication with the inhabitants of other provinces; and having few opportunities and little inducement to leave their own neighborhood, they intermarried among each other, and, from their limited acquaintance and circumscribed views, they would naturally be much attached to their old manners, customs, and language. The same cause operating from age to age would keep united the greater part of the population, or the families of the middle

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stations of life; it may, therefore, be well expected that much of the peculiarity of the dialect prevalent in Anglo-Saxon times, is preserved even to the present day in the provincial dialects of the same districts. In these local dialects, then, remnants of the Anglo-Saxon tongue may be found in the least altered, most uncorrupt, and therefore its purest state."*

In an ethnological point of view the English dialects afford important materials for elucidating that portion of English history which relates to the early colonization of Great Britain; for, if history were silent on the subject, a philological test applied to the dialects of the country would show what nations contributed to its colonization.

The Edinburgh Review for April, 1844, in an article on the Provincialisms of the European Languages, gives the following results of an inquiry into the number of provincial words which had then been arrested by local glossaries:

     Shropshire, . . . . . . 1,993     Sussex, . . . . . . . .   371
    {Devonshire and Cornwall,  878     Essex, . . . . . . . . .  589
    {Devonshire (North), . . 1,146     Wiltshire, . . . . . . .  592
    {Exmoor, . . . . . . . . . 370     {Hallamshire, . . . . .  1,568
     Herefordshire, . . . . .  822     {Craven, . . . . . . . . 6,169
     Lancashire, . . . . . . 1,922     North Country, . . . .  3,750
     Suffolk, . . . . . . .  2,400     Cheshire, . . . . . . . . 903
     Norfolk, . . . . . . .  2,500     Grose and Pegge,† . . 3,500
     Somersetshire, . . . .  1,204                        _______

"Admitting that several of the foregoing are synonymous, superfluous, or common to each county, there are nevertheless many of them which, although alike orthographically, are vastly dissimilar in signification. Making these allowances, they amount to a little more than 20,000; or, according to the number of English counties hitherto illustrated, to the average ratio of 1478 to a county. Calculating the twenty-six unpublished in the same ratio (for there are supposed to be as many words collected by persons who have never published them) they will furnish 36,428 additional provincialisms, forming in the aggregate 59,000 words in the colloquial tongue of the lower classes, which can, for the chief part, produce proofs of legitimate origin."

* Preface to Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, p. xxvi.

Set down as Metropolitan.

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Since the above was written, a most important contribution to this department of literature has been made in the publication of "A Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases, Proverbs, and Ancient Customs, from the fourteenth Century. By J. O. Halliwell. 2 vols. 8vo., London, 1847." This admirable work actually contains 50,000 words, a great portion of which are illustrated by extracts from manuscripts. It will be found by most persons to amply supply the place of the numerous separate glossaries for studying the dialects of England, while it affords indispensable assistance for the correct understanding of the early writers.

As it does not fall within the scope of these inquiries to discuss the languages with which the English bears a relationship, we shall pass over these, and come at once to the Anglo-Saxon. This forms the basis of the English language, and is to be considered as the mother-tongue, upon which many words and phrases from other languages, at successive periods, during a space of fourteen centuries, have been engrafted.

The Saxons brought their language into Britain in the year 449, when the invasion under Hengist took place. What the language was at this period it is impossible to show, as no writings of the time have come down to us. It probably approached nearer to its immediate progenitor, the Low German and Mœso-Gothic, than the form it assumed several centuries later, when we first find written documents.*

The large number of invaders who followed Hengist compelled the ancient inhabitants to retire; and in about a century the whole country was formed into a Saxon kingdom, wherein their language took the place of the Celtic. This language, thus introduced and so firmly established, has been called pure Saxon by the learned Dr. Hickes in his "Thesaurus Veterum Linguarum Septentrionalium."

The languages of the Angles and Saxons were closely allied to each other. In fact, from a comparison of the earliest speci-

* It is true that the celebrated Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf is said by some writers to be contemporary with Hengist. But Mr. Bosworth states that "the poem contained in the Cottonian MS., British Museum, is not so old. There occur in it Christian allusions which fix this text at least at a period subsequent to A. D. 597."

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mens that have come down to us, it is evident that they were merely dialects of the same tongue, spoken by peoples living contiguous to each other. The other Gothic invaders or colonists of Britain, who have left traces of their language, are the Jutes of Jutland and the Friesians of Friesland.

The Danes made their first descent on the English coast in 787, and were soon repelled. Successive invasions followed, and while Charlemagne compelled them to retreat before his victorious armies, they sought a refuge in Britain, laying waste the country and plundering wherever they came. The Saxons always got rid of them as soon as possible, either by force of arms or contributions of money. Yet, in many instances, they established colonies, and after 230 years of warfare they succeeded in raising a Danish king to the throne of England in the year 1017. His reign, however, was short; for in 24 years the Danish dynasty was extinct, and a Saxon king again succeeded.

This is the period where Dr. Hickes places the second stage of the Anglo-Saxon language, being that in which it was affected by the Danish invasions, receiving new words or dialectical changes. Mr. Forby, in his remarks on the dialect of East Anglia, says that no part of England was more completely overrun or longer occupied than this; but he denies that a number of words sufficiently large was imported to give a new color and character to the Saxon tongue.*

"The French element appeared in our language with the battle of Hastings (A. D. 1066), perhaps in a slight degree during the reign of Edward the Confessor."† It is the dialect spoken in the northern parts of France and denominated Norman French, which has had the greatest influence upon the English language.

* Forby's Introd. to the Vocab. of East Anglia, p. 31.

Latham on the English Language, p. 45. 1st edit.

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Dialects originate in various ways. First, by the proximity of nations speaking different languages, in which case many words and phrases are borrowed from one into the other; witness the Scotch and Irish dialects of the English. Secondly, by migrations. This is the most fruitful and permanent source of dialects. We see its effects in the English language; for the immigration of various nations into Great Britain from the Saxons down to the period of the Norman conquest are yet distinctly marked in the dialects of that country.

In the United States it is easy to point out causes, which, in the course of a few generations, will materially affect the English language in the particular districts of country were those influences are at work. Dialects will spring u as marked as those of Great Britain. A free intercourse may in some cases check the permanency of these dialects; but in those parts of the country aside from the great thoroughfares, where a dialect has once become firmly established, a thousand years will not suffice to eradicate it.

The State of New York was originally settled by the Dutch. The number of their colonists was never large, nor did they extend their settlements beyond the valley of the Mohawk and lands adjacent; yet we find even in this thickly settled State, after a lapse of two hundred years, that they have left evident traces on our spoken language. In the cities of New York and Albany many Dutch words have become incorporated into the common speech. In some of the inland villages of Dutch origin, the inhabitants still use the language of their fathers; and there are even individuals who never spoke any other.

The words so adopted by us embrace geographical names,--a class of words which the first colonists of a country or the primitive inhabitants themselves generally leave to their posterity or to the subsequent occupants. Many of the other words which the Dutch have left us are terms belonging to the kitchen. These have been preserved and handed down by cooks and domes-

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tic servants, until from constant use they are become familiar to all. Among these terms are cooky, crullers, olykoke, spack and epplejees, rullichies, kohlslaa, pit.

The terms for various playthings, holidays, &c., preserve among children their original Dutch names; as scup, hoople, pweewee, pile, pinkster, paas. Other words confined to children are pinky, terawchy.

Articles of wearing apparel in some instances retain their Dutch names; as clockmutch.

Besides these there are terms the use of which is not confined to the districts originally colonized from Holland, but has been extended to New England and several of the Northern States; such as stoop, a porch, boss, a master-workman.

If a few Dutch colonists mingled with the English have been able to engraft so many words on our language, what may we expect from the hundreds of thousands of Germans in the State of Pennsylvania? There the German language will doubtless exist for centuries; for, although they are situated in the midst of an English-speaking population far more numerous than themselves, and although the government and laws are conducted through the English language, still the tendency of a people of common origin to cling together,--the publication of newspapers, almanacs, and books in German,--and the cultivation to some extent of German literature, will tend to preserve the idiom and nationality of the people. It is true the language is already much corrupted, and in the course of time it must give way to the English; but it will leave behind it an almost imperishable dialect as a memento of its existence. In the State of Ohio, where there are large settlements of Germans, a similar result must follow.

In the State of Illinois is a colony of Norwegians. These people before coming to America sent out an agent, who selected and purchased for them a large tract of land in one section of that State. They were accompanied by their clergyman and schoolmaster. They are thus kept together, and will for a long time preserve their language and nationality. But it must also eventually give way, after engrafting on the English language in that vicinity a Norwegian dialect.

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There are large settlements of Welsh emigrants in the States of Pennsylvania and New York. In the latter, in Oneida county, one may travel for miles and hear nothing but the Welsh language. They have their newspapers and magazines in their native tongue, and support many churches wherein their language alone is preached. The Welsh, however, are not in sufficient numbers, nor are they sufficiently isolated to retain for any length of time their native tongue; neither can they produce any sensible dialectical change in our language, owing to the great difference between it and their own. They will, however, add some words to it.

In the State of Louisiana, which was colonized by the French, and Florida, which was colonized by the Spaniards, there are many words of foreign origin, scarcely known in the Northern States. The geographical divisions, the names of rivers, mountains, bays; the peculiarities of soil and climate; all that relates to the cultivation of the earth, the names of fishes, birds, fruits, vegetables, coins, &c., &c., retain to a great extent the names given them by the first possessors of the country. The same class of words is preserved in Lower Canada, where they were originally given by the French. They are now adopted by the English, and will for ever remain in use. Among the words of French origin are cache, calaboose, bodette, bayou, sault, levee, crevasse, habitan, charivari.

The Spanish colonists in Florida, and our intercourse with Mexico and the Spanish main, have been the means of introducing a few Spanish words. Among these are canyon, cavortin, chaparral, pistareen, rancho, vamos.

The Indian terms in our language, as might be supposed, are numerous. First, as to geographical names. These abound in every State in the Union, though more in some States than in others. In New England, particularly o the coast, Indian names are very common. Nearly all the rivers, bays and prominent landmarks bear them, as Housatonic, Connecticut, Quinnebaug, Pawcatuck, Merrimack, Kennebec, Penobscot, Narraganset, Passamaquoddy, &c. In other parts of the country too the rivers retain their aboriginal names, as the Mississippi, Ohio,

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Susquehanna, Roanoake, Altamaha, Chattahoochie, Alabama, &c., &c. And the same may be said of the great lakes, nearly all the bays, mountains, and numerous geographical divisions and localities. Many of the aboriginal names, however, have been discarded for others less appropriate. In New England the towns and villages were chiefly named after the town in England from which the early colonists emigrated. In the State of New York there is a strange anomaly in the names of places. Before the Revolution the people seemed to prefer the aboriginal names; not only the rivers, lakes, hills, &c., but many of the towns received them. After the war, the names of distinguished statesmen and soldiers were applied to the new counties and towns.

The great perversions of the English language arise from two opposite causes. One of them is the introduction of vulgarisms by uneducated people, who not having the command of proper words to express their ideas, invent others for the purpose. These words continue among this class, are transmitted by them to their children, and thus become permanent and provincial. They are next seized upon by stump-speakers at political meetings, because they have an influence and are popular with the masses. Next we hear them on the floor of Congress and in our halls of legislation. Quoted by the newspapers, they become familiar to all, and take their place in the colloquial language of the whole people. Lexicographers now secure them and give them a place in their dictionaries; and thus they become firmly engrafted on our language. The study of lexicography will show that this process has long been going on in England, and doubtless other languages are subject to similar influences.

But the greatest injury to our language arises from the perversion of legitimate words and the invention of hybrid and other inadmissable expressions by educated men, and particularly by the clergy. This class is the one, above all others, which ought to be the conservators rather than the pervertors of language. It is nevertheless a fact which cannot be denied, that many strange and barbarous words to which our ears are gradually becoming familiar, owe to them their origin and intro-

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duction; among them may be mentioned such verbs as to fellowship, to difficult, to eventuate, to doxologize, to happify, to donate, &c., &c.

Political writers have made and are constantly making large additions to our stock of words and phrases. Alex. Hamilton's writings abound in newly coined expressions; many of which have been adopted by Dr. Webster, and have a place in his dictionary. But few, however, have come into general use, as his writings have not been widely diffused, and there is nothing to recommend them for adoption by scholars. Judge Story has contributed his share of new words; but as they are confined to legal treatises and works on the Constitution, they can never seriously affect the language.

Writers of political articles in the newspapers, stump-orators, and the members of legislative bodies, have added much to the English vocabulary. This class of words, though not remarkable for their elegance, are often expressive and become more widely known than other classes. In many instances, however, their existence is but short. They often spring up with a party; and as the parties become extinct, or give place to new ones, the terms which express their peculiar ideas or doctrines likewise fall out of use. In this class may be included such terms as Old Hunker, Bucktail, Federalist, Barnburner, Loco-foco, Young Democracy, Democratic Republican, Native American, Nullifier, Nullification, Coon, Coonery, &c.

There are words, however, in this class, whose origin has grown out of our peculiar institutions, and which consequently are of a permanent nature. The origin of some of these is involved in obscurity, while that of others is well known. Sometimes a little incident trivial in itself has brought into existence words which are extremely expressive, and which will remain as long as our institutions exist. In this class we find Caucus, Buncombeor Bunkum, Congress, to Lobby, Mileage, Gubernatorial, General Court, General Assembly, President's and Governor's Messages, Senatorial, &c., &c.

The peculiar physical features of the country--its animals, productions, aborigines, forest life, &c.--have been a most fruitful source, from which has sprung perhaps the largest

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number of new words, as necessary and useful to ourselves as any derived from our Saxon ancestors. These terms are not used in England, for the simple reason that there they are not wanted. Although I cannot agree with Dr. Webster, that "we rarely find a new word introduced into a language which is entirely useless,"--for there are unquestionably thousands of words encumbering our dictionaries which might well be dispensed with,--yet there is no doubt that, in most instances, "the use of new terms is dictated by necessity or utility; sometimes to express shades of difference in signification, for which the language did not supply a suitable term; sometimes to express a combination of ideas by a single word, which otherwise would require a circumlocution. These benefits, which are often perceived, as it were, instinctively by a nation, recommend such words to common use, till the cavils of critics are silenced by the weight of authority,"--Letter to J. Pickering, p. 7.

Were we to classify the periods when names were applied to places in the State of New York, for example, we would call that in which the Indian names were applied, the Aboriginal period. This is as far back as it would be safe for ordinary mortals to go, leaving the "ante-diluvian" period to the second sight of such seers as Mr. Rafinesque.*

The Indian names seem to have prevailed till the revolution. Then came a burst of patriotism among the settlers, many of whom doubtless had served in the war, and every new place was christened with the names of the warriors and statesmen of the day. Thus arose Washington county, Washington village, and Washington hollow; Jefferson county, village, lake, &c. The State of New York has thus perpetuated, in her towns and villages, the names of Adams, Jay, La Fayette, Hamilton, Madison, Pinckney, Putnam, Pulaski, Schuyler, De Kalb, Steuben, Sullivan, Gates, Wayne, &c. This may well be styled the Patriotic period. But New York appreciated also the military and naval geniuses of other countries, for we find a Nelson, a Moreau, a Waterloo, &c. within her borders. The names of statesmen and generals did not suffice for the patriotism of our early pioneers, for we find interspersed among

* See Introduction to History of Kentucky.

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them the names of Freedom, Freetown, Freeport, Independence, Liberty, Victory, Hopewell, Harmony, Concord, &c.

Next comes the Classical period; for by what other term could we designate a period when towns were christened by the names of such men as Homer, Virgil, Solon, Ovid, Cato, Brutus, Pompey, Tully, Cicero, Aurelius, Scipio, Ulysses, Seneca, Hannibal, Hector, Romulus, Lysander, Manlius, Camillus, and Marcellus; or of such places as Athens, Sparta, Troy, Corinth, Pharsalia, Palmyra, Utica, Smyrna, Rome, and Carthage.

Testimony to the piety (to say nothing of the good taste) of our forefathers is also afforded by the occurrence of such names as Eden, Babylon, Sodom, Jerusalem, Jericho, Hebron, Goshen, Bethany, Bethpage, Bethlehem, Sharon, &c. There are towns named after nearly ever country in Europe, as Norway, Sweden, Denmark (with a Copenhagen adjoining), Russia, Greece, Italy, Sardinia, Holland, Wales, as well as after their principal cities. There is a town of Mexico, Canton, Peru, Delhi, Cairo, China, Cuba. Distinguished men in English history, as Milton, Addison, Dryden, Scott, Byron, Chesterfield, Marlborough, Junius, have towns christened with their names. But little fondness is exhibited for dramatic authors, as the names of the greatest of them all has been forgotten. Not even a pond, a hollow, or a swamp has been honored with the name of Shakspeare. If we were to classify all the names of places in the State of New York, we should be puzzled for a place to put the names of Painted Post, Oxbow, Halfmoon, Owl Pond, Oyster Bay, Mud Creek, Cow Neck, Mosquito Cove, and the like. The name of Pennyan is said to have been manufactured by the first settlers, part of whom were from Pennsylvania and the rest from New England, by taking the first syllable from "Pennsylvania," and the last from "Yankee."

Now the Mexican war is over, we shall doubtless have a large fund of names to use in our newly acquired territories, and the new States at the West. The old generals of the revolution will be passed by, and the span-new heroes of this war will be handed down to the admiration of posterity in the metamorphosed shape of cities, towns; and villages, yet to come into

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existence. As the simplicity of the revolutionary period no longer remains, the plain surname will not answer now-a-days; but the love of glory and the love of magniloquence may both be gratified in such euphonious compounds as Quitmanville, Pillowtown, and Polkopolis!

The class of words which owe their origin to circumstances or productions peculiar to the United States, such as backwoods, backwoodsmen, breadstuffs, barrens, bottoms, buffalo-robe, cane-brake, cypress-brake, clapboard, corn broom, corn-shucking, clearing, deadening, diggings, dug-out, flat boat, husking, pine barrens, prairie, prairie dogs, prairie hen, shingle, sawyer, salt lick, savannah, snag, sleigh, &c., are necessary additions to the language.

The metaphorical and other odd expressions used first at the West, and afterwards in other parts of the country, often originate in some curious anecdote or event, which is transmitted from mouth to mouth, and soon made the property of all. Political writers and stump speakers perform a prominent part in the invention and diffusion of these phrases. Among these may be mentioned, to cave in, to acknowledge the corn, to flash in the pan, to bark up the wrong tree, to pull up stakes, to be a caution, to fizzle out, to flat out, to fix his flint, to be among the missing, to give him Jessy, to see the elephant, to fly around, to tucker out, to use up, to walk into, to mizzle to, to absquatulate, to cotton, to hifer, &c., &c.

Our people, particularly those who belong to the West and South, are fond of using intensive and extravagant epithets, both as adjectives and adverbs, as awful, powerful, monstrous, dreadful, mighty, almighty, all-fired, &c.

The words bankable, boatable, mailable, mileage, are well formed and useful terms which have been generally adopted by those who have occasion to make use of them. But the words dubersome, disremember, decedent, docity, cannot be called useful or necessary additiosn to our language.

The Indian element in our language, or rather the Indian words which have become adopted in it, consist, 1st. Of geographical names. 2d. Of the names of various animals, birds, and fishes. 3d. Of fruits and cereals; particularly the several pre-

p. xxiii

parations of the latter for eating. Thus from Indian corn, we have samp, hominy, and supawn; from the manioc plant, mandioca and tapioca. 4th. Such articles known to and used by the Indians, which the Europeans did not possess, as canoe, hammock, tobacco, moccasin, pemmican; also, barbecue, hurricane, pow-wow.

The Indian names of animals, fishes, and reptiles, are generally local. Thus a fish may be known by different names in Boston, New York, and Delaware Bay, as scup, paugie, and scuppaug.

There is a diversity in the pronunciation of certain words in different parts of the United States, which is so perceptible that a native of these particular districts may be at once recognised by a person who is observant in these matters. Residents of the city of New York are, perhaps, less marked in their pronunciation and use of words, than the residents of any other city or State, the reason of which is obvious. The population is so fluctuating, so many people form every part of the country, as well as from England, Scotland, and Ireland, are congregated here, who are in daily contact with each other, that there is less chance for any idiom or peculiarity of speech to grow up. The large number of educated men in New England, her admirable schools and higher institutions of education, have had a powerful influence in moulding the language of her people. Yet, notwithstanding this fact, in Boston and other towns in Massachusetts, there exist some glaring errors in the vulgar speech. There are peculiarities also to be observed in the literary language of the Bostonians. The great extent to which the scholars of New England have carried the study of the German language and literature for some years back, added to a very general neglect of the old master-pieces of English composition, have had the effect of giving to the writings of many of them an artificial, unidiomatic character, which has an expressibly unpleasant effect to those who are not habituated to it.

The agricultural population who live in the interior of New England, have a strongly marked provincial dialect, by which they may be distinguished from the people of every other part of the Union. The chief peculiarity is a drawling pronuncia-

p. xxiv

tion, sometimes accompanied by a speaking through the nose, as eend for end, dawg for dog, Gawd for God, &c. Before the sounds ow and oo, they often insert a short i, which we will represent by the letter y; as kyow for cow, vyow for vow, tyoo for too, dyoo for do, &c. &c. The numerous words employed in New England, which are not heard in other parts of the country, are mostly genuine old words still provincial in the North of England; very few are of indigenous origin.

The chief peculiarity in the pronunciation of the Southern and Western people is the giving of a broader sound than is proper to certain vowels; as whar for where, thar for there, bar for bear.

In the following table of words, incorrectly pronounced, such as belong to New England are designated by the letters N. E.; those exclusively Western, by the letter W.; the Southern words, by S.; the rest are common to various parts of the Union. In this attempt at classification there are doubtless errors and imperfections; for an emigrant from Vermont to Illinois would introduce the provincialisms of his native district into his new residence. [Transcriber's note: Bartlett uses the long i twice in this list; I've used special html characters for the following: pronunciation of "hoist" is "h long-i st"; pronunciation for "joist" is "j long-i st."]

arter       for after,          delightsome   for delightful.
ary          "  either,         drownded       "  drown'd,
attackted    "  attack'd,       druv           "  drove, W.
anywheres    "  anywhere,       dubous         "  dubious,
bachelder    "  bachelor,       eend           "  end.
bagnet       "  bayonet,        everywheres    "  everywhere,
bar          "  bear, W.        gal            "  girl,
becase       "  because,        gin            "  give,
bile         "  boil,           git            "  get,
cheer        "  chair,          gineral        "  general,
chimbly      "  chimney,        guv            "  gave,
cupalo       "  cupola,         gownd          "  gown,
cotch'd      "  caught,         har            "  hair, W.
critter      "  creature,       hath           "  hearth, S.
curous       "  curious,        hender         "  hinder,
dar          "  dare, W.        hīst           "  hoist,
darter       "  daughter,       hum            "  home, N. E.
deu          "  do.  N. E.      humbly         "  homely, N. E.

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hull        for whole, W.       sen           for since,
ile          "  oil,            shay           "  chaise, N. E.
innemy       "  enemy,          shet           "  shut, S.
janders      "  jaundice,       sistern        "  sisters, W.
jest         "  just,           sich           "  such,
Jeems        "  James,          sot            "  sat, N. E.
jine         "  join,           sorter         "  sort of,
jīst         "  joist,          stan           "  stand, N. E.
kittle       "  kettle,         star,          "  stair, W.
kiver        "  cover,          stun           "  stone, N. E.
larn         "  learn,          stiddy         "  steady, N. E.
larnin       "  learning,       spettacle      "  spectacle,
lives        "  lief,           spile,         "  spoil, N. E.
leetle       "  little,         squinch        "  quench,
nary         "  neither,        streech        "  stretch, W.
ourn         "  ours,           suthin         "  something,
perlite      "  polite,         tech           "  touch,
racket       "  rocket,         tend           "  attend,
rale         "  real,           tell'd         "  told, N. E.
rench        "  rince, [sic]    thar           "  there, W.
rheumatiz    "  rheumatism,     timersome      "  timorous,
ruff         "  roof, N. E.     tossel         "  tassel,
sarcer       "  saucer,         umberell       "  umbrella,
sarce        "  sauce,          varmint        "  vermin, W.
sarve        "  serve,          wall           "  well, N. E.
sass         "  sauce, N. E.    whar           "  where, W.
sassy        "  saucy,          yaller         "  yellow,
scace        "  scarce, N. E.   yourn          "  yours.
scass        "  scarce, W.

Before closing these observations on American provincialisms, I should do injustice to previous writers on the same subject, not to speak of their works. The earliest of these, as far as my knowledge extends, is that of Dr. Witherspoon. In a series of essays, entitled "The Druid," which appeared originally in a periodical publication in 1761, he devotes numbers 5, 6, and 7 of these essays, about 20 pages in all, to Americanisms, perversions of language in the United States, cant phrases, &c. They were afterwards published in his collected works, in 4

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vols. 8vo., Philadelphia, 1801, and may be found in the fourth volume.

The most important work of the kind is that of the late Hon. John Pickering. He began with an article in the "Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences," Boston. This was soon after enlarged and published in a separate volume entitled "A Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases which have been supposed to be peculiar to the United States of America. To which is prefixed an Essay on the present state of the English Language in the United States." Boston: 1816. Pp. 206. (Containing about 520 words.) This valuable and interesting work received much attention, and in the following year appeared a pamphlet, entitled "A Letter to the Hon. John Pickering, on the Subject of his Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases, supposed to be peculiar to the United States." By Noah Webster. 8vo. Boston: 1817. Pp. 69.

In the transactions of the Albany Institute, 1830, vol. I., is an article entitled "Notes on Mr. Pickering's Vocabulary, &c., with Preliminary Observations." By T. Romeyn Beck. In Mr. Sherwood's "Gazetteer of Georgia," is a glossary of words provincial in the Southern States. The latest work on provincialisms, but chiefly of errors in grammar, is "A Grammatical Corrector, or Vocabulary of the Common Errors of Speech; Alphabetically Arranged, Corrected, and Explained for the Use of Schools and Private Individuals." By Seth T. Hurd. 12mo. Philadelphia: 1847.*

As the charge has been frequently made against us by English critics of perverting our vernacular tongue, and of adding useless words to it, it will not be out of place to state here, that in the belief of the author, the English language is in no part of

* In preparing this work, I have examined all the English provincial glossaries, and the principal English dictionaries; which it was necessary to do in order to know what words and phrases were still provincial in England. Many of the facts in the introductory essay on dialects, have been drawn from similar essays appended to the several glossaries. But I am chiefly indebted to the enlarge preface in Dr. Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, which presents the best historical analysis extant of the English language; and to the admirable and later work of Professor Latham, "The English Language," London 1841, which is unquestionably the most valuable work on English Philology and Grammar, which has yet appeared.

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the world spoken in greater purity by the great mass of the people than in the United States. In making this assertion he does not depend wholly on his own observation; it has repeatedly been made by intelligent Englishmen who have travelled in the United States, and had an opportunity or judging. On this subject, the author of an English work, entitled the "Backwoods of Canada," has the following judicious remarks:

"With the exception of some few remarkable expressions, and an attempt at introducing fine words, the lower order of Yankees have a decided advantage over our English peasantry in the use of grammatical language; they speak better English than you will hear from persons of the same class in any part of England, Ireland, or Scotland; a fact that we should be unwilling to allow at home."--P. 83.

The Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, President of Princeton College, born and educated in Scotland, made a similar remark in 1784. In an essay on language, he says:

"The vulgar in America speak much better than the vulgar in Great Britain, for a very obvious reason, viz. that being much more unsettled, and moving frequently from place to place, they are not so liable to local peculiarities either in accent or phraseology."--Works, Vol. IV. p. 281.

We cannot say as much, however, in favor of our literary dialect. The ripest scholars among us acknowledge the fact, that in the best authors and public speakers of Great Britain, there is a variety in the choice of expressions, a correctness in the use of the particles, and an idiomatic vigor and freshness of style to which few or none of our writers can attain. The unfortunate tendency to favor the Latin at the expense of the Teutonic element of our language, which social and educational causes have long tended to foster, has in this country received an additional impulse from the great admixture of foreigners in our population. It is not likely that the pure old idiomatic English style can ever be restored in this country; but there is no good reason to doubt, that the fusion of the present rather heterogeneous elements of which our society is composed, will result in the production of a style and a literature which will also have their beauties and merits, although fashioned after a somewhat different model.

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