[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)

[To previous page]

[p. 1]





ABISSELFA. A, by itself, A. It will be recollected by many, that in the olden time, the first letter of the alphabet was denominated "abisselfa" when it formed a syllable by itself, as in the word able. The scholar, in spelling the word, was taught to say, "a, by itself, a, (rapidly, abisselfa,) b, l, e, able." We derive this word and the use of it from England, where it is used in Suffolk County.--Moor's Glossary.

ABOVE-BOARD. In open sight; without artifice, or trick. "A figurative expression," says Johnson, "borrowed from gamesters, who, when they put their hands under the table, are exchanging their cards."

It is the part of an honest man to deal above-board, and without tricks.--L'Estrange.

ABOVE ONE'S BEND. Out of one's power; beyond reach. A common expression in the Western States.

I shall not attempt to describe the curiosities at Peale's Museum; it is above my bend.--Crockett, Tour down East, p.64.

ABSQUATULATE. To run away, to abscond. Used only in familiar language.

W---- was surrendered by his bail, who was security for his appearance at court, fearing he was about to absquatulate.--N. Y. Herald, 1847.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE CORN. An expression of recent origin, which has now become very common. It means to confess, or acknowledge a charge or imputation. The following story is told as the origin of the phrase:

Some years ago, a raw customer, from the upper country, determined

p. 2

to try his fortune at New Orleans. Accordingly he provided himself with two flat-boats--one laden with corn and the other with potatoes--and down the river he went. The night after his arrival he went up town, to a gambling house. Of course he commenced betting, and his luck proving unfortunate, he lost. When his money was gone, he bet his "truck;" and the corn and potatoes followed the money. At last, when completely cleaned out, he returned to his boats at the wharf; when the evidences of a new misfortune presented themselves. Through some accident or other, the flat-boat containing the corn was sunk, and a total loss. Consoling himself as well as he could, he went to sleep, dreaming of gamblers, potatoes, and corn.

It was scarcely sunrise, however, when he was disturbed by the "child of chance," who had arrived, to take possession of the two boats as his winnings. Slowly awakening from his sleep, our hero, rubbing his eyes, and looking the man in the face, replied: "Stranger, I acknowledge the corn--take 'em; but the potatoes you can't have, by thunder."--Pittsburgh Com. Advertiser.

The Evening Mirror very naively comes out and acknowledges the corn, admits that a demand was made, &c.--New York Herald, June 27, 1846.

Mr. Tyler, in reply (to certain charges), boldly acknowledges the corn, and says that the cards of invitation were signed by him, &c.--New York Tribune, Jan. 26, 1845.

Enough, said the Captain. I'm hoaxed, I'm gloriously hoaxed. I acknowledge the corn.--Pickings from the Picayune, p.80.

ACCOUNTABILITY. The state of being liable to answer for one's conduct; liable to give account, and to receive reward or punishment for actions.--Webster. This word, so much used by our divines, is not to be found in any English Dictionary except the recent one of Mr. Knowles. Mr. Todd, in his additions to Johnson's Dictionary, has accountableness, the state of being accountable.

Reason and liberty imply accountableness.--Duncan's Logic.

We would use accountability instead, as in the following example:

The awful idea of accountability.--Robert Hall.

ADAM'S ALE. Water. A colloquial expression, used both in England and America.

To slake his thirst, he took a drink
Of Adam's Ale from river's brink.--Reynard the Fox.

TO ADMIRE. 1. To like very much. This verb is much and very absurdly used in New England in expressions like the following: "I should admire to see the President."

p. 3

TO ADMIRE. 2. To wonder at; to be affected with slight surprise.--Ray. In New England, particularly in Maine, this word is used in this sense. Some of the old English writers so employed it.

I perceive these lords
At this rencontre do so much admire
That they devour their reason.--Shakspeare.

ADOBIES. (Sp. adobes.) Sun-baked brick used for building houses, fortifications, and making inclosures on the Western frontier of the United States.

TO ADVOCATE. (Lat. advoco. Fr. avocasser.) To plead, to support, to defend.--Todd. To plead in favor of; to defend by argument before a tribunal; to support or vindicate.--Webster.

This word has been particularly noticed by recent Lexicographers; as it is one of that class which has fallen into disuse in England, and, by English and American critics not familiar with its history, has been set down as an Americanism. It is a useful word, and has long been employed by our best writers.

In speaking of this word, Mr. Boucher observes in his Glossary, "that it has been said that it is an improvement of the English language, which has been discovered by the people of the United States of North America, since their separation from Great Britain;" but that it can be shown to be a very common Scottish word. Mr. Todd, the learned editor of Johnson's Dictionary, is also unwilling to allow this concession to us, and says, "It is an old English word, employed by one of our finest and most manly writers; and if the Americans affect to plume themselves on this pretended improvement of our language, let them, as well as their abettors, withdraw the unfounded claim to discovery, in turning to the prose writings of Milton. In the Dictionaries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, as in the Latin of Thomas, the Spanish of Minshew, the Italian of Florio, and the French of Colgrave, advoco, advogar, avocare, and avocasser, are rendered, not to advocate, but "to play the advocate."

This is the only thing distinct and sensible that has been advocated.--Burke, Speech on the Reform of Representatives.

p. 4

"Though this verb is found in Milton," says Mr. Pickering, "yet it does not appear to have been in common use in England, either at the time lie wrote, or since that period. It has very recenly been adopted by a few other writers, and seems now to be getting into use in England." Dr. Webster makes no remarks as to the legitimacy of the word, but gives several examples of its use. From the vocabulary of Mr. Pickering, the Glossary of Mr. Boucher, and the Dictionary of Dr. Webster, the following illustrations have been selected.

The members of the College of Justice have this privilege, that they cannot be pursued before any inferior judge; and if they be, the lords will advocate the cause to themselves.--Sir Geo. Mackenzie, Institutes of Law.

How little claim, persons who advocate this sentiment, really possess to be considered Calvinists, will appear from the following quotation.--Mackenzie's Life of Calvin.

The most eminent orators were engaged to advocate his cause.--Mitford.

But from his want of sobermindedness, we cannot always prove his earnestness in the cause he advocated.--D'Israeli, Quarrels of Authors.

From American writers are the following examples:

Some are taking unwearied pains to disparage the motive of those Federalists who advocate the equal support of, &c.--Alex. Hamilton.

I shall on a future occasion examine impartially, and endeavor to ascertain precisely the true value of this opinion, which is so warmly advocated by all the great orators of antiquity.--J. Q. Adams, Rhetoric.

The idea of a legislature consisting of a single branch, though advocated by some, was generally reprobated.--Ramsey, Hist. of S. Carolina.

This seems to be a foreign and local dialect, and cannot be advocated by any person who understands correct English.--Webster, Diss. on the English Language, p.111.

AFEARD. (Ang. Saxon afered.) Afraid; frightened; terrified.--Todd's Johnson.

This is a good old English word, though now considered a vulgarism; and as common in ancient times, as afraid is at present. It is provincial in various parts of England, and among uneducated persons in the United States.

A gret ok he coolde breide a doun, as it a smal gerdo were,
And here forth in his honde, that fole forte afere.--Robt. of Gloucester.

With scalled browes blake, and pilled bend;
Of his visage children were sore aferd?--Chaucer, Cant. Tales.

p. 5

Hal! art thou not horribly afeard?--Shakspeare, Henry IV.

Chin as woolly as the peach,
And his lips should kissing teach,
Till he cherished too much beard,
And made love or me afear'd.--Ben Jonson, Her Man described.

It has been supposed, that in Chaucer's time, there was a difference between the significations of afeard and afraid, as in one instance he employs both in the same verse.

His wife was neither afeard nor afraid.--Canterbury Tales.

The following are examples of the use of the word by American writers:

I an't afeared of the old Harry himself, but I vum! I never dare speak to Rhody.--Margaret, p.87.

I promised when I caught him, to give him a licking, and I was afear'd I'd have to break the peace.--J. C. Neal, Sketches.

AFORE. (Sax. æforan.) Before; sooner in time; in front; rather than.--Todd's Johnson.

This old word is gone entirely out of use in elegant language. It is now provincial in England, and in the United States is used only by the illiterate.

If your diligence be not speedy, I shall be there afore you.--Shakspeare[,] K. Lear.

Approaching nigh, he roared high afore
His body monstrous, horrible, and vast.--Spenser, F. Queen.
           KEEP.  Afore I'll
    Endure the tyranny of such a tongue
    And such a pride--
Pol.  What will you do?
Keep.  Tell truth.--Ben Jonson.

AFOREHAND. (Old English.) Beforehand. Aforehand in business, i. e. successful.

Once good English, now a provincialism.

For it will be said, that in the former times, whereof we have spoken, Spain was not so mighty as now it is; and England, on the other side, was more aforehand in all matters of power.--Bacon, War with Spain.

AFTERCLAPS. Unexpected events happening after an affair is supposed to be at an end.--Todd's Johnson.

Although this is a genuine old English word, it is now seldom heard except in familiar conversation.

p. 6

For the next morrow's meed they closely went,
For fear of afterclaps to prevent.--Spenser, Hub. Tale.

Let that man, who can be so far taken and transported with the present pleasing offers of a temptation, as to overlook those dreadful afterclaps which usually bring up the rear of it.--South, Sermons, VI.

She wyll thee graunt it liberally perhappes;
But for all that, beware of afterclaps.--Sir Thomas More.

AFTER NIGHT. After nightfall; in the evening; as, "A meeting will be held in the court-house after night." This expression is said to be peculiar to Pennsylvania.--Hurd's Grammatical Corrector.

AGY, for ague; fever-nagy, for 'fever and ague;' common among the uneducated, wherever this distressing disease is known.

AHEAD. Originally a sea-term. Farther onward than another.--Johnson.

This word has now become very common, and signifies forward, in advance.

Our banks, being anxious to make money for their stockholders, are probably right to drive ahead, regardless of consequences, &c.--N. Y. Com. Adv. Nov. 29, 1845.

ALBANY BEEF. Sturgeon; a fish which abounds in the Hudson river; so called by the people in the State of New York.

ALEWIFE, plur. alewives. (Indian, aloof. Alosa vernalis, Storer, Massachusetts Rep't.) A fish of the herring kind, abounding in the waters of New England.

The name appears to be an Indian one, though it is somewhat changed, as appears by the earliest account we have of it. In former times, the Indians made use of these fish to manure their lands, as the menhaden are now used. Mr. Winthrop says, "Where the ground is bad or worn out, they put two or three of the fishes called aloofes under or adjacent to each corn-hill; whereby they had many times a double crop to what the ground would otherwise have produced. The English have learned the like husbandry, where these aloofes come up in great plenty."--Philosophical Trans. 1678.

ALIENAGE. The state of being an alien.--Webster.

Neither this nor the following word is to be found in the

p. 7

English dictionaries, except the recent one of Mr. Knowles. They are common, however, in professional books.

Where he sues an executor, &c., the plaintiff's alienage is no plea.--Laires' Pleading on Assumpsit, p. 687.

To restore estates, forfeitable on account of alienage.--Chancellor Kent.

ALIENISM. The state of being an alien.--Webster, Knowles.

The prisoner was convicted of murder; on his arraignment he suggested his alienism, which was admitted.--2 Johnson's Reports, 381.

The law was very gentle in the construction of the disability of alienism.--Chancellor Kent.

ALLEY. (Lat. albus, white.) An ornamented marble, used by boys for shooting in the ring, &c.; also called in England, a taw. It is often made of white marble or of painted clay.

ALL-FIRED. Very, in a great degree. A low American word.

The first thing I know'd, my trowsers were plastered all over with hot molasses, which burnt all-fired bad.--Maj. Jones's Courtship, p. 87.

Old Haines sweating like a pitcher with ice-water in it, and looking all-fired tired.--Porter's Tales of the Southwest, p.50.

I was woked up by a noise in the street; so I jumps up in an all-fired hurry, ups with the window, and outs with my head.--Sam Slick.

You see the fact is, Squire (said the Hooshier), they had a mighty deal to say up in our parts about Orleans, and how all-fired easy it is to make money in it; but it's no ham and all hominy, I reckon.--Pickings from the Picayune, p.47.

I'm dying--I know I am! My mouth tastes like a rusty cent. The doctor will charge an all-fired price to cure me.--Knickerbocker Mag. 1845.

ALL OVER. Bearing a resemblance to some particular object. The word is common in familiar language.

The Southern Standard, in noticing Dombey and Son, says: "We have read this work so far with great interest; it is Dickens all over." Meaning that it partakes fully of the character of Dickens's writings.

By the following example it appears that English writers use the word in the same sense. Sir George Simpson, in speaking of the indolence of the Californians, and of the deficiencies in all the comforts of life, says:

The only articles on the bare floor, were some gaudy chairs from the Sandwich Islands. This was California all over; the richest and most influential individual in a professedly civilized country, obliged to borrow the means of sitting from savages.--Journey round the World, Vol. I. p.173.

p. 8

ALL-OVERISH. Neither sick nor well. A low word, used both in England and America.

TO ALLOT UPON. To intend, to form a purpose; as, I allot upon going to Boston. Used by uneducated people in the interior of New England.

TO ALLOW. To acknowledge, to think. Used in a very loose manner like the word guess.

The lady of the cabin seemed kind, and allowed we had better stop where we were.--Carlton, The New Purchase.

ALL SORTS OF. A Southern expression, synonymous with expert, acute, excellent, capital. It answers to the English slang term bang-up. It is a prevalent idiom of low life, and often heard in the colloquial language of the better informed. A man who in New England would be called a curious or a smart fellow, would in the South be called all sorts of a fellow. Sometimes one hears the expression "all sorts of a horse," or, "all sorts of a road."

She was all sorts of a gal--there warn't a sprinklin' too much of her--she had an eye that would make a fellow's heart try to get out of his bosom;--her step was light as a panther's, and her breath sweet as a prairie flower.--Robb, Squatter Life.

ALL-STANDING. Without preparation, suddenly.

This, like many other common expressions, seems to be borrowed from the sea. Thus, a ship in full career, whose course is suddenly checked by striking against a rock, or by a squall of wind, is said to be brought-to all-standing, i.e. with all her sails set and unprepared for stopping. And hence we say, for instance, of a horseman or an orator whose course is suddenly checked, that he is brought up all-standing.

It was no stumble, no pitching head first over a steep precipice; but on the contrary, I walked directly off the giddy height--to use a common expression, went over all-standing.--Kendall's Santa Fé Expedition.

ALL-TO-SMASH. Smashed to pieces. This expression is often heard in low and familiar language. It is an English provincialism. Mr. Halliwell says, that a Lancashire man, telling his master the miil-dam had burst, exclaimed, "Maister, maister, dam's brossen, and aw's-to-smash.--Archaic and Prov. Dictionary.

p. 9

ALL-WINSOME. Winsome is a word used in the north of England, (Ang. Sax. winsum, pleasant,) sweet, pleasant. I have never heard the word, although an American writer thus uses it:

What absence of that anagogical, all-prevalent, all-winsome Brahminism in Christ!--Margaret, p. 258.

ALONE. Sole. The German allein is used in like manner thus, alleinbesitz, sole, exclusive possession; alleinhandel, sole trade, monopoly. Mr. Todd says, the English word was formerly written all-one, and was used in this sense by old writers. Mr. Pickering says, "It is often heard from our pulpits in expressions like the following: The alone God; the alone motive, &c. It is now rarely used, although I heard it in a prayer during the present year (1848). The following examples from English writers cited by Johnson and Pickering show its use:

God, by whose alone power and conversation we all live, and move, and have our being.--Bentley.

The Legislature never pretended to omnipotence; that is the alone attribute of the people.--British Critic, Vol. IX. p. 234.

TO AMALGAMATE. This word, which properly denotes the compounding or mixing of metals, is universally applied in the United States to the mixing of the black and white races.

AMALGAMATION. The mixing or union of the black and white races.

AMAZING. Wonderfully; very, in a great degree. A vulgarism.

Everything in New York on a May-day looks amazin' different, and smells amazin' different, I can tell you.--Maj. Downing, p. 13.

AMAZINGLY. Exceedingly, very much. Used only in colloquial language and applied to trifling things.

Major, I like this 'ere churn amazingly.--Ibid, p. 58.

AMBITION. In North Carolina this word is used instead of the word grudge, as, "I had an ambition against that man." I am credibly informed that it is even used in this manner by educated men.

TO AMBITION. (Fr. ambitionner.) Ambitiously to seek after.--Webster.

This is what I ambition for my own country.--Jefferson's Writings.

p. 10

This word is not common. It is not in the English Dictionaries; yet examples may be found of its use by late English Writers.

On dress occasions, the ladies of the upper ranks despise the mantilla, ambitioning nothing so much as a fashionable French bonnet.--London Spectator, June 7, 1845.

AMENABILITY. State of being amenable or answerable.--Judge Story. Webster.

Not in the English Dictionaries.

AMERICANISM. A way of speaking peculiar to this country.--Witherspoon.

"By Americanism," says Dr. Witherspoon, "I understand a use of phrases or terms, or a construction of sentences, even among persons of rank and education, different from the use of the same terms or phrases, or the construction of similar sentences, in Great Britain. In this sense it is exactly similar in its formation and signification to the word Scotticism."--Works, Vol. IV. p. 82.

TO AMERICANIZE. To render American; to naturalize in America.--Webster.

AMOST. Almost. A vulgarism alike common in England and the United States. E'en amost is often heard in New England.

AMONG, for between. This word is often used when reference is made only to two persons. Ex. "The money was divided among us two."

AMPERSAND. The character &, representing the conjunction and. It is a corruption of "and, per se, and" (and, by itself, and). This expression was formerly very common in this country, but seems now to have gone out of use. It may, however, be retained in the interior, where the modern system of education has not reached. Mr. Halliwell, who notices this word in his Archaic and Prov. Dict'y, says, that it is or was common in England. In Hampshire it is pronounced amperzed, and very often amperze-and. Strutt, in his Sports and Pastimes, mentions an ancient alphabet of the fourteenth century, now in the Harleian Library, at the end of which is "X Y wyth ESED AND per se--Amen."

p. 11

ANGELOLOGY. A discourse on angels; or the doctrine of angelic beings.--Webster.

These questions may easily be answered, by a proper survey of the angelology of the Scripture.--Stuart on the Apocalypse, Vol. 11. p. 397.

ANNULMENT. (Fr. annullement.) The act of annulling.--Pickering's Vocab.

This word was not in any English Dictionary before Todd's edition of Johnson.

The annulment of the belligerent edicts.--Cor. of Sec'y of State to Mr. Pinckney, 1810.

AN'T, or AINT. A common abbreviation in colloquial language for am not and are not. It is often improperly used for is not. It is equally common in England.

ANTAGONIZING. Conflicting, opposing.--Pickering's Vocabulary.

This word, says Mr. Pickering, has been censured by an American critic, in the following passage:

Nor can I forbear to remark the tendency of antagonizing appeals.--John Q. Adams's Letter to H. G. Otis.

The verb is given by Johnson, hut not the participle, nor is it noliced by Webster. Prof. Goodrich has inserted it in his new edition (184S) of Webster's Dictionary.

ANTI-FEDERALIST. "This word was formed about the year 1788, to denote a person of the political party that opposed the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, which was then always spoken of by the name of the Federal Constitution. The word is not now much used; having been superseded by various other names, which have been successively given to the same party."--Pickering's Vocabulary.

ANTI-SLAVERY. Hostile to slavery.

ANTI-MASON. One hostile to masonry or free-masonry.--Worcester.

ANTI-MASONIC. Hostile to masonry.

ANY HOW. At any rate, on any account, in any way.

We have no confidence in cobble-stone pavement for Broadway any how.--New York Tribune, October 25, 1845.

This expression is not peculiar to this country.

All Nelson wanted was to go to Copenhagen; and he said, "Let it be by the the Sound, or by the Belt, or any how."--Nelson's Despatches, Vol. IV.

p. 12

ANY HOW YOU CAN FIX IT. At any rate whatever.

ANY MANNER OF MEANS. An expression much used instead of any means.

TO APE ONE'S BETTERS. To imitate one's superiors.

The negroes are good singers; they are an imitative race, and it is not to be wondered at that in this, as in other things, they ape their betters.--Newspaper.

APPELLATE. Relating to appeals.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, &c. the supreme court shall have original jurisdiction: In all other cases before mentioned, the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction.-Constitut. of the U. States, Art. 3.

The king of France is not the fountain of justice; the judges neither the original nor the appellate are of his nomination.--Burke, Revolution.

For a fuller account of this word, about which there has been much discussion by lexicographers, see Mr. Pickering's Vocabulary, where many authorities are cited. It was first given by Mason in his supplement to Johnson's Dictionary, and was afterwards adopted by Todd.

APPLE BUTTER. A sauce made of apples stewed down in cider. This is generally made in quantity, and kept for use during the winter.

APPLE JACK.} A liquor distilled from cider; also called cider brandy.

APPLE-PIE ORDER. An expression used in familiar conversation, denoting perfect order. It is used alike in England and America.--Halliwell's Dict'y.

As the period for the assembling of Congress approaches, an air of bustling activity is noticeable in everything, from the preparation of the "Message" down to the scrubbing of door-plates. The landladies are putting their lodgings in apple-pie order for the members, &c.--Newspaper.

The ferry-boats are kept running in apple-pie order under the vigilant superintendence of Capt. Woolsey.--New York Tribune.

APPLICANT. A diligent student.--Pickering's Vocab. One who applies himself closely to his studies. A sense of the word common in New England. The English appear to use the word only in the sense of "one who applies for anything," in which sense it is most commonly employed by us.

APPOINTABLE. That may be appointed or constituted; as officers are appointed by the Executive.--Federalist, Webster.

p. 13

TO APPRECIATE. v. a. To raise the value of.--Webster.

This sense of the word is not in any English dictionary except Knowles's, which is quite a recent work.

Lest a sudden peace should appreciate the money.--Ramsay.

The common use of this verb, however, is, as in England, to set a just value on. Also, v. n. to rise in value; as, "the currency of the country appreciates."--Webster.

APPRECIATION. A rising in value; increase of worth or value.--Webster.

This noun, like the verb from which it is derived, is commonly used by us in its appropriate meaning of a just valuation; and this will hereafter be understood of all similar words where a peculiar meaning is assigned to them, unless an express statement is made to the contrary.

TO APPROBATE. (Lat. approbo, to approve.) To express approbation of; to manifest a liking, or degree of satisfaction; to express approbation officially, as of one's fitness for a public trust.--Webster.

Dr. Webster observes that this is a modern word, but in common use in America. Mr. Todd introduces it in his edition of Johnson, from Cockeram's old vocabulary, the definition of which is, to allow, to like. Mr. Todd says it is obsolete.

All things contained in Scripture is approbate by the whole consent of all the clergie of Christendom.--Sir T. Elyot's Governor, fol. 226.

"This word," says Mr. Pickering, "was formerly much used at our colleges, instead of the old English word approve. The students used to speak of having their performances approbated by their instructors. It is now in common use with our clergy as a sort of technical term, to denote a person who is licensed to preach: they would say, such a one is approbated, that is, licensed to preach. It is also common in New England to say of a person, who is licensed by the County Courts to sell spirituous liquors, or to keep a public house, that he is approbated; and the term is adopted in the law of Massachusetts on this subject."--Pickering's Vocabulary.

TO ARGUFY. To import, to have weight as an argument; to argue.

p. 14

This vile word has a place in several of the English glossaries. In this country it is only heard among the most illiterate.

ARK. The common abbreviation for "Arkansas."

ARK. A large boat, used on some of the Western rivers, to transport merchandise. Before the use of steamboats, they were employed on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Dr. Harris thus describes them: "They are made with plank, fastened upon ribs or knees, by wooden bolts. They are from twelve to fifteen feet wide, and from forty to sixty long; carrying, commonly, sixty or eighty tons burden. They float down the stream with the current, and are not worked with oars, except to direct and propel them to the shore. These boats go down the river to New Orleans; and after discharging their cargoes, they are taken apart, and sold for lumber with very little loss."--Tour in Ohio in 1803.

ARY, either. A vulgarism used by the illiterate.

AS GOOD'S GO.} In the phrase, I'd as good's go to New York, instead of "I might as well go to New York." "I'd as good's do this," for, I may as well do this. Only heard among the illiterate.

ASH-HOPPER. A lie cask, or an inverted pymmidal box to contain ashes, resembling a hopper in a mill. They are common in the country, where people make their own soap.

ASSOCIATION. In ecclesiastical affairs, a society of the clergy, consisting of a number of pastors of neighboring churches, united for promoting the interests of religion and the harmony of the churches.--Webster.

ASSOCIATION. In civil affairs, this word is much used at the present day, to denote the principle of uniting the producing classes in societies, for the purpose of obtaining for themselves a larger share of the fruits of their labor.

The citizens of Illinois are well prepared for Association. They are, to a great extent, freed from the prejudices and bigotry which pervade every nook and corner of the older States. There is here a feeling of liberality--a spirit of inquiry, before which spurious Civilization cannot long make headway. We say to all friends of Association, come West. But we

p. 15

say, at the same time, don't come, until you are convinced it is for your interest and the interest of the cause of Association that you should come.--New York Tribune.

We do not claim that our Rules are perfect, but we wish to make them so; being firmly convinced that the Science taught by Fourier will ultimately lead us into true Association, if we follow it as a science, and that we must have some correct rules of progress to govern us during the transition period from Civilization to Association.--Ibid.

ASSOCIATIONAL. Pertaining to an association of clergymen.--Webster.

In order to obtain a license, and afterwards to be admitted to ordination, they (the students in divinity) must, in each case, pass through the Associational or Presbyterian examination.--Quarterly Rev., 1815.

ASSOCIATIONIST. One who advocates the Fourier doctrine of association.

AT, for by. Used in this expression, "Sales at auction."

The English say--"Sales by auction," and this is in analogy with the expressions--Sales by inch of candle; sales by private contract.--Pickering's Vocab.

Sometimes English writers use the word as we do.

Those execrable wretches, who could become purchasers at the auction of their fellow-creatures.--Burke's Reflections.

ATHENÆUM. A building or an apartment, where a library, periodicals, and newspapers are kept for public use, or for a reading room.--Webster.

ATOP. On or at the top, upon. Atop of a horse. A vulgarism common in England and America.

ATTACKTED, for attacked. This corruption is only heard among the most illiterate.

It is common also in the dialect of the lower classes in London.--Pegge's Anecdotes.

ATTITUDINIZE. To assume affected attitudes.--Worcester.

AUSPICATE. (Lat. auspicio.) To foreshow or fotetell the event.--Richardson. This old word, though unnoticed by Johnson, may be found in Holland's translations, Ben Jonson and other early writers. It is but rarely used at the present day.

King Edward therefore presented himself before the strong towne of Berwick, with a mighty haste, there to auspicate his entrance to a conquest of England.--Speed, History of Great Britain.

Would to God I could auspicate good influences.--Webster's Speech.

p. 16

AUTHORESS. A female writer who has printed her compositions.--Jodrell's Philology.

The use of this word has been questioned in England. It is not in Johnson's Dictionary, and as he says, it is not much used. This was sixty years ago. The British Critic, in the year 1793, says of it, "We do not acknowledge the word." Since that time Mr. Todd has inserted it in his edition of Johnson's Dictionary, from Cotgrave, (French, authrice, or autrix, authoress, or actress,) and defines it, "a female efficient." This sense of the word is different from that in which we use it.
O Amarillis, auth'ress of my flame!--Fanshawe, Pasi. Fido.

Albeit, his (Adam's) loss, without God's mercy, was absolutely irrecoveralbe; yet we never find he twitted her as authoress of his fall.--Feltham.

Mrs. Montagu, the justly celebrated authoress of the Essay on the Genius and Writings of our Author.--Steven's Notes, Hamlet.

AUTHORITY. In Connecticut the justices of the peace are denominated the civil authority.--Webster.

Mr. Pickering says, "This word is also used in some of the States in speaking collectively of the professors, &c. of our colleges, to whom the government of those institutions is intrusted."

"The authority required him to give bonds for his good behavior."--Miss H. Adams's Hist. of New England, p. 64.

AVAILED. Dr. Witherspoon notices this word as used in the following example:--"The members of a popular government should be continually availed of the situation and condition of every part."-- Works, Vol. IV. p. 296.

The newspapers sometimes say "an offer" (for instance) "was made but not availed of."

AVAILS. Profits, or proceeds. It is used in New England for the proceeds of goods sold, or for rents, issues, or profits.--Webster.

Expecting to subsist on the bounty of government, rather than on the avails of their own industry.--Stoddard's Louisiana.

It is used in other ports of the country in like manner.

AVERSE. On the use of this word, Mr. Pickering has the following remarks: "American writers, till within some years

p. 17

past, generally employed the preposition to instead of from with this adjective. Dr. Witherspoon thinks, that "as averse properly signifies turned away, it seems an evident improvement to say averse from;" and the Scottish writers generally seem to have preferred this. Dr. Campbell, however, observes, that " the words averse and aversion are more properly construed with to, than with from. The examples in favor of the latter preposition, are, beyond comparison, outnumbered by those in favor of the former. The argument from etymology is here of no value, being taken from the use of another language. If, by the same rule, we were to regulate all nouns and verbs of Latin original, our present syntax would be overturned."--Campbell's Rhetoric. Dr. Webster remarks to the same effect. Mr. Todd says many examples may be brought to show the prevalent use of the word from in connection with averse, before Clarendon; but now the usage of to prevails.

AWFUL, adj. 1. Disagreeable, detestable, ugly.

A word much used among the common people in New England, and not unfrequently among those who are educated. The expression, "an awful-looking woman," is as often heard as "an ugly woman."

The country people of the New England States make use of many quaint expressions in their conversation. Everything that creates surprise is awful with them: "what an awful wind! awful hole! awful hill! awful mouth! awful nose!" &c.--Lambert's Travels in Canada and the U. S.

The practice of moving on the first day of May, with one-half the New-Yorkers, is an awful custom.--Maj. Downing, May-day in N. Y.

AWFUL. Very great, excessive. This sense of the word is peculiar to the West.

Pot-pie is the favorite dish, and woodsmen, sharp set are awful eaters.--Carlton, The New Purchase, vol. I. p. 182.

It is even used in this sense adverbially, and with still greater impropriety, like many other adjectives. Thus we not unfrequently hear such expressions as "an awful cold day."

AWFULLY. Exceedingly, excessively.

The chimneys were awfully given to smoking.--Carlton, New Purchase.

p. 18

We give an example of the same use of this word by a popular English writer.

The Ottoman horseman, raised by his saddle to a great height above the humble level of the back which he bestrides, and using an awfully sharp hit, is able to lift the crest of his nag, &c.--Eöthen, p. 13.

TO AXE. (Ang. Sax. aesian, axian.) To ask.

This word is now considered a vulgarism; though, like many others under the same censure, it is as old as the English language. Among the early writers it was used the same as ask is now. In England it still exists in the colloquial dialect of Norfolk and other counties. A true born Londoner, says Pegge, in his Anecdotes of the English Language, always axes questions, axes pardon, and at quadrilles, axes leave. In the United States it is somewhat used by the vulgar.--Forby's Vocabulary. Richardson's Dic.

And Pilate axide him, art thou Kyng of Jewis? And Jhesus answeride and seide to him, thou seist.--Wiclif, Trans of the Bible.

A poor lazar, upon a tide,
Came to the gate, and axed meate.--Gower, Con. Anc.

Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby, in a letter to her son, Henry VII., concludes with--

As herty blessings as ye can axe of God.--Lord Howard.

In the next reign, Dr. John Clarke writes to Cardinal Wolsey, and tells him that--

The King axed after your grace's welfare.--Pegge's Anecdote.

Day before yesterday, I went down to the Post Office, and ax'd the Post-master if there was anything for me.--Maj. Jones's Courtship, p. 173.

I have often axed myself what sort of a gall that splendiferoos Lady of the Lake of Scott's was.-- Sam Slick in Eng., ch. 30.


TO KNOW b FROM A bull's foot. It is a common phrase to say, "He does not know B from a bull's foot," meaning that a person is very illiterate, or very ignorant. The term bull's foot is chosen merely for the sake of the alliteration; as in the similar phrases, "He does not know B from a broomstick;" or "B from a battledoor." It is a very old saying; Mr. Halliwell finds it in one of the Dighy MSS.

p. 19

I know not an A from the wynd mylne,

Ne a B from a bole-foot, I trowe, ni thiself nother.

Archaic and Provincial Glossary.

BAA-LAMB. A pet term for a lamb in England and America.

BACHELOR'S BUTTON. (Lychnis sylvestris.) The common name of a flower, supposed by country people to have some magical effect upon the fortunes of love. It seems to have grown into a phrase for being unmarried, "to wear bachelor's buttons," in which, probably, a quibble was intended.--Nare's Glossary.

He wears Bachelor's Buttons, does he not?--Heywood, Fair Maid.

BACK, is often used for ago; as in the phrase, "a little while back," i. e. "a short time ago."

BACK AND FORTH. Backwards and forwards, applied to a person in walking, as, "He was walking back and forth." A common expression in the familiar language of New England.

BACKWOODS. The partially cleared forest region on the western frontier of the United States, called also the back settlements. This part of the country is regarded as the back part or rear of Anglo-American civilization, which fronts on the Atlantic. It is rather curious that the English word back has thus acquired the meaning of western, which it has in several Oriental languages, and also in Irish.

BACKWOODSMAN. In the United States, an inhabitant of the forest on the Western frontier.--Webster.

The project of transmuting the classes of American citizens and converting sailors into backwoodsmen is not too monstrous for speculators to conceive and desire.--Fisher Ames's Works, p.144.

I presume, ladies and gentlemen, it is your curiosity to hear the plain uneducated backwoodsman in his home style.--Crockett's Tour, p.126.

TO BACK OUT. To retreat from a difficulty, to refuse to fulfil a promise or engagement. A metaphor borrowed from the stables.

Mr. Bedinger, in his remarks in the House of Representatives on the Mexican war, Jan. 25, 1848, said:

He regretted the bloodshed in Mexico, and wished it would stop. But, he asked, would gentlemen be willing to back out, and forsake our rights? No, no. No turning back. This great country must go ahead.

p. 20

The Whigs undertook to cut down the price of printing to a fair rate, but at last backed out, and voted to pay the old prices.--N. Y. Tribune.

To all appearance, we are on the eve of a bloody contest, if not a revolution. What will be the consequence? One or the other party must back out, or no one can tell what will be the result.--Nat. Intelligencer.

BACK. Behind the Back. When a person is slandered in his absence, it is said to be done behind his back, that is, in secret, or when his back is turned. It is the same as backbiting.

Where behind a man's back

For though he praised, he fint some lacke.--Gower's Conf. A. 62.

BAD, for Ill, as, I feel very bad to-day; also, for much.

BAD BOX. To be in a bad box, is to be in a bad predicament.

I began to be afraid now I'd got into rather a bad box.--Maj. Downing.

BACON. To save one's bacon. A vulgar expression, meaning to save one's flesh from injury, to preserve one's flesh from harm or from punishment. We say also, to escape with whole skin. A very old phrase.

What frightens you thus, my good son? says the priest;

You murder'd, are sorry, and have been confest.

Oh, father! my sorrow will scarce save my bacon;

For 'twas not that I murder'd, but that I was taken.--Prior's Poems.

BAGGAGE. Literally, what is contained in a bag or bags. The clothing or conveniences which a traveller carries with him on a journey. This word is applied by us to the trunks, clothing, &c. of a traveller. The English now use the less appropriate term luggage. Baggage was formerly used by them.

Having dispatched my baggage by water to Altdorf.--Coxe.

This is sometimes called more fully bag and baggage.

Seventeen members of Congress arrived to-day with their bag and baggage.--Washington Paper.

BAGGING. A coarse linen cloth, chiefly manufactured in Kentucky, for packing cotton in.

BAIL. (Fr. baille.) The handle of a pail, bucket, or kettle.--Forby's Glossary. A common word throughout New England.

TO BAIL, OR BALE. Literally, to lade out with a bail or bucket. A sailor's term, applied to lading water from a boat.

p. 21

BALANCE. A mercantile word originally introduced into the ordinary language of life by the southern people, but now common throughout the United States, signifying the remainder of anything. The balance of money, or the balance of an account, are terms well authorized and proper; but we also frequently hear such expressions as the "balance of a speech;" "the balance of the day was idly spent;" "a great many people assembled at the church: a part got in, the balance remained without."

The yawl returned to the wreck, took ten or eleven persons and landed them, and then went and got the balance from the floating cabin.--Albany Journal, Jan. 7, 1846.

Most of the respectable inhabitants held commissions in the army or government offices; the balance of the people kept little shops, cultivated the ground, &c.--Williams's Florida, p.115.

BALDERDASH. Empty babble, nonsensical talk. The etymology of this word is doubtful, for in no word do writers more widely differ. It seems to be connected with the Icelandic bulder, "the prating of fools" (Jamieson); and the Welsh ball dardd or ball dordd, "to babble, prate, or talk idly" (Boucher). It is chiefly used in conversation.

They would no more live under the yoke of the sea, or have their heads washed with his bubbly spurm or barber's balderdash.--Nashe.

Mine is such a drench of balderdash.--Beaumont and Fletcher.

Enough (the king) all balderdash!

I'll none of it! so cease the trash!--Reynard the Fox, p.24

BALLYHACK--Go to Ballyhack; a common expression in New England. I know not its origin. It savors in sound, however, of the Emerald Isle.

You and Obed are here too.

Let Obed go to Ballyhack. Come along out.--Margaret, p. 55

TO BAMBOOZLE. To deceive; to impose upon; to confound.--Todd's Johnson. To make a fool of any one; to humbug or impose upon him.--Grose, Prov. Dic.

Mr. Todd calls it a cant word from bam, a cheat. It is provincial in England, and is seldom heard here except at political meetings or in familiar conversation.

After Nick had bamboozled about the money, John called for counters.--Arbuthnot.

p. 22

All the people upon earth, excepting those two or three worthy gentlemen, are imposed upon, cheated, babbled, abused, bamboozled!--Addison.

The New Yorkers have appointed Van Buren men as delegates to the Baltimore convention. If the Calhoun men can abide such dictation without a wry face, they deserve to be thus babbled and bamboozled.--Boston Atlas.

The fact is--we reiterate it with increased corroboration from [accumulating] evidences--the fact is, the South are to be bamboozled upon this subject of the tariff. Yes, sir, in the language of Col. Benton, which in the Senate, on Clay's bank bill, he proved to be legitimate English from Richardson's quarto Dictionary, "they are to be bamboozled, sir--they are to be bamboozled!"--Congressional Debates.

BANG. To beat, i. e. excel, to surpass. "This bangs all things."--Ohio.

BANKER. A vessel employed in fishing on the banks of Newfoundland. "There were employed in the fisheries 1232 vessels, viz. 584 to the Banks, 648 to the Bay and Labrador; the Bankers may be put down at 36,540 tons."

The vessels that fish at the Labrador and Bay are not so valuable as the bankers, more particularly those from Maine, Connecticut and Rhode Island.--J. Q. Adams on the Fisheries, p. 219.

BANKABLE. Receivable at a bank, as bills; or discountable as notes.--Webster.

Among the great variety of bank notes which constitute our circulating medium, many are below par, and consequently are not received at the Banks. Those only, which are redeemed with specie or its equivalent, are received at the Banks, and are of the class called bankable.

In New York, at auction sales, the auctioneer, in stating the conditions of the sale, if for cash, invariably states, that the money must be bankable; otherwise the purchaser would be likely to pay him in bank notes below par.

BANK-BILL. A bank-note.

Neither Johnson nor the other lexicographers have the term bank-note, though they all have bank-bill, which Johnson defines, "a note for money laid up in a bank, at the sight of which the money is paid."

In the United States these are invariably called bank-bills, while in England this term is obsolete, and bank-notes universally used.

p. 23

BANNOCK. (Gaelic, bonnach. Irish, boinneag.) In Scotland, a cake of oatmeal baked on an iron plate.

Behind the door a bag of meal;
And in the kist was plenty
Of good hard cakes his mither bakes;
And bannocks were nae scanty.--Scotch Songs, II. 71.

In New England, cakes of Indian meal, fried in lard, are called bannocks.

BAR, for bear. The common pronunciation in certain parts of the Southern and Western States.

BANQUETTE. The name for the side-walk in some of our Southern cities.

BARBECUE. A term used in the Southern States and in the West Indies, for dressing a hog whole; which being split to the back-bone, is laid flat upon a large gridiron, and roasted over a charcoal fire.--Johnson. Webster.

Formerly it was customary to make a fire in a large hole in the ground, lined with stones, and then to put the hog in whole and cover it up until cooked.

Oldfield, with more than harpy throat endu'd,
Cries, "Lend me, gods, a whole hog barbecued.["]--Pope.

TO BARK ONE'S SHINS. To knock the skin off the shins by stumbling or striking against something.

Mr. Hortshorne calls this a very old metaphor, and says is found in the ancient popular poetry of Scotland.--Shropshire Glossary.

Berding her selffe to hym apace
She cryed him mercy then,
And pylled the barke even of hys face
With her commaundments ten.

Neist Sanderson fratch'd wid a hay-stack,
And Deavison fught wi' the whins;
Smith Leytle fell out wi' the cobbles,
And peel'd aw the bark off his shins.--Cumberland Ballads.

TO BARK OFF SQUIRRELS. A common way of killing squirrels among those who are expert with the rifle, in the Western States, is to strike with the ball the bark of the tree immediately beneath the squirrel; the concussion produced

p. 24

by which, kills the animal instantly without mutilating it.--Audubon, Ornithology, Vol. I. p. 294.

TO BARK UP THE WRONG TREE. A common expression at the West, denoting that a person has mistaken his object, or is pursuing the wrong course to obtain it. A metaphor of Western origin. In hunting, a dog drives a squirrel or other game into a tree, where, by a constant barking, he attracts its attention, until the hunter arrives. Sometimes the game escapes, or the dog is deceived and barks up the wrong tree.

When people try to hunt (office) for themselves, ...... and seem to be barking up the wrong sapling, I want to put them on the right trail.--Crockett's Tour, p.205.

BARRACLADE. (Dutch barre kledeeren, cloths undressed or without a nap.) A home-made woolen blanket without nap. This word is peculiar to New York city, and those parts of the State settled by the Dutch.

BARN-DOOR FOWL. The common fowl; also so called in Scotland.--Jamieson.

Never had there been such slauthering of capons, and fat geese, and barn-door fowls.--Bride of Lammermoor.

BARRENS. Elevated lands, or plains upon which grow small trees, but never timber. Pine barrens are common throughout the United States.

BASE. A game of hand-ball.

TO BASE. To lay the foundation of an argument. This word is not in the English Dictionaries in this sense. We say, for example, "He bases his arguments on these facts." It is used in good language both in England and America.

The Washington correspondent of the N. Y. Journal of Commerce, in speaking of a rumor that Mr. Pakenham had made overtures to our Government, says:

The rumor is based upon a very general belief that Mr. P. has instructions of a discretionary kind to resume the negotiation.

We learn, that the revolution (in Mexico) is based upon the disavowal by the late Mexican Congress of the treaties made with the Yucatecos by Santa Anna.--New Orleans Picayune.

BAYOU. (French, boyau, a gulf.) In Louisiana, the outlet of a lake; a channel for water.

p. 25

BARNBURNERS. The nickname of one of the present divisions of the great Democratic party, otherwise called the Young Democracy; the other is called the Old Hunker.

The following editorial of the Ohio Union, a Democratic paper in Cincinnati, will define the political sentiments of these parties:

There is one class of the Democratic party which seeks the retention of power in the hands of a few--the direction of the disposition of offices would if possible restrain the impulses of tho Democracy--would check its progressive tendency--is unfavorable to, or fearful of, the extension of the "area of freedom," and in fine, in the language of Alexander Hamilton, would restrain "the amazing violence of the popular or democratic spirit." Who would likewise prescribe a fixed rule for present and future, by which the Democracy of every man should be judged, leaving no margin for honest differences on minor points, and would proscribe all who do not fit the dimensions of their intellect, feelings, and opinions, to the Procrustes bed which they have made for them. This is the class which we denominate "Old Hunkers."

There is another class, who would divide power among the many; would leave it entirely where it belongs, with the masses the people--who would have offices filled by men, taken from among the people, and not confined to those who live by office and make politics a trade--who have sympathies with the people, understand their interests and feelings, and will seek to have both satisified, while they honestly and faithfully discharge the duties of their offices--who care less about the disposition of offices than they do about the principles of Democracy and the measures and policy of the Government--who desire always and continually the "extension of the area of freedom"--who believe that the Democratic impulses are right and should be obeyed, and not thwarted--who would admit to the ranks of Democracy ALL who agree with us, upon the cardinal principles of Democracy and upon the great national policy, now acted upon by the General Government--who believe in and favor progress, and would not prescribe a fixed rule in all minor matters for all time, but would adapt action to the circumstances and exigencies which arise in the progression of events, and to the rights and interests which accompany or result from that progression and its changes. And finally, who have in their hearts "sworn eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." These we denominate "the young Democracy." This is progressive "Young Democracy."

"OLD HUNKERS." We have been requested to give a definition of this term. Party nicknames are not often logically justified; and we can only say that that section of the late dominant party in this State (the democratic) which claims to be the more radical, progressive, reformatory, &c.

p. 26

bestowed the appellation "Old Hunker" on the other section to imdicate that it was distinguished by opposite qualities from those claimed for itself. We believe the title was also intended to indicate that those on whom it was conferred had an appetite for a large hunk of "the spoils"--though we never could discover that they were peculiar in that. On the other band, the opposite school was termed Barnburners, in allusion to the story of an old Dutchman who relieved himself of rats by burning his barns which they infested--just like exterminating all Banks and Corporations to root out the abuses connected therewith. The fitness or unfitness of these family terms of endearment is none of our business.--N. Y. Tribune.

They have gone into such depths of Barnburning Radicalism, that a large portion of the rank and file are determined not to follow.--Ibid.

BE (Ang. Sax. beo, 1st person sing. and 1st, 2d, and 3d plur. See Rask's Gram. p. 84), instead of am and are. Ex. Be you cold? Where be you going? This use of this word is confined to uneducated people. It is common in several of the provincial dialects of England. In the Bible it often occur instead of are.

Let them shew the former things what they be, that we may consider them.--Isaiah xli. 22.

BEAD. The bubbles which rise on a glass of wine or spirits, by which the strength and quality of the article is known.

Deacon Penrose. Will the Parson taste a little of our New England rum? We call it a prime article, and think it the very best we ever made.

Abel Wilcox. It has as handsome a bead as I ever saw; and we think it possesses a flavor like the West Indies.

Parson Welles. Truly in the words of Scripture, we must say, "Give strong drink to him that is ready to perish." We need something to make our faces shine these dark times.--Margaret, p. 310.

Mr. Bagley broke three slim glasses in the attempt to raise a bead.--Drama at Pokerville.

BEAKER. (Germ. becher, Dutch beker.) A tumbler. "This word," says Mr. Pickering, "not many years ago was in common use in New England, as well as in some other parts of the United States; but it is now seldom heard except among old people." We derive it from our ancestors from Norfolk and Suffolk counties, where it is still provincial. It is also used in the north of England and in Scotland.--Jamieson. Forby.

And into pikes and musketeers,
Stamp'd beakers, cups, and porringers.--Butler's Hudibras.

p. 27

TO BE AMONG THE MISSING. To be absent, to leave, to run away.

There comes old David for my militia fine; I don't want to see him, and think I will be among the missing.

BEAR, for bar. Connecticut and Virginia.

BEAR. A word to denote a certain description of stock-jobbers.--Johnson.

The same term is used among the brokers and stock-jobbers of Wall street, New York. Their plans of operation are as accurately described in the annexed extract from Warton, as they can be at the present moment:

He who sells that of which he is not possessed, is proverbially said to sell the skin before he has caught the bear. It was the practice of stock-jobbers, in the year 1720, to enter into a contract for transfering South Sea stock at a future time for a certain price; but he who contracted to sell, had frequently no stock to transfer, nor did he who bought intend to receive any in consequence of his bargain; the seller was therefore called a bear, in allusion to the proverb, and the buyer a bull, perhaps only as it similar distinction. The contract was merely a wager, to be determined by the rise or fall of stock; if it rose, the seller paid the difference to the buyer, proportioned to the sum determined by the same computation to the seller.--Dr. Warton on Pope.

The stock speculators of Wall street are denominated Bull-backers or Bear-traps, according to the nature of their operations. The first signifies that they have bought stock largely and hold it; and the second, that they have sold stock which they have not got, and trust to circumstances to be able to supply it. The brokers themselves in these cases are called Bulls and Bears.--A Walk in Wall Street, p. 80.

There has been a very important revolution made in the tactics of a certain extensive operator in Wall street. The largest bull in the street has become a bear, and the rank and file have been thrown into the greatest confusion and left without a leader.--N. Y. Herald.

Some of the operators (in Wall street, owing to the rise in stocks), who were the strongest bears last week, are now roaring bulls.--Ibid.

An attack has recently been made upon the Reading Road in one of the city papers, evidently suggested by the bears.--N. Y. Tribune, 1848.

p. 28

TO BEAR A HAND. A seaman's phrase. To be ready ; to go to work; to assist.

BEAST. A common name for a horse in the Southern States.

TO BEAT. To excel, surpass in a contest. Thus we say, one racer or steamer beats another.

Also, to overcome with astonishment, to surprise. We sometimes hear, especially from the mouths of old people, such expressions as "I felt beat," "I was quite beat," i. e. utterly astonished.

TO BEAT ALL HOLLOW. To surpass or overcome completely; thus, "Eclipse beat Sir Henry all hollow." Also, to take wholly by surprise.

The number of ships in New York beat me all hollow, and looked for all the world like a big clearing in the West, with the dead trees all standing.--Crockett, Tour down East, p. 27.

This phrase seems to be common in England. There, however, they do not use the word all, which invariably forms a part of it here.

The author of "The Diary of a Physician" beats Walter Scott hollow, in the attempt which he describes his martyr-philosopher as making to correct La Place.--London Athenæum, Dec. 6, 1845.

A late English traveller under the assumed name of Rubio, says:

I used to think the English might defy all creation for bad coffee; but the Americans beat us hollow.--Travels in the United States.

BECASE, for because. A common vulgarism.

BED-SPREAD. In the interior parts of the country, the common name for a bed-quilt, or coverlet.

BEE. An assemblage of people, generally neighbors, to unite their labors for the benefit of one individual or family. The quilting-bees in the interior of New England and New York, are attended by young women, who assemble around the frame of a bed-quilt, and in one afternoon accomplish more than one person could in weeks. Refreshments and beaux help to render the meeting agreeable. Husking-bees, for husking corn, are held in barns, which are made the occasion of much frolicking. In new countries, when a a settler arrives, the neighboring farmers unite with their

p. 29

teams, cut the timber and build him a log-house in a single day; these are termed raising-bees. Apple-bees are occasions when the neighbors assemble to gather apples, or cut out them up for drying.

BEE-LINE. To take a bee-line, is to take the most direct or straight way from one point to another. Bees in returning to their hives after having loaded themselves with honey always fly back to the hive in a direct line. For a further explanation see the phrase lining bees.

This road is one of nature's laying. It goes determinedly straight up and straight down the hills, and in a "bee line" as we say.--Mrs. Clavers[.]

I acknowledge the corn, boys, that when I started my track warn't anything like a bee-line;--the sweeten'd whiskey had made me powerful thick-legged.--Robb, Squatter Life.

BEECH-LE-MAR. (Fr. biche de mer.) A kind of slug taken on the coast of some of the South sea islands, where it is cured for the China trade.--See Morel's Voyage.

BEING. (Also pronounced bein, been.) Pres. part. of the verb to be, equivalent to because.

This word is noticed by Boucher, as much in use in the Middle States of America, and as an idiom of the Western counties of England. It is also heard among the illiterate in New England.

"I sent you no more peasen, been the rest would not leave suited you."--Boucher's Glossary.

The mug cost 15d. when 'twas new, but bein it had an old crack in it, I told her she needn't pay but a shilling for it.--Maj. Downing.

Bein' ye'll help Obed, I'll give ye the honey.--Margaret, p. 20.

BELITTLE. To make smaller; to lower in character.--Webster.

This word is but little used, either in conversation or in composition. President Jefferson is the only writer of authority who has used it.--Notes On Virginia.

I won't stand that, said Mr. Slick, I won't stay here and see you belittle Uncle Sum for nothin'. He ain't worse than John Bull, arter all.--Sam Slick in England, ch. 19.

BELLWORT. The popular name of plants of the genus Uvularia.

[To next page]

Copyright 1999-2006, Pat Pflieger
To "Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read"
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To "Voices from 19th-Century America"
Some works for adults, 1800-1872

To Titles at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date
Map of the site