Dictionary of Americanisms, by John Russell Bartlett. (NY: Bartlett and Welford, 1848)
BENDER. In New York, a spree; a frolic. To go on a bender, is to go on a spree.
Thus did Harry Whitmore address C. M---, when the met, the morning after the trio had determined to go on a bender.--Mysteries of N. York.
BENT GRASS. (Genus, agrostis.) The popular name in the Northern States for a common grass, sometimes called red-top.
BERATE. To revile; to abuse in vile language.--Worcester.
This is a common word in New England, and is not in the English glossaries. Mr. Worcester quotes Holland for his authority.
BESTOWMENT. 1. The act of giving gratuitously; a conferring.--Webster.
This word, which is much used by our theological writers, is not in the English dictionaries.
God the Father had committed the bestowment of the blessings purchased, to his Son.--Edwards on Redemption.
If we consider the bestowment of gifts in this view.--Chauncey, U. Lab.
2. That which is conferred or given.--Webster.
They strengthened his hands by their liberal bestowments on him and his family.--Christian Magazine, iii. 665.
The free and munificent bestowment of the Sovereign Judge.--Thodey.
Mr. Todd has bestowal in his edition of Johnson, but cites no authority for its use. Dr. Webster thinks bestowment preferable on account of the concurrence of the two vowels in bestowal.
BETTER, for more; as, "It is better than a year since we met."
BETTERMENTS. (Generally used in the plural number.) The improvements made on new lands, by cultivation and the erection of buildings.--Pickering's Vocabulary.
"This word," adds Mr. Pickering, "was first used in the State of Vermont, but it has for a long time been common in the State of New Hampshire; and it has been getting into use in some parts of Massachusetts, since the passing of the late law, similar to the Betterments Acts (as they are called) of the States above mentioned. It is not to be found in Mr. Webster's, nor in any of the English dictionaries that I have seen except Ash's; and there it is called 'a bad word.' It is thus noticed by an English traveller in this country, in speak-
ing of those people who enter upon new lands without any right and proceed to cultivate them:
These men demand either to be left owners of the soil or paid for their betterments, that is, for what they have done towards clearing the ground.--Kendall, Travels in the United States, Vol. III p. 160.
BETTERMOST. The best. Used in New England.
The bettermost cow, an expression we do not find in Shakspeare or Milton.--Mrs. Kirkland.
BETTY. (Ital. boccetta.) A pear-shaped bottle wound around with straw in which olive oil is brought from Italy. Called by chemists a Florence flask.
B'HOYS. i. e Boys, a name applied to a class of noisy young men of the lower ranks of society in the city of New York.
The New York Commercial Advertiser, April 12, 1847, in speaking of the approaching election, uses the following language:
All the b'hoys will vote, aye, more than all. Let every Whig do his duty. Another year with a Democratic Mayor--and such a Mayor as the b'hoys would force upon the city! Who can tell what the taxes will be?
BIDDY. A domestic fowl; a chicken. A term generally used in calling fowls to eat.
BIBLE CHRISTIANS. The Philadelphia Mercury thus gives a summary of the creed of this new sect: "This denomination abstain from all animal food and spirituous liquors, and live on vegetables and fruits. They maintain the unity of God, the divinity of Jesus, and the salvation of man, attainable only by a life of obedience to the light manifested to his mind and a grateful acknowledgment of his indebtedness to the great Giver of all. The congregation numbers about seventy members."
BIG-BUGS. People of consequence.
Then we'll go to the Lord's house--I don't mean to the meetin' house, but where the nobles meet, pick out the big-bugs, and see what sort o' stuff they're made of.--Sam Slick in England, ch. 24.
These preachers dress like big-bugs, and go ridin' about on hundred-dollar horses, a-spungin' poor priest-ridden folks, and a-eaten chicken-fixens so powerful fast that chickens has got scarce in these diggins.--Carlton's New Purchase, Vol. II p. 140.
BIG-WIGS. People of consequence. The same as the last.
Demagogues and place-hunters make the people stare by telling them how big they talked and what great things they did to the big-wigs to home.--Sam Slick.
BIG FIGURE. To do things on the big figure, means to do them on a large scale. This vulgar phrase is used at the West and South.
Well, I glory in her spunk, but it's monstrous expensive and unpleasant to do things on the big figure that she's on now.--Maj. Jones's Courtship.
BILBERRY, (genus vaccinium.) The popular name of a shrub of several species, and bearing fruit resembling the whortle berry.
BIME-BY. By-and-by, soon, in a short time.
BINDWEED. The popular name in Massachusetts for the convolvulus.--Bigelow's Flora.
BINDERY. A place where books are bound.--Webster.
The Penny Cyclopedia thinks this a new, but not a bad word.
BISHOP. An appendage to a lady's wardrobe, otherwise called a bustle.
BIT, past part. of the verb bite. Cheated, taken in. In Yorkshire, England, a cheat is called a bite. Dr. Johnson notices this vulgarism.
An honest factor stole a gem away;
He pledg'd it to the Knight; the Knight had wit,
So kept the diamond, and the rogue was bit.- -Pope.
A BIT. A little; a little while. As "wait a bit;" "after a bit."
BIT. (Span. pieza.) The name in the Southern States of silver coin of the value of one-eighth of a dollar. The Spanish real (de plata).
BITTER COLD. Very cold. This common colloquial expression is used alike in England and America.
Those who say it is a very easy thing to get up of a cold morning, ..... ought to stand around one's bed of a bitter cold morning, and lie before their faces.--Leigh Hunt. The Indicator, p. 134.
BITTERS. A liquid or spirituous liquor, containing an infusion of bitter herbs and roots.--Worcester.
Bitters, before the temperance reform, were much in fashion, taken before breakfast to give an appetite. The custom
is now confined to the back parts of the country, or to professed tipplers.
What was that I saw you taking for your bitters, little while ago?--Cooper, Satanstoe, p.68.
BITTERSWEET. (Solanum dulcamara.) The popular name of a medicinal plant, which has a place in most dispensatories. It is also called the Woody Nightshade.--Big. Flora.
BLACK. To look black at one, to look at one with anger or deep resentment depicted on the countenance.
BLACK AND BLUE. The color of a bruise; a familiar expression for a bruise, here and in England.
Mistress Ford, good heart, is beaten black and blue, that you cannot see a white spot about her.--Shakspeare, Merry Wives of Windsor.
And, wingd with speed and fury, flew
To rescue Knight from black and blue.--Hudibras.
BLACK AND WHITE. To put a thing into black and white, is, to commit it to writing. In use in Scotland.--Jamieson.
I was last Tuesday to wait on Sir Robert Walpole, who desired that I would put it in black and white, that he might show it to his Majesty.--Culloden Papers, p. 108.
BLACK-BOOK. A book was kept in the English monasteries, during the reign of Henry VIII., in which details of the scandalous enormities practised in religious houses were entered for the inspection of visitors, in order to blacken them and hasten their dissolution. Hence the vulgar phrase, "I'll set you down in my black-book."
BLACK-LEG. The common term here and in England for a gambler.
BLACK-MAIL. Formerly, money paid to men allied with robbers to be protected by them from being robbed.--Cowell. In the United States it means money extorted from persons under the threat of exposure in print, for an alleged offence, or defect.
BLACKSTRAP. Gin and molasses. The English sailors call the common wines of the Mediterranean blackstrap.--Falconer's Marine Dictionary.
Come, Molly, dear, no black-strap to-night, switchel or ginger pop.--Margaret, p. 300.
BLACK WOOD. Hemlock, pine, spruce, and fir.--Maine.
BLADDER-TREE (genus straphylea). A handsome shrub, from six to ten feet high, remarkable for its large inflated capsules.--Bigelow's Flora Bostoniensis.
BLADDER-WORT. (Utricularia vulgaris). The popular name of an aquatic plant, appearing above water only with its stalk and flowers.--Ibid.
BLAME. A euphemistic evasion of the horrible word damn. Ex. "Blame me," or, "I'll be blamed, if;" also, "You be blamed!"
It is used both in England and in the United States, chiefly in New England.
I wasn't goin' to let Dean know; because he'd have thought himself so bland and cunning.--Mrs. Clavers's Western Clearings, p. 70.
BLARNEY. Marvellous stories, flattery. Ex. He deals in the wonderful, he is full of blarney. Grose derives this word from the Blarney stone, a triangular stone on the very top of an ancient castle of that name in the county of Cork, in Ireland, extremely difficult of access; so that to have ascended it, was a proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many are supposed to claim the honor who never achieved the adventure. Hence, in England, they say, "He has licked the Blarney stone," i. e. he deals in the wonderful.--Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
Dr. Jamieson doubts the Irish origin of this word, and adopts the French etymon baliverne, a lie, a fib, gull; also, a babbling, idle discourse.--Cotgrave, Dictionary.
BLATHER. Impudence. "None of your blather."--Western.
BLATHERSKITE. A blustering, noisy, talkative fellow.--Western.
BLAUSER. The name given by the Dutch settlers to the hog-nosed snake, from its habit of distending or blowing up the skin of its neck and head. The other popular names in New York are Deaf-adder and Buckwheat-nosed.--Nat. Hist. of New York.
BLAZE. In traversing the dense forests of the West, a person would soon lose his way and find it difficult to retrace his steps without some land-mark. This is effected by cutting a
piece out of the side of trees at a sufficient distance from each other to enable the traveller readily to discover them and thus follow the direct path or road. Such a mark is called a blaze, and trees thus marked are said to be blazed.
Three blazes in a perpendicular line on the same tree indicating a legislative road, the single blaze, a settlement or neighbourhood road.--Carlton, The New Purchase.
After traversing a broad marsh, however, where my horse seemed loth to venture, I struck a burr-oak opening, and soon found my way by the blazed trees back to the mail trail.--Hoffman, Winter in the West.
TO BLAZE AWAY. To keep up a discharge of fire-arms. A good English phrase.
The hunter (of the west) attacks the oldest and largest bull he can find, and continues to blaze away at him with pistols, until he brings him down.--Kendall's Santa Fé, Vol. I. p. 79.
BLAZES. Like blazes, that is, furiously.--Moor's Suffolk Words.
Stil kep upon the glare;
An' when comin' in, the hosses ded
Along like blazes tear.--Poem in Essex Dialect, p. 21.
This expression is common in low language with us. At the South it seems to be used as a euphemism for devil, etc.
I've been serving my country like a patriot, goin' to town-meetings, hurraing my daylights out, and getting as blue as blazes.--J. C. Neal.
All the hair was off his head, and his face was as black as the very old blazes.--Chron. of Pineville, p. 49.
BLAZING STAR. (Aletris farinosa.) A plant, the root of which is greatly esteemed by the Indians and people of the West for its medicinal virtues. It is also called star- oo [sic] and devil's hit.--Flint's Mississippi Valley.
TO BLINK. To shut the eyes, to wink. Hence, to shun, to avoid, shy at, as some animals avoid an alarming object, at the same time shutting their eyes so as not to see it. The leathern flaps on a horse's bridle, over the eyes, are called blinkers. We use the verb in a metaphorical sense of avoiding or flinching from delicate topics. Thus we say, "He blinks
the question," that is, he shuns the true point of the argument.
It's no use to blink matters. The skunk was been abroad, and he must have a blunt nose that can't wind him.--Crockett's Tour, p. 107.
BLIZZARD. A poser. This word is not known in the Eastern States.
A gentleman at dinner asked me for a toast, and supposing he meant to have some fun at my expense, I concluded to go ahead, and give him and his likes a blizzard.--Crockett's Tour, p. 16.
BLOCK. A term applied in America to a square mass of houses included between four streets. It is a very useful one.
BLOCK-HOUSE. A small fort built of logs which project some six or eight feet over a wooden or stone foundation, fifteen or twenty feet high.
BLOUSE. (Fr. blouse.) A loose garment made of brown linen, fastened round the waist with a belt; worn by men and boys in France, and lately introduced partially into this country.
TO BLOW. To taunt; to ridicule.
TO BLOW. To turn informer on an accomplice.
BLOW. A gale of wind. Ex. A heavy blow! originally a seaman's word, but now come into general use.
BLOW OUT. A feast; also called a tuck out. Both expressions are English as well as American.
TO BLOW OVER. Said properly of a storm; and hence generally, to pass away without effect. This metaphor is very common. We say, there is a great excitement about a certain matter; but it will blow over, i. e. pass away.
Storms, though they blow over at divers times, may yet fall at last.--Bacon's Essays.
A storm is brewing in the political horizon, which may defeat our candidate; but it will soon blow over.--Newspapers of the day.
BLOW-UP. A quarrel; a dispute. A common expression, used in familiar conversation.
There was a regular blow-up at Tammany hall, between the friends of Mr. Van Buren and Mr. Calhoun, which ended in a row, and broke up the meeting.--Newspapers of the day.
TO BLOW UP. To scold, to abuse, either in speaking or
writing. A vulgar expression borrowed from sailor's language.
Oh ho! I see, it's a piece about the major's book. I suppose somebody's been blowin' him up, and he ain't used to it.--Maj. Jones's Courtship.
I thought I could stand a blowing up pretty well--I have had some experience in that way, as the old woman's tongue can testify.--Pickings from the Picayune, p. 121.
He was ravin' about the disputed territory, a blowin' up the governor of New Brunswick sky-high.--Sam Slick, 3d ser. chap. vii.
BLUE. Gloomy, severe; extreme, ultra.
In the former sense it is applied especially to the Presbyterians, to denote their severe and mortified appearance. Thus, beneath an old portrait of the seventeenth century, in the Woodburn Gallery, is the following inscription:
A true blue Priest, a Lincey Woolsey Brother, One legg a pulpit, holds a tub the other; An Orthodox grave, moderate Presbyterian, Half surplice cloake, half Priest, half Puritan. Made up of all these halfes, hee cannot pass For anything entirely but an ass.
In the latter sense it is used particularly in politics.
The bluest description of old Van Rensselaer Federalists have followed Col. Prentiss (in Otsego county).--N. Y. Tribune.
BLUE. A synonym in the tippler's vocabulary for drunk.
BLUE-BERRY. (Vacinium tenellum.) A fruit resembling the whortleberry in appearance and taste.
TO LOOK BLUE AT ONE, is to look at one with a countenance expressive of displeasure or dissatisfaction.
Were I to give the church's blessing
To any fold of her transgressing:
Besides, the provost would look blue.--Reynard the Fox, p. 124.
BLUE-BOOK. A printed book containing the names of all the persons holding office under the Government of the United States, with the amount of their pay. It answers to the Red-Book of England.
BLUE DEVILS. To have the blue devils is to be dispirited.
BLUE LAWS. "Where, and how, the story of the New Haven Blue Laws originated, is a matter of some curiosity. Accord-
ing to Dr. Peters, the epithet blue was applied to the laws of New Haven, by the neighboring colonies, because these laws were thought peculiarly sanguinary: and he says, that blue is equivalent to bloody. It is a sufficient refutation of this account of the matter, to say, that if there was any distinction between the colony of New Haven, and the other united Colonies of New England, in the severity of their punishments, New Haven was the last of the number to gain this bad pre-eminence. Others have said, that certain laws of New Haven, of a more private and domestic kind, were bound in a blue cover; and hence the name. This explanation has as little probability as the preceding, for its support. It is well known, that on the restoration of Charles II. the Puritans became the subject of every kind of reproach and contumely. Not only what was deserving of censure in their deportment, but their morality was especially held up to scorn. The epithet blue was applied to any one, who looked with disapprobation on the licentiousness of the times. The Presbyterians, under which name all dissenters were often included, as they still dared to be the advocates of decency, were more particularly designated by this term; their religion and their morality being marked by it as mean and contemptible. Thus Butler:
For his religion, it was fit To match his learning and his wit; 'Twas Presbyterian true blue.--Hudib. Canto I.
"That this epithet of derision should find its way to the colonies was a matter of course. It was here applied not only to persons, but to customs, institutions, and laws of the Puritans, by those who wished to render the prevailing system ridiculous. Hence probably a belief with some, that a distinct system of laws, known as the 'blue laws,' must have somewhere a local habitation."--Prof Kingsley's Hist. Disc.
BLUE-NOSE. The slang name for a native of Nova Scotia.
"Pray, sir," said one of my fellow passengers, "can you tell me why the Nova Scotians are called 'Blue Noses?'"
"It is the name of a potatoe," said I, "which they produce in great perfection, and boast to be the best in the world. The Americans have, in consequence, given them the nick-name of Blue-noses."--Sam Slick.
After a run (in the steamer) of fourteen days, we entered the harbor of Halifax, amid the hearty cheers of a large number of Blue-noses.--Sir George Simpson's Overland Journey, Vol. I. p. 19.
THE BLUES. A euphemism for blue devils. To have a fit of the blues, is to have a fit of the blue devils, to be low-spirited.
BLUE-SKINS. A nickname applied to the Presbyterians, from their alleged grave deportment.
BLUE STOCKING. The American avoset (recurvirostra Americana). A common bird in the Northern States.--Nat. Hist. New York.
BLUE STOCKING. A ridiculous epithet applied here as well as in England to literary ladies, and borrowed from that gallant nation the French. Called also simply a blue.
BLUFF. A high bank, almost perpendicular, projecting into the sea.--Falconer's Marine Dic.
In America it is applied to a high bank, presenting a steep front, in the interior of the country.
Here you have the advantage of mountain, bluff, interval, to set off the view.--Margaret, p. 282.
BLUFF. Steep, bold; as a hill.
Its banks, if not really steep, had a bluff and precipitous aspect from the tall forest that girded it about.--Margaret, p. 7.
TO BLUFF OFF. To put on a troublesome questioner, or dun, &c.
BLUMACHIES. (Dutch.) This Dutch word for flowers is still preserved in the New York markets.
TO BLURT OUT. To speak inadvertently, and without reflection.
They blush if they blurt out, are well aware A swan is white, or Queenshury is fair.--Young.
Mr. Pickens, in explaining that his report was a peaceable one, blurted out the whole character and conduct of his countrymen.--Lord Sydenham's Memoirs, p. 307.
(This matter) is only fit to be talked on over a cigar alone. It don't answer a good purpose to blurt everything out.--Sam Slick in England.
BLUSTERATION. The noise of a braggart.--Brockett's North County Words. Used among us only in low colloquial language.
BOATABLE. Navigable for boats, or small river-craft.--Webster.
This useful word has only recently been adopted in the English dictionaries.
The Seneca Indians say, they can walk four times a day from the boatable waters of the Allegany, to those of the Tioga.--Morse's Geography.
This word, says Dr. Webster, though of modern origin, is well formed according to the English analogies, like fordable, creditable, &c. The advantage of using it is obvious, as it expresses an important distinction in the capacity of water to bear vessels. Navigable is a term of which boatable is the species; and as the use of it saves a circumlocution, instead of being proscribed, it should be received as a real improvement.--Letter to J. Pickering on his Vocabulary, p. 6.
The objection to this word is, that it is a hybrid, composed of a Saxon noun and a Latin ending. It is like fordable, but not like creditable, which is all Latin. We would hardly use the word trustable.
BOATING. Transporting in boats.--Webster.
BOB. A knot of worms on a string used in fishing for eels.--Webster.
TO BOB. To fish for eels with a bob. This word is common in New England, and is used in the same sense in England.
These are the baits they bob with.--Beaumont and Fletcher.
BOBBERY. A squabble, a row; common both in England and America.--Moor, Forby.
That woke up the confounded rooks from their first nap, and kick'd up such a bobbery.--Sam Slick in England, ch. 2.
I've been writing to Aunt Keziah, about the bobbery you New Yorkers always get into about the first of May.--Maj. Downing.
BOBOLINK. The popular name of the rice-bunting (icterus), a bird which frequents the wild rice and marshes; on Long Island it is called the rice bird. In other places it is called the skunk-blackbird.
It sticks to me like a bobolink on a saplin, in a wood.--Margaret, p. 87.
BOB-SLED. A sled prepared for the transportation of large timber from the forest to a river or public road.--Maine.
BOBTAIL. (From bob, in the sense of cut). Cut tail, short tail.--Johnson.
Avaunt, you curs! Be thy mouth or black or white, Or bobtail tike, or trundle tail, Tom will make him weep or wail.--Shakspeare, King Lear.
BOCKEY.--A bowl or vessel made from a gourd. A term probably derived from the Dutch, as it is peculiar to the city of New York and its vicinity.
BOCKING. A kind of baize, or woollen cloth, either plain or stamped with colored figures, used to cover floors or to protect carpets. It is also called floorcloth.
BODETTE. (Fr. beaudette.) In Canada the common name for a cot-bedstead.
BODY.--A person. A colloquial expression used both in England and America.
Good may come out of evil, and a body's life may be saved, without having any obligations to his preserver.--L'Estrange.
This hot weather makes a body feel odd. How long would a body be going to Washington? How the mosquitoes bite a body.--Davis, Travels in America in 1798, p. 223.
BOG-TROTTER. One that lives in a boggy country. A derisive epithet applied to Irishmen.
BOGUS. A liquor made of rum and molasses.
BOGUS MONEY. Counterfeit silver coin. A few years since, a large quantity of this coin was in circulation at the West, where it received this name.
TO BOLT. To swallow food without chewing.--Forby.
Often my dame and I at home Eat rav'nously of honey comb; For lack of more substantial food, We bolt this down, and call it good.--Reynard the Fox, p. 26.
TO BOLT. To start off suddenly in any direction. It is said in the first place of a horse starting from his course; and is then transferred to persons. Thus:
In she come, bolting into our room.--Maj. Downing, p. 54.
It is also applied especially to politicians who suddenly desert their party.
Mr. Poindexter has bolted from the Whigs, and united with the Democratic party for the war and the whole of Mexico.--Newspaper.
BOLT-UPRIGHT. Perfectly upright.--Johnson. Used alike in England and the United States.
As I stood bolt-upright upon one end, one of the two ladies burst out.--Addison.
In the mean time, Shadrach stood bolt-upright, with his hands crossed before him, his nose elevated to the ceiling, and his eyes shut.--Paulding's Koningsmarke, ch. v.
BOOM ALONG. To move rapidly. A sea term. A ship is said to boom along when under full sail.
You're right in the way; and if you don't boom along, we'll have to play clearance with you.--J. C. Neal's Sketches.
TO MAKE NO BONES OF. To do a thing without hesitation. A metaphor borrowed from eating with dispatch as if it contained no bones.
Knowing (according to the old rule of Thales) that he who had not stuck at one villanie, will easily swallow another; perjury will easily down with him that hath made no bones of murther.--Bp. Hall.
BONESET. (Eupatorium perfoliatum). The popular name of a medicinal plant. Its properties are sudorific and tonic.
BONNY-CLABBER.} (Irish, baine, milk, and clabar, mire.)
An Irish term for sour buttermilk.--Nares' Glossary.
We scorn for want of talk, to jabber Of parties o'er our bonny-clabber; Nor are we studious to inquire, Who votes for manors, who for hire.--Swift.
BOO! BOH! An exclamation of terror among children. To one who is timid, it is common to say, "You dare not say boo to a goose."
I dare not, for the honor of our house. Say boh to any Grecian goose.--Homer Travestied.
(The old squatter Jones) was awful. He could jest lick anything that said boo in them diggins, out swar Satan, and was as cross as a she bar with cubs.--Robb, Squatter Life.
TO BOO-HOO. To cry loudly.
The little woman boo-hoo'd right out, threw herself incontinently full on his breast, hung around his neck, and went on in a surprising way for such a mere artificial as an actress.--Field, Drama in Pokerville.
TO BOOSE. To tipple.
BOOSY. Fuddled; a little intoxicated. A low word, only used colloquially, and alike common to England and America.
With a long legend of romantic things Which in his cups, the bouzy poet sings.--Dryden.
BOOSILY. Lazily, in a state of intoxication.
In the sun before the house, lay Mr. Tapley, boosily sleeping with his bare head pillowed on a scythe-snathe.--Margaret, p. 214.
TO BOOST. To lift or raise by pushing.--Webster.
Chiefly used by boys, who apply it to the act of pushing one another up a tree or over a fence. "Boost me up this tree, and I'll hook you some apples."
He clambered back into the box (in the theatre), the manager assisting to boost him with the most friendly solicitude.--Field, Drama in Pokerville.
TO BOOT. (Ang. Sax. to-bote.) In addition; over and above; that which is given to make the exchange equal.--Johnson.
Man is God's image; but a poor man is Christ's stamp to boot: both images regard.--Herbert.
He might have his mind and manners formed, and be instructed to boot in several sciences.--Locke.
BOOTEE, dimin. of boot. A boot without a top, or a shoe made like a boot without a leg.
BO-PEEP--To play at bo-peep. To peep out suddenly from a hiding place, and cry bo! a children's game.
They then for sudden joy did weep, And I for sorrow sung, That such a king should play bo-peep, And go the fools among.--Shakspeare.
There the devil plays at bo-peep, puts out his horns to do mischief, then shrinks them back for safety.--Dryden.
TO BORE. Used as a metaphor. To tease by ceaseless repetition; like the unvaried continued action of a borer.--Richardson.
Buc. I read in 's looks Matter against me, and his eyes revil'd Me as his abject object; at this instant He bores me with some tricks.--Shakspeare.
BORE. A tiresome person or unwelcome visitor, who makes himself obnoxious by his disagreeable manners, or by a repetition of visits.
BORN DAYS. One's life-time ever since one was born; a vulgar expression used in various parts of the country. It is also used in the same sense in England.--Craven Glossary.
In a' my born days, I never saw sic a rascal.--Carr's Craven.
An expression nearly similar is used by Froissart:
I know not in all my lyfe days how to deserve it.
Odswinge! this is brave! canny Comberland, oh In aw my born days see a sight I ne'er saw.--Westm. and Cum. Poems.
I never seed such a sight in all my born days. Heaven and earth! thinks I, where could they come from?--Maj. Jones's Courtship, p.39.
Where have you been all your born days, not to know better than that?--Sam Slick in England, ch. ii.
Bime-by the General begun to let off steam, and such a whizzin' you never heard in your born days.--Maj. Downing's Letters, p. 200.
The more (the schoolmaster) read the advertisement, the more he was astonished at the rashest set of temerity he had ever witnessed in his born days.--Knickerbocker Mag. vol. xvii. p. 33.
NOT BORN IN THE WOODS TO BE SCARED BY AN OWL. Too much used to danger, or threats, to be easily frightened.
I just puts my finger to my nose, and winks, as much as to say, "I aint such a cursed fool as you take me to be!" Guess he found that was no go; for I warn't born in the woods to be scared by an owl.--Sam Slick.
BORN WITH A SILVER SPOON IN HIS MOUTH. To inherit a fortune by birth.
Mr. Hood, in his History of Miss Kilmansegg, says
She was one of those, by Fortune's boon, who Are born, as they say, with a silver spoon In her mouth, not a wooden ladle;
BOSS. (Dutch, baas. Danish, bas, a master.) A master, an employer of mechanics or laborers. It probably originated in New York, and is now used in many parts of the United States. The blacks often employ it in addressing white men in the Northern States, as they do massa (master) in the Southern States.
BOSS. (Lat. bos.) Among the hunters of the prairies, a name for the buffalo.
BOSSY. A familiar name applied to a calf.
BOTHER. Trouble, confusion.
BOTTOM. Low land with a rich soil formed by alluvial deposits, and formerly the bottom or bed of a stream or lake. This is an old use of the word. Dr. Johnson defines it, a dale; a valley; a low ground.
He stood among the myrtle-trees that were in the bottom.--Zech. i. 8.
In the purleius stands a sheep-cote, west of this place, down in the neighboring bottom.--Shakspeare.
On both shores of that fruitful bottom, are still to be seen the marks of ancient edifices.--Addison on Italy.
Both the bottoms and the high grounds are alternately divided into wood lands and prairies.--Stoddard's Louisiana, p. 213.
BOTTOM-LANDS. In the Western States, this name is given to the rich flat land on the banks of rivers, which in New England is generally called interval land, or simply interval.--Pickering's Vocab. Webster.
Our sleigh, after winding for some time among this broken ground, and passing over one or two small but beautiful pieces of bottom land among the ravines, readied at last the top of the bluff.--Hoffman.
BOUGHTEN. Which is bought. This is a common word in the interior of New England and New York. It is applied to articles purchased from the shops, to distinguish them from similar articles of home manufacture. Many farmers make their own sugar from the maple-tree, and their coffee from barley or rye. West India sugar or coffee are then called boughten sugar, etc. This is a home-made carpet; that a boughten one, or one of foreign manufacture, bought at a shop.
BOUNCING. Large, heavy. Often applied, in familiar language, as in the phrase, "a bouncing girl."
TO BOUGE. (Old Fr. bouge, swelling.--Cotgrave). To swell out, to bulge. This old word is noticed by Dr. Johnson. It is nearly obsolete in England, but is preserved in the interior of New England.
When the sun gets in one inch, it is ten o'clock; when it reaches the stone that bouges out there, it is dinner time.--Margaret, p. 6.
BOWIE-KNIFE. (Pron. boo-ee). A knife from ten to fifteen inches long and about two inches broad, so named after its inventor, Colonel Bowie. They are worn as weapons by persons in the South-western States only, and concealed in
the back part of the coat. No gentleman at the North thinks it necessary to wear such a weapon.
BOW-DARK TREE. (Fr. bois d'arc.) A western tree, the wood of which is used to make bows with.
BRACK. (Goth. braka. Ang. Sax. bracan, to break.) A breach, a broken part.--Johnson.
Mr. Pickering says, "This old English word is still used in some parts of New England, where it is applied to a break or flaw in a piece of cloth." It is to be found in old authors and is still provincial in England.
Let not a brack i' th' stuff, or here and there The fading gloss, a general loss appear.--Beaumont and Fletcher.
BRAKE. The common name for fern. In Sweden the female fern is called bracken. In the north of England it is called brackens.--Brockett's North County Words.
It is a common saying in the Northern States, on the opening of spring, If you break the first brake, and kill the first snake, you will go through all you undertake.
BRAKE. A lever used for stopping cars on railways.
BRAKEMAN. The man whose business it is to stop cars on railways, by pressing a lever against the wheels.
BRAN-NEW.} (Teut. brand new.) Quite new.
This word is provincial in the North of England, and is used in colloquial language in other parts, as well as in the United States. Mr. Todd suggests whether the expression may not have been originally brent-new, or bren-new, from the Saxon brennan, to burn, equivalent in meaning to fire-new, i. e., anything new from the forge; hence the secondary sense, just finished, quite new. The Dutch expression is explained by Kilian by vier-new.--Forby--Brockett.
Dr. Jamieson calls this a Scottish word.
---- Waes me, I hae forgot, With hast of coming off; to fetch my coat. What shall I do? It was almaist brand new; 'Tis but a hellier since't came off the clew.--Ross's Helenore, p. 53.
BRASH. Brittle. In New England this word is used in speak-
ing of wood or timber that is brittle. In New York it is often heard in the markets, applied to vegetables. Ex. "These radishes are brash," i. e. brittle. In many parts of England, twigs are called brash.
Although this word is not used in the same sense in England, it seems to be properly derived from the Dutch braash, brittle. Brashy, in the north of England, means, delicate in constitution.--Brockett's Glossary.
BRAVELY. Excellently. The adjective brave was formerly used in the sense of excellent; as it still is, for instance, in German and French. It has now lost this meaning; but we continue to use the adverb in such phrases as "Templeton sang bravely," "The sick man is now doing bravely."
BREACHY. A term applied to unruly oxen in New England, particularly to such as break down fences or through inclosures. It is provincial in the South of England in the same sense.--Halliwell's Arch. and Prov. Dic.
BREAD-STUFF. Bread-corn, meal, or flour; bread.--Webster. Pickering.
This very useful word is American. Mr. Pickering says, "It was first used in some of the official papers of our government, soon after the adoption of the present Constitution. . . . . . It has probably been more readily allowed among us, because we do not, like the English, use the word corn as a general name for all sorts of grain, but apply it almost exclusively to Indian corn or maize." He cites the following authorities":
The articles of exports . . . . . . are bread-stuffs, that is to say, bread-grains, meals, and bread. Report of the Secretary of State (Mr. Jefferson) on Commercial Restrictions, Dec. 16, 1793.
One great objection to the conduct of Britain, was her prohibitory duty on the importation of bread-stuff, &c.--Marshall, Life of Washington, Vol. V. p. 519.
In Jamaica, the term bread-kind is applied to esculent roots, &c. substituted for bread.
BREAD-ROOT. (Psoralea esculenta.) A plant resembling the beet in form, which is found near the Rocky mountains, sometimes growing from twenty to thirty inches in circumfer-
ence. It contains a white pulpy substance, sweet and palatable.--Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, p. 50.
TO BREAK UP LAND. To plough up land that has lain long as a meadow, is the sense as understood in the United States. In England, according to Grose, land that has long lain fallow or in sheep-walks, is so called during the first year after the alteration.
Where peasen ye had, and a fallow thereon, Sow wheat ye may well, without dung thereupon: New broken up land, or with water opprest, Or overmuch dunged, for wheat is not best.--Tasser, Husbandry.
BRICKLEY, for brittle. Used in Georgia.--Sherwood's Gazetteer.
TO BRIDGE. To build a bridge, or bridges; as, 'to bridge a river.'--Webster.
Mr. Todd, in his edition of Johnson's Dictionary, says this unusual word was thought to be peculiar to Milton, who some supposed coined it; but that he has found it in Sherwood's Dictionary of 1632, with the explanation, "that hath a bridge over it."
Xerxes, the liberty of Greece to yoke, From Susa, like Memnonian palace high, Came to the sea; and, over Hellespont Bridging his way, Europe with Asia joined.--Milton, Par. Lost.
Here a road is formed by causeys of logs; or, in the language of the country, it is bridged.--Kendall's Travels in the United States.
BRIEF. Rife; common; prevalent. This word is much used by the uneducated in the interior of New England, when speaking of epidemic diseases. Mr. Halliwell, in his Provincial Dictionary, says, it is used in the same sense in England, and denotes the quickness with which the contagion spreads. Brief is also used when speaking of diseases in Virginia. It is not in any English dictionary except Bailey's, in which it is defined as 'common, rife.'
BRIGHT. Ingenious; possessing an active mind.--Webster.
This is a common use of the word in the United States. Neither Johnson nor Todd gives this definition of it. Two of their definitions are, "illuminated with science; sparkling
with wit." We say, a bright child, but would not say that Newton or Bacon was bright, for the term does not express enough to be applied to those great minds. In poetry, how ever, it does well enough, even when applied to one of these great philosophers.
If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shin'd, The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind.--Pope.
TO BRISK UP. To come up with life and speed; to take an erect or bold attitude.--Webster. An Americanism.
BROADBILL. (Anas menlo.) The common name of a wild duck, which appears on our coast in large numbers in October. On the Chesapeake it is called Black-head; and in Virginia, Raft-duck.--Nat. History of New York.
BROGUES.} The first word is used in the United States, to distinguish a heavy, coarse shoe, between a boot and a shoe. In England coarse or wooden shoes are called brogues. When filled with nails they are called clouted brogues.--Nare's Glossary.
I thought he slept, And put my clouted brogues from off my feet, whose rudeness Answer'd my steps too loud.--Cymbeline, IV. 2.
BROOM-CORN. (Sorghum saccharatum.) A species of corn which grows from six to eight feet high, from the tufts of which brooms are made.
BROTHER-CHIP. A fellow-carpenter; in a more general sense, a person of the same trade.
BROTHER JONATHAN.--The origin of this term, as applied to the United States, is given in a recent number of the Norwich Courier. The Editor says it was communicated by a gentleman now upwards of eighty years of age, who was an active participator in the scenes of the Revolution. The story is as follows:
When General Washington, after being appointed commander of the army of the Revolutionary war, came to Massachusetts to organize it and make preparations for the defence of the country, he found a great want of ammunition and other means necessary to meet the powerful foe he had to contend with, and great difficulty to obtain them. If attacked in such con-
dition, the cause at once might be hopeless. On one occasion at that anxious period, a consultation of the officers and others was had, when it seemed no way could be devised to make such preparation as was necessary. His Excellency, Jonathan Trumbull the elder, was then Governor of the State of Connecticut, on whose judgment and aid the General placed the greatest reliance, and remarked, "We must consult 'Brother Jonathan' on the subject." The General did so, and the Governor was successful in supplying many of the wants of the army. When difficulties afterwards arose, and the army was spread over the country, it became a by-word, "We must consult Brother Jonathan." The term Yankee is still applied to a portion, but "Brother Jonathan" has now become a designation of the whole country, as John Bull has for England.
BROWN STUDY. Deep thought; absence of mind. "He is in a brown study," i. e. in deep thought, or intent upon his book.
The adjective is here used in a metaphorical sense; brown being considered a dull, sober color. Comp. art. Blue.
Why, how now, sister, in a motley mouse? * * * * * * * * Faith, this brown study suits not with your black, Your habit and your thoughts are of two colors.--Ben Jonson.
They live retired, and they doze away their time in drowsiness and brown studies; or, if brisk and active, they lay themselves out wholly in making common-places.--Norris.
BROWN THRASHER. (Ferruginous thrush. Audubon Ornith.) The popular name of the brown thrush. It is also called the ground mocking-bird.--Nat. History of New York.
I love the city as dearly as a brown thrasher loves the green tree that sheltered its young.--C. Mathews, Works, p. 125.
BRUSH. A skirmish, or fight.--Johnson. Grose.
It could not be possible, that, upon so little a brush as Walter had sustained, he could not be able to follow and disturb the king.--Corcoran.
TO BRUSH UP. To prepare oneself; to take courage.
When Miss Mary came, I brushed up, and was determined to have a rite serious talk with her, not knowin but she mought be captivated by some of them Macon fellers.--Major Jones's Courtship.
BUBBLER. A fish found in all the waters of the Ohio. Its name is derived from the singular grunting noise which it makes, a noise which is familiar to every one who has been much on the Ohio.--Flint's Mississippi Valley.
BUCK-EYE. In the Western States, the people of each are known by certain nicknames. The natives of Ohio are called Buck-eyes.
TO BUCKLE-TO. To set about any task with energy and a determination to effect the object. It probably comes from harnessing or buckling to a carriage, the horses, before starting. In Scotland, buckle to means to join in marriage.--Jamieson.
I have no objections. said the schoolmaster, to sing you a psalm tune, since you are anxious to hear it; but after that you must buckle-to, and stick to the elements.--Knickerbocker Mag. Vol. XVII. p. 87.
BUCKRA. A white man. A term universally applied to white men by the blacks of the African coast, the West Indies and the Southern States. In the language of the Calabar coast, buckra means devil; not, however, in the sense we apply to it, but that of a demon, a powerful and superior being. The term swanga buckra, often used by the blacks, means, an elegantly dressed white man, or dandy. I am indebted to the Rev. J. L. Wilson, who is familiar with the African language alluded to, for the etymology of this word.
Which country you like best? Buckra country very good, plenty for yam (food), plenty for bamboo (clothing). Buckra man book larn. Buckra man rise early--he like a cold morning; nigger no like cold.--Carmichael's West Indies, Vol. 1. p. 311.
BUCKTAIL. The name of a political party in the State of New York, which sprung up about the year 1815. Its origin is thus described by Mr. Hammond: "There was an order of the Tammany Society who wore in their hats as an insignia, on certain occasions, a portion of the tail of the deer. They were a leading order, and from this circumstance the friends of De Witt Clinton gave those who adopted the views of the members of the Tammany Society, in relation to him, the name of Bucktails; which name was eventually applied to their friends and supporters in the country. Hence the party opposed to the administration of Mr. Clinton, were for a long time called the "Bucktail Party."--Polit. Hist of New York, Vol. I p. 450.
BUCKWHEAT. A species of grain (genus polygonor), the flour of which is much used in the United States.
An etymology of this word has been suggested to me by a friend, which, as it is new, deserves mention. The Saxon for beech is boc, Dutch, bock. The mast or nut of the beech is of the same form and color as the grain of the buckwheat; hence we have the Dutch bock weyt, beech-wheat, and English buckwheat, or wheat resembling the buck or beech nut.
BUFFALO. A sort of fresh-water fish, resembling the sheep's head, found in the Mississippi.
BUFFALO CHIPS. The dry dung of the buffalo, used for fuel on the prairies.
Wood is now very scarce, but "buffalo chips" are excellent--they kindle quick and retain heat surprisingly. We have this evening buffalo steaks broiled upon them that had the same flavor they would have had on hickory coals.--Letter from a California Emigrant.
BUFFALO GRASS. A species of short grass from two to four inches high, covering the boundless prairies on which the buffaloes feed. A remarkable characteristic of some varieties of this grass, is that "the blade, killed by the frost of winter, is resuscitated in the spring, and gradually becomes green from the root up, without casting its stubble or emitting new shoots."--Scenes in the Rocky Mountains, p. 287.
BUFFALO-ROBE. The skin of the buffalo, dressed for use.
BUG. In the United States coleopterous insects are invariably called bugs; thus May bug, June bug, golden bug, &c. In England they are called beetles, and the word but is restricted to the species found in bedding.
BUGGY. A light waggon for one horse.
Lend me a hundred and buy yourself a buggy,--why don't you get a buggy, to begin with?--J. C. Neal's Sketches.
BUGLE-WEED. (Lycopus Virginicus.) A plant which has much reputation for its medicinal properties. It is also known as the Virginian Water-horehound.
BULGER. Large.--Western term.
We soon came in sight of New York and a bulger of a place it is.--Crockett, p. 37.
BUILD UP. To erect; and metaphorically to establish, to found.
In this manner it was thought we should sooner 'build up a settlement,' as the phrase goes. In America, the reader should know, everything is built. The priest builds up a flock; the speculator, a fortune; the lawyer a reputation; and the landlord, a settlement.--Cooper, Satanstoe.
Mr. R. has never done anything, to the Courier and Enquirer to make them hunt him down or cast ridicule on him, while endeavoring to build up for himself, no unsullied character among his fellow-men.--N. Y. Tribune, 1848.
BULL. A stock exchange term for one who buys stock on speculation for time, i. e. agrees with the seller, called a bear, to take a certain sum of stock at a future day, at a stated price; if at that day stock fetches more than the price agreed on, he receives the difference; if it falls or is cheaper, he either pays it, or becomes a "lame duck." This description of a bull from Grose's Slang Dictionary, corresponds precisely with the bulls of Wall street, who speculate in stocks in the same manner. See Lame Duck and Bear, the names of other classes who figure in the stock exchange.
There was a sauve qui peut movement to-day in the Stock Market, and the clique of bulls finding it impossible to stem the rush, gave up the attempt to stem the market and let things go down with a run. . . . Such a state of the market as is now exhibited, is nearly as bad for the bears as the bulls.--N. Y. Tribune, Dec. 10, 1845.
There is something of a panic in Wall street, and the bulls fare hard.--N. Y. Journal of Commerce, Dec. 10, 1845.
It is usual for the brokers to collect in Wall street, sometimes in such numbers as to obstruct the way. This led to a petition to the board of aldermen complaining of
"An encumbrance upon the sidewalks, for that every week-day morning, between 9 and 11, certain bulls and hears do congregate upon the sidewalk, on the northerly side of Wall street nearly opposite Hanover street, in such numbers as entirely to obstruct the way of foot passengers, so that they are compelled to take the middle of the street, or cross over to the walk on the opposite side." The prayer is, "that the nuisance may be abated." Ald. Dod moved to lay the memorial on the table. Ald. McElrath said that the petition was very respectably signed, and trusted it would receive a respectful consideration: the petitioners were serious, asked the removal of an obstruction, and used the terms well known.--N. Y. Tribune, 1847.
BULL'S EYES, n. A coarse sweetmeat mixed with flour, and
streaked various colors, greedily devoured by children.--Hartshorne's Shropshire Glossary.
The same word is used here.
BUMBLE-BEE. The wild bee; also called the humble bee. In Yorkshire, England, to bumble means to make a humming noise.--Dr. Willan, in Archæologia, Vol. XVII.
Chaucer uses the verb bumble to describe the noise made by the bittern.
BUMKUM.} Judge Halliburton of Nova Scotia, thus explains this very useful and expressive word, which is ]iow as well understood as any word in our language:
"----All over America, every place likes to hear of its members of Congress, and see their speeches; and if they don't, they send a piece to the paper, enquirin' if their member died a natural death, or was skivered with a bowie knife, for they hante seen his speeches lately, and his friends are anxious to know his fate. Our free and enlightened citizens don't approbate silent members; it don't seem to them as if Squashville, or Punkinsville, or Lumbertown was right represented, unless Squashville, or Punkinsville, or Lumbertown makes itself heard and known, ay, and feared too. So every feller in bounden duty, talks, and talks big too, and the smaller the State, the louder, bigger, and fiercer its members talk.
"Well, when a critter talks for talk sake, jist to have a speech in the paper to send to home, and not for any other airthly puppus but electioneering, our folks call it Bunkum. Now the State of Maine is a great place for Bunkum--its members for years threatened to run foul of England, with all steam on, and sink her about the boundary line; voted a million of dollers, payable in pine logs and spruce boards, up to Bangor mills; and called out a hundred thousand militia (only they never come), to captur a saw mill to New Brunswick. That's Bunkum--all that flourish about Right o' Search was Bunkum--all that brag about hangin' your Canada sheriff was Bunkum--all the speeches about the Caroline, and Creole, and Right of Sarch, was Bunkum. In short,
almost all that's said in Congress, in the Colonies, (for we set the fashions to them, as Paris gals do to our milliners,) and all over America, is Bunkum.
"Well, they talk Bunkum here, too, as well as there. Slavery speeches are all Bunkum; so are reform speeches, too," etc.
The origin of the phrase, as I have read it, is somehow so: A tedious speaker in Congress being interrupted and told it was no use to go on, for the members were all leaving the house, replied, "Never mind; I'm talking to Buncombe." Buncombe, in North Carolina, was the place he represented.
Washington is the theatre of the worst passions in our nature: chicanery lurks within the cabinet, distrust and envy without, while fawning sycophancy environs it round about. To sum it up, it is a little of government--a great deal of bumcum, sprinkled with a high seasoning of political juggling, with but one end and aim--the spoils of Uncle Sam.--Robb, Squatter Life, p. 17.
BUNK. (Ang. Sax. beuc. Germ. bank. Danish, baenk, a bench, a form.) A wooden case used in country taverns and in offices which serves alike for a seat during the day and for a bed at night. They are common throughout the Northern States.
Dr. Jamieson has the word bunker, a bench, or sort of low chests that serve for seats--also, a seat in a window, which serves for a chest, opening with a hinged lid.--Etym. Dict. Scottish Language.
Ithers frae off the bunkers sank, We e'en like the collops scor'd.--Ramsay's Poems, Vol. I. p. 280.
In some parts of Scotland a bunker or bunkart, which Dr. Jamieson thinks to be the same word, means an earthen seat in the fields. In the North of England, a seat in front of a house, made of stones or sods, is called a bink.
BUNK. A piece of wood placed on a lumberman's sled to enable it to sustain the end of heavy pieces of timber.--Maine.
BUNGTOWN-COPPER. The old English half-penny, or copper. So called in various parts of New England.
These flowers wouldn't fetch a bungtown copper.--Margaret, p. 19.
TO BUNDLE. Mr. Grose thus describes this custom:
"A man and woman lying on the same bed with their clothes on; an expedient practised in America on a scarcity of beds, where, on such occasions, husbands and parents frequently permitted travellers to bundle with their wives and daughters."--Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
Bundling is said to be practised in Wales. Whatever may have been the custom in former times, I do not think bundling is now practised in the United States.
Mr. Masson describes a similar custom in Central Asia:
"Many of the Afghan tribes have a custom in wooing, similar to what in Wales is known as bundling-up, and which they term namzat bazé. The lover presents himself at the house of his betrothed with a suitable gift, and in return is allowed to pass the night with her, on the understanding that innocent endearments are not to be exceeded.--Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan, &c. Vol. III. p. 287.
TO BUNT. To push with horns; to butt. This word is given by Webster, but is not in the English dictionaries. Mr. Hartsborne notices this word in his Shropshire Glossary.
BURGALOO. A kind of pear.
BURGOO. A seafaring dish made with oat meal and water, seasoned with salt, butter, and sugar.--Falconer's Marine Diet.
BURNT HIS FINGERS. When a person has suffered loss by a speculation, he is said to have burnt his fingers. It is used in the same sense in England.
We were sick of speculation in cotton. We had burnt our fingers once with the article, and would not try it again.--Peils of Pearl Street, p. 165.
BURR-STONE. A species of silex or quartz occurring in morphous masses, partly compact, but containing many irregular cavities. It is used for mill-stones.--Cleveland's Mineralogy.
BUSHWHACKER. A raw countryman, a green-horn.
Do you think all our eastern dignitaries combined could have compelled young bushwhackers to wear coats and shoes in recitation rooms.--Carlton's New Purchase, Vol. II. p. 87.
BUSS. A kiss. This word, once of sufficient dignity to be
used by our dramatic authors, has now become so obsolete as to be heard only from the vulgar.
Come, grin on me; and I will think thou smil'st,
And buss thee as my wife --Shakspeare, K. John, iii. 4.
Kissing and bussing differ both in this, We buss our wantons, but our wives we kiss.--Herrick's Works, p. 219.
TO BUST. To burst; to fail in business.
Simple persons who have been smarter or earlier in the field of fortune will burst up some fine morning, and leave the road open to others.--Blackwood's Mag. April, 1847, p. 498.
I was soon fotch'd up in the victualling line--and I busted for the benefit of my creditors.--J. C. Neal, Dolly Jones.
BUSTER. Anything large in size; a man of great strength. A common vulgarism, which appears to be of foreign origin.
Dr. Jamieson, in his Scottish Dictionary, has the word bustuous, busteous, huge, large in size; also, strong, powerful; which is the same meaning usually understood by our vulgar word buster.
---- The same time sendis sche Down to the folkis at the cost of the se, Twenty fed oxin, large, grete, and fyne, And one hundreth busteous boukes of swyne.--Douglas, Virgil, 33, 8.
We sometimes hear this word applied to a gale of wind, as, "This is a buster," i. e. a powerful or heavy wind. In the old Scottish poems there are examples of a similar use of the word.
That terrible trumpet, I hear tel, Beis hard in Ileavin, in eirth and hel; Those that were drownit in the sey, That busteous blast they sal obey.--Lindsay's Works, 1592, p. 167.
The Icelandic bostra, great noise, seems to be analagous to the word.
BUSTER, or bust. A frolic, a spree. "They were on a buster, and were taken up by the police."
BUSTLE. A pad stuffed with cotton, feathers, bran, &c., worn by ladies for the double purpose of giving a greater rotundity or prominence to the hips, and setting off the smallness of the waist.
Some of the ladies had bustles on that would have literally throwed the
BUTTE. (French.) This word is of frequent occurrence in books that relate to the Rocky Mountain and Oregon regions, "where," says Col. Frémont, "it is naturalized, and if desirable to render into English, there is no word which would be its precise equivalent. It is applied to the detached hills and ridges which rise abruptly, and reach too high to be called hills or ridges, and not high enough to he called mountains. Knob, as applied in the Western States, is their most descriptive term in English; but no translation or paraphrasis would preserve the identity of these picturesque land-marks."--Exped. to the Rocky Mountains, p. 145.
Sir Geo. Simpson in his "Overland Journey round the World," when traversing the Red River country, west of Hudson's Bay, speaks of a conspicuous land-mark in the sea of plains, known as the Butte aux Chiens, ... towering with a height of about four hundred feet over a boundless prairie as level and smooth as a pond.--Vol. I. p. 54.
BUTTER-CUP. The flower of the ranunculus ficarius. It seems to have obtained its name from a vulgar error, that butter is improved in flavor and color by cows eating this plant; though it is well known that they avoid it, on account of its acrid taste.--Craven Glossary.
BUTTERNUT. (Lat. Juglans cinerea.) Also called the oil-nut. The tree resembles the black walnut.
BUTTONING UP. A Wall street phrase. When a broker has bought stock on speculation and it falls suddenly on his hands, whereby he is a loser, he keeps the matter to himself and is reluctant to confess the ownership of a share. This is called buttoning up.--A Walk in Wall Street, p. 47.
BUTTON BUSH. (Cephalanthus occidentalis.) A shrub which
grows along the water side, its insulated thickets furnishing a safe retreat for the nests of the black-bird. Its flowers appear at a distance like the balls of the sycamore tree; hence its name.--Bigelow's Flora Bostoniensis.
BUTTON WOOD. (Platanus occidentalis.) The popular name in New England of the sycamore tree; so called from the halls it hears, the receptacle of the seeds, which remain on the trees during the winter.--Michaux's Sylva.
BY THE BYE. To Mr. Richardson we are indebted for a fuller examination of this phrase, than other lexicographers have given it. In this expression the latter bye seems to be the same bye as in by-law, &c., and of course to admit a similar explanation. In Lord Bacon; "there is upon the by to be noted," that is, upon the way, in passing, indirectly, this being a collateral and not the main object of pursuit. In Ben Jonson; "those who have saluted poetry on the by;" on their way, in passing; poetry being the collateral and not the direct or main object of their pursuit. By the bye then is by the way, in passing, such being a collateral and not a main object.--Richardson, Dictionary.
BY THE SKIN OF ONE'S TEETH. When a man has made a narrow escape from any dilemma, it is a common remark to say, that he has saved himself 'by the skin of his teeth.'
BY-BIDDER. A person employed at public auctions to bid on articles put up for sale, in order to obtain higher prices. In New York city also called Peter Funks, which see.
BY GOSH! An inoffensive oath, used mostly in New England. Negroes often say, By Golly!
BY GUM! The same as the preceding. It is also noticed by Moor in his Suffolk Glossary.
BY GOOD RIGHTS. By right, by strict justice; as, "By good rights Mr. Clay ought to be President of the United States," meaning that be is entitled to it by right, or by justice, and for the services he has rendered his country.