Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tidbits from 19th Century Words

Generally I share tidbits based on locations today I'd like to do something a little different. Recently I reposted a list from chapters of a book of Americanisms or what might be referred to as slang. Today I'd like to share some of these words and their meanings from the 1848 Americanisms by John Bartlett

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.—JV. Y. Com. Adv. Nov. 29,1845.

Bellowstop. "When egg was beaten in it [flip], it was called bellowstop; partly, perhaps, from its superior quality and partly from the greater quantity of white froth that swelled to the top of it."—Joel Parker, Centennial Address, 1873.

This next one is kinda fun since it's the same word with two different meanings. However when I was researching my book 19th Century Carriages & Wagons I discovered that the wagon was labeled that way because of the lady's hat.
CALASH. (Fr. cale‘che.) A two-wheeled carriage, resembling a chaise, used in Canada.
CALASH. A covering for the head, usually worn by ladies to protect their head-dresses when going to evening parties, the theatre, etc.

DAB, or DABSTER. One who is expert in anything; a proficient. A vulgar colloquialism in England and America.
One writer excels at a plan, or title-page ; another works away at the
body of the book; and the third is a dab at an index—Goldsmith.
He’s sich a dabster at a plough,
Few match’d him high or fan—Essex Dialect Poems.

Most people would tend to think this one is more modern but it's not.
ELBOW-GREASE. Persevering exercise of the arms, exciting perspiration ; hard rubbing—Glossaries of Brockett and Carr.
These were the manners, these the ways,
In good Queen Bess’s golden days ;
Each damsel owed her bloom and glee
To wholesale elbow-grease and me.—Smart, Fable 5.

Here's one that when I was growing up had a very different meaning.
FAGGED OUT. Fatigued; worn out.

This makes sense but something I haven't seen before.
GAL-BOY. In New England, a romping girl; called also a tom-boy.

HANGER-ON. A dependant; one who eats and drinks without payment.—Johnson.
They all excused themselves save two, which two he reckoned bis friends, and all the rest hangers-on.—L'Estrange.

Here's a fun one for us writers to read:
ILLY. A word occasionally used by writers of an inferior class, who do not seem to perceive that ill is itself an adverb, without the termination ly.

Obviously I could go on and on however, I'll simply post a link to the index from my blog. Americanisms or American Slang

Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 40 years. Lynn's newest novel "The Shepherd's Betrothal" is the third book in her Historical St. Augustine, FL. series.
Check out her 19th Century Historical Tidbits Blog if you like exploring different tidbits of history.


  1. I've never heard of many of these. I wonder if the word "dabble" came from "dabster". Very interesting!

  2. Thank you for sharing these interesting tidbits, Lynn!

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  3. I have a passion for books on slang - collect all I can find. Bellowstop was a term I hadn't come across yet, Thanks for your tidbits.

  4. American Slang certainly changes with each generation. Interesting post.
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