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as with us. But I admit that our abuse of the word is villanous. I know of an orator who once said in a public meeting where bonnets preponderated, that “the ladies were last at the cross and first at the tomb"! But similar sins were committed before our day and in the mother country. In the “Staie Trials" I learn of “a gentlewoman that lives cook with” such a one, and I hear the Lord High Steward speaking of the wife of a waiter at agnio as a gentlewoman! From the same authority, by the way, I can state that our vile habit of chewing tobacco had the somewhat unsavory example of Titus Oates, and I know by tradition from an eye-witness that the elegant General Burgoyne partook of the same vice. Howell, in one of his letters (dated 26 August, 1623), speaks thus of another “institution which many have thought American : “They speak much of that boisterous Bishop of Hal. verstadt (for so they term "bim here), that, having taken a place wher ther were two Monasteries of Nuns and Friers, he caus'd divers feather-beds to be rip'd, and all the feathers to be thrown in a great Hall, whither the Nuns and Friers were thrust naked with their bodies oil'd and pitch'd, and to tumble among the feathers.” Howell speaks as if the thing were new to him, and I know not if the “boisterous "
Bishop was the inventor of it, but I find it practised in England before our Revolution.
Before leaving the subject, I will add a few comments made from time to time on the margin of Mr. Bartlett's excellent “Dictionary,” to which I am glad thus publicly to acknowledge my many obligations.
“ Avails? good od English, and the vails of Sir Joshua Reynolds's porter are famous, Averse from, averse to, and in connection with them the English vulgarism “different to." The corrupt use of to in these cases, as well as in the Yankee“ he lives to Salem,” “ to home,' and others, must be a very old one, for in the one case it plainly arose from confounding the two French preposi
tions à (from Latin ad and ab), and in the other from translating the first of them. I once thought different to" a modern vulgarism, and Mr. Thackeray, on my pointing it out to him in
Henry Esmond, confessed it to be an anachronism. Mr. Bartlett refers to "the old writers quoted in Richardson's Dictionary” for “different to, but in my edition of that work all the examples are with from. But I find to used invariably by Sir R. Hawkins in Hakluyt. Banjo is a negro corrup; tion of O. E. bandore. Bind weed can hardly be modern, for wo:d-bind is old and radically right, intertwining itself through bindan and windan with classic stems. Bobolink : is this a contraction for Bob o' Lincoln ? I find bobolynes, in one of the poems attributed to Skelton, where it may be rendered giddy-pate, a term very fit for the bird in his ecstasies. Cruel for great is in Hakluyt. Bowling-alley is in Nash's “Pierce Pennilesse Curious, meaning nice, occurs continually in old writers, and is as old as Pecock's
Repressor.” Droger is C. E. drugger. Educational is in Burke. Feeze is only a form of fizz. To fix, in the American sense, I find used by the Commissioners of the United Colonies so early as 1675; “their arms well fixed and fit for service. To take the foot in the hand is German; so is to go under. Gundalow is old : I find gundelo in Hakluyt, and gundello in Booth's reprint of the folio Shakespeare of 1623. Gonoff is 0. E. groffe. Heap is in “ Piers Ploughman” (“and other names an heep.”'), and in Hakluyt (“seeing such a heap of their enemies ready to devour them "'). To liquor is in the “Puritan” (“call 'em in, and liquor 'em a little ”). To lonf: this, I think, is unquestionably German. Laufen is pronounced lofen in some parts of Germany, and I once heard one German student sav another, Ich lauf'(lofe) hier bis du wiederkehrest, and he began accordirg. ly to saunter up and down, in short, to loaf To mull, Mr Bartlett says, means “to soften, to dispirit," and
quotes from Margaret,"
“ There has been a pretty considerable mullin going on among the doctors," where it surely cannot mean what he says it does. We have always heard mulling used for stirring, bustling, sometimes in an underhand way. It is a metaphor derived probably from mulling wine, and the word itself must be a corruption of mell, from 0. F. mesler. Pair of stairs is in Hakluyt. To pull up stakes is in Curwen's Journal, and therefore pre-Revolutionary. I think I have met with it earlier. Raise : under this word Mr. Bartlett omits "to raise a house," that is, the frame of a wooden one, and also the substantive formed from it, a raisin'. Retire for go to bed is in Fielding's “ Amelia.” Setting-poles cannot be new, for I find “some set (the boats) with long poles " in Hakluyt. Shoulder-hitters : I find that shoulder-striker is old, though I have lost the reference to my authority. Snag is no new word, though perhaps the Western application of it is so; but I find in Gill the proverb, “A bird in the bag is worth two on the snag. Dryden has swop and to rights. Tņail: Hakluyt has “ many wayes traled by the wilde beastes.'
1 subjoin a few phrases not in Mr. Bartlett's book which I have heard. Bald-headed : “to go it bald-headed”; in great haste, as where one rushes out without his hat. Bogue : “I don't git much done 'thout I bogue right in along 'th my men. Carry : a portage. Cat-nap: a short doze. Cat-stick : a small stick. Chowderhead: a muddle-brain. Cling-john: a soft cake of rye. Cocoa-nut : the head. Cohees' : applied to the people of certain settlements in Western Pennsylvania, from their use of the archaic form Quo' he. Dunnow'z 1 know: the nearest your true Yankee ever comes to acknowledging ignorance. Essence-pedler :
skunk. First-rate and a half. Fish-flakes, for drying fish : 0. E. fleck (cratis). Gander.party: a social gathering of men only. Gawnicus : a dolt. Hawkins's whetstone : rum ; in derision of
Hawkins, a well-known temperance-lecturer. Hyper : to bustle : *I mus' hyper about an' git tea." Kecler-tub: one in which dishes are washed. (“ And Greasy Joan doth keel the pot.”) Laptea : where the guests are too many to sit at table. Last of pea-time : to be hard up. Löse-laid loose-laid): a weaver's term, and probably English ; weak-willed. Malahack: to cut up hastily or awkwardly. Moonglade: a beautiful word for the track of moonlight on the water. Off-ox : an unmanageable, cross-grained fellow Old Driver, Old Splitfout ; the Devil. Onkitch: to pull trigger (cf Spanish disparar). Popular : conceited. Rote : sound of surf before a storm. Rot-gut: cheap whiskey; the word occurs in Heywood's “ English Traveller " and Addison's “Drummer,” for a poor kind of drink. Seem: it is habitual with the New-Englander to put this verb to strange uses, as, “I can't seem to be suited,” “I could n't seem to know him." Sidehill, for hillside. Statehouse: this seems an Americanism, whether invented or derived from the Dutch Stadhuys, I know not. Strike and string: from the game of ninepins; to make a strike is to knock down all the pins with one ball, hence it has come to mean fortunate, successful. Swampers : men who break out roads for lumberers. Tormented : euphemism for damned, as, “not a tormented cent." Virginia fence, to make a: to walk like a drunken man.
It is always worth while to note down the erratic words or phrases which one meets with in any dialect. They may throw light on the meaning of other words, on the relationship of languages, or even on history itself. In so composite a language as ours they often supply a different form to express a, different shade of meaning as in viol and fiddle, thrid and thread. smothe. and smoulder, where the l has crert in by a false analogy with would
We have given back to England the ex. cellent adjective lengthv, formed honestly like earthy, drouthy, and others,
thus enabling their journalists to characterize our President's messages by a word civilly compromising between long and tedious, so as not to endanger the peace of the two countries by wounding our national sensitiveness to British criticism. Let me give two curious examples of the antiseptic property of dialects at which I have already glanced. Dante has dindi as a childish or low word for danari (money), and in Shropshire small Roman coins are still dug up which the peasants call dinders.
This can hardly be a chance coincidence, but seems rather to carry the word back to the Roman soldiery. So our farmers say chuk, chuk, to their pigs, and ciacco is one of the Italian words for hog. When a countryman tells us that he “fell all of a heap,” I cannot help thinking that he unconsciously points to an affinity between our word tumble, and the Latin tumulus, that is older than most others. I believe that words, or even the mere intonation of them, have an astonishing vitality and power of propagation by the root, like the gardener's pest, quitch-grass, * while the application or combination of them may be new. It is in these last that my countrymen seem to me full of humor, invention, quickness of wit, and that sense of subtle analogy which needs only refining to become fancy and imagination. Prosaic as American life seems in many of its aspects to a European, bleak and bare as it is on the side of tradition, and utterly orphaned of the solemn inspiration of antiquity, I cannot help thinking that the ordinary talk of unlettered men among us is fuller of metaphor and of phrases that suggest lively images than that of any other people
Very many such will be found in Mr. Bartlett's book, though his short list of proverbs at the end seem to me, with one or two exceptions, as un-American as possible. Most of them have no
character at all but coarseness, and ar quite too long-skirted for working proverbs, in which language always" takes off its coat to it," as a Yankee would say. There are plenty that have a more native and puckery flavor, seedlings from the old stock often, and yet new varieties.
One hears such not seldom among us Easterners, and the West would yield many more. “Mean enough to steal acorns from a blind hog"; Cold as the north side of a Jenooary gravestone by starlight"; Hungry as a graven image"; " Pop'
a hen with one chicken Quicker 'n greased lightnin' “Ther's sech a thing ez bein' tu" “Stingy enough to skim his milk at both eends" “ Hot as the Devil's kitchen” “ Handy as a pocket in a
; " He's a whole team and the dog under the wagon”; “ All deacons are good, but there's odds in deacons ” (to deacon berries is to put the largest atop); "So thievish they hey to
in their stone walls nights”; may serve as specimens. "I take my tea barfoot," said a backwoodsman when asked if he would have cream and sugar. (I find barfoot, by the way, in the Coventry Plays.) A man speaking to me once of a very rocky clearing said, “Stone's got a pretty heavy mortgage on that land," and I overheard a guide in the woods say to his companions who were urging him to sing, “Wal, I did sing once, but toons gut invented, an' thet spilt
Whoever has driven over a stream by a bridge made of slabs will feel the picturesque force of the epithet slab-bridged applied to a fellow of shaky character
Almost every county has some good die-sinker in phrase, whose mintage passes into the rency of the whole neighborhood. Such a one described the county jail (the one stone building where all the dwellings are of wood) as "the house whose underpinnin' come up to the eaves,” and
Which, whether in that form, or under its aliases witch-grass and croch-grass, peints us back to its original Saxon quick.
* And, by the way, the Yankee never says "o' nights," but uses the older adverbial form, analogous to the German nachts.
called hells the place where they did n't rake up their fires nights." I once asked a stage-driver if the other side of a hill were as steep as the one we were climbing : Steep? chainlightnin' could n go down it 'thout puttin' the shoe on!” And this brings me back to the exaggeration of which I spoke before.
To me there is something very taking in the negro black that charcoal made a chalk-mark on him," and the wooden shingle
painted so like marble that it sank in water,
as if its very consciousness or its vanity had been over-persuaded by the cunning of the painter. I heard a man, in order to give a notion of some very cold weather, say to another that a certain Joe, who had been taking mercury, found a lump of quicksilver in each boot, when he went home to dinner. This power of rapidly dramatizing a dry fact into flesh and blood, and the vivid conception of Joe as a human thermometer, strike me as showing a poetic sense that may be refined into faculty. At any rate there is humor here, and not mere quickness of wit, — the deeper and not the shallower quality. The tendency of humor is always towards overplus of expression, while the very essence of wit is its logical precision. Captain Basil Hall denied that our people had any humor, deceived, perhaps, by their gravity of manner. But this very seriousness is often the outward sign of that humorous quality of the mind which delights in finding an element of identity in things seemingly the most incongruous, and then again in forcing an incongruity upon things identical. Perhaps Captain Hall had no humor himself, and if so he would never find it. Did he always feel the point of what was said to himself? I doubt it, because I happen to know a chance he once had given him in vain. The Captain was walking up and down the veranda of a country tavern in Massachusetts while the coach changed horses.
A thunderstorm was going on, and, with that pleasant European air of indirect selfcompliment in condescending to be
surprised by American merit, which we find so conciliating, he said to a countryman lounging against the door, "Pretty heavy thunder you have here. The other, who had divined at a glance his ieeling of generous concession to a new country, drawled gravely, “Waal, we du, considerin' the number of inhabitants." This, the more I analyze it, the more humorous does it seem. The same man was capable of wit also, when he would.
He was a cabinet-maker, and was once employed to make some commandment-tables for the parish meeting-house. The parson, a very old man, annoyed him by look: ing into his workshop every morning, and cautioning him to be very sure to pick out “clear mahogany without any knots in it." At last, wearied out, he retorted one day : Wal, Dr. B., 1 guess ef I was to leave the nots out o' some o' the c'man'ments, 't 'ould soot you full ez wal !”
If I had taken the pains to write down the proverbial or pithy phrases I have heard, or if I had sooner thought of noting the Yankeeisms I met with in my reading, I might have been able to do more justice to my theme. But I have done all I wished in respect to pronunciation, if I have proved that where we are vulgar, we have the countenance of very good company. For, as to the jus et norma loquendi, I agree with Horace and those who have paraphrased or commented him, from Boileau to Grav. I think that a good rule for style is Galiani's definition of sublime oratory, — "l'art de tout dire sans être mis à la Bastille dans un pays où il est défendu de rien dire." I profess myself a fanatical purist, but with a hearty contempt for the speech-gilders who affect purism without any thorough, or even pedagogic, knowledge of the engendure, growth, and affinities of the noble language about whose mésal. liances they profess (like Dean Alford) to be so solicitous,
If they had their “ Doch es sey," says Les. sing, “ dass jene gothische Höflichkeit eine unentbehrliche Tugend des helle tigen Umganges ist. Soll sie darum
unsere Schriften eben so schaal und falsch machen als unsern Umgang ?” And Drayton was not far wrong in affirming that
“'T is possible to climb,
Although in Skelton's rhyme.”
Cumberland in his Memoirs tells us that when, in the midst of Admiral Rodney's great sea-fight, Sir Charles Douglas said to him, “Behold, Sir George, the Greeks and Trojans contending for the body of Patroclus !" the Admiral answered, peevishly, “ Damn the Greeks and damn the Trojans! I have other things to think of.' After the battle was won, Rodney thus to Sir Charles, “ Now, my dear friend, I am at the service of your Greeks and Trojans, and the whole of Homer's Iliad, or as much of it as you please!” I had some such feeling of the impertinence of our pseudo-classicality when I chose our homely dialect to work in Should we be nothing, because somebody had contrived to be something (and that perhaps in provincial dialect) ages ago ? and to be nothing by our very attempt to be that something which they had already been, and which therefore nobody could be again without being a bore? Is there no way left, then, I thought, of being natural, of being naïf, which means nothing more than native, of belonging to the age and country in which you are born? The Yankee, at least, is a new phenomenon ; let us try to be that. It is perhaps a pis aller, but is not No Thoroughfare written up everywhere else ? In the literary world, things seemed to me very much as they were in the latter half of the last century. Pope, skimming the cream of good sense and expression wherever he could find it, had made, not exactly poetry, but an
honest, salable butter of worldly wisdom which pleasantly lubricated some of the drier morsels of life's daily bread, and seeing this, scores of harmlessly insane people went on for the next fifty years coaxing his buttermilk with the regular up and down of
the pentameter churn.
And ir our day do we not scent everywhere, and even carry away in our clothes against our will, that faint perfume of musk which Mr. Tennyson has left behind him, or worse, of Heine's pachouli? And might it not be possible to escape them by turning into one of our narrow New England lanes, shut in though it were by bleak stone walls on either hand, and where no better flowers were to be gathered than golden-rod and hardhack ?
Beside the advantage of getting out of the beaten track, our dialect offered others hardly inferior. As I was about to make an endeavor to state them, I remembered something which the clearsighted Goethe had said about Hebel's Allemannische Gedichte, which, making proper deduction for special reference to the book under review, expresses what I would have said far better than I could hope to do : “ Allen diesen innern guten Eigenschaften kommt die behagliche naive Sprache sehr zu statten. Man findet mehrere sinnlich bedeutende und wohlklingende Worte
von einem, zwei Buchstaben, Abbreviationen, Contractionen, viele kurze, leichte Sylben, neue Reime, welches, mehr als man glaubt, ein Vortheil für den Dichter ist. Diese Elemente werden durch glückliche Constructionen und lebhafte Formen zu einem Styl zusammengedrängt der zu diesem Zwecke vor unserer Büchersprache grosse Vorzilge hat. Of course I do not mean to imply that I have come near achieving any such success as the great critic here indicates, but I think the success is there, and to be plucked by some more fortunate hand.
Nevertheless, I was encouraged by the approval of many whose opinions valued. With a feeling too tender and grateful to be mixed with any vanity, I mention as one of these the late A. H. Clough, who, more than any one of those I have known (no longer living), except Hawthorne, impressed me with the constant presence of that indefinable thing we call genius. He often