Thursday, September 27, 2012

Americanisms, Part 1

American English has always been a colorful language, and no less so during the 19th Century. Here are some of the more interesting words and phrases used.


It was still considered highly blasphemous to use the word "God" or "damn" where anyone could hear you. Euphemisms for either word are many and varied.

All-fired, joe-fired - general exclamatory adjective ("hell-fired") giving added dash to a chosen descriptive, as in: He sure was in an all-fired hurry.

Blame, blamed, dratted - damned, as in: That blamed horse has come up lame.

Blazes - hell, as in: Go to blazes!

Bunkum, claptrap, humbug - hogwash, bullsh*t, as in: That was a load of all-fired claptrap.

Bully, bully for you! - fantastic! (Note that this could also be used sarcastically)

Dad, dog - used to replace the word "God," as in: Dad-blamed

Dang, darn, dash, ding, - used to replace the word "damn," as in: Dash it all!

Do tell, you don't say - exclamation of surprise, as in: Henrietta is expecting? Well, do tell!

Land sakes, law sakes alive, man alive, sakes alive - exclamation of surprise used in place of "Oh my god" or "Lord Almighty."

Pshaw, shaw - polite exclamation replacing almost any other expletive

Rip-roaring, rip-staver (rib-staver), rip-snorting - remarkable for it's strength, intensity, or excellence, as in: We sure did have a rip-snorting time at the circus!

Sam Hill - the devil, Satan, as in: What in the Sam Hill do you think you're doing?

Some pumpkins - something quite impressive, as in: That new carriage of his is some pumpkins!

Tarnation, thunderation, nation - used to replace the exclamation "damnation."


American English is rife with unique phrases and sayings; an American will never use one word when he or she can substitute three or four for it!

Above my bend, above my huckleberry - difficult; above my capability or out of my power, as in: It is above my bend to change the weather.

Across lots - to push on through all obstacles, as in: If he has to go across lots to get that done, he will.

All creation, all nature, all wrath - everything or everyone, as in: I swear, all-creation was at the party.

All my born days - in my entire life, as in: In all my born days, I never saw such a thing!

A man to ride the river with - someone you can trust to help and protect you; a true partner

As blind as a post hole - usually refers to "blind" in the sense of oblivious

Backing and filling - waffling on a decision, as in: I asked him which he preferred, but he started backing and filling and wouldn't say.

Barking at a knot - engaging in senseless or hopeless activity, as in: You're barking at a knot trying to court her.

Don't care beans about - doesn't care, as in: I don't care beans if you come or go.

Don't care beans for - doesn't like, as in: I don't care beans for tomato soup.

Don't know beans about - has no idea, as in: I don't know beans about algebra.

If it'd been a snake, it'd have bit him - the object was in plain sight all the time

Keep that dry - keep it a secret

Like all-possessed - as if by the devil, as in: He ran off like all-possessed.

Not born in the woods to be scared by an owl - unafraid due to long experience; wise

Three ways from Sunday - every way, as in: He beat Dan three ways from Sunday.

To acknowledge the corn - to admit the truth, as in: We pressed him on the subject, and he acknowledged the corn.

To catch a weasel asleep - something highly unlikely; also refers to a very alert person

To get there with both feet - to succeed wildly

To knock into a cocked hat - to surprise, as in: It knocked me into a cocked hat when I found out she'd left her job.

Two whoops and a holler - something very close, as in: The store's just two whoops and a holler over that way.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Victorian Era Manners

Basic rules for everyone:
·      stand up when being introduced, or when an elderly person or dignitary enters the room
·      remember that silence is golden
·      speak gently and graciously (no matter your true feelings); assume the best in any situation; practice the art of conversation
·      stand and sit properly; good posture is essential
·      be in good taste
·      make others feel welcome in your presence; be gentle and patient

·      boast or brag
·      speak or act in anger
·      remove your gloves when making a formal visit
·      be nosy or overly inquisitive; do not meddle or tell tales
·      stare around the room when visiting, or walk about examining the furnishings unless invited to do so
·      pay attention to someone just because of their wealth or status in society
·      turn your back on someone - when you must remove yourself from their presence, ask to be excused

Basic rules for gentlemen:

·      wear gloves on the street, in church, or in other formal occasions, except when eating or drinking - gray or darker colors for day and white or cream colored for evening
·      remove your hat when entering a building
·      lift your hat fully to a lady in public; a greeting between gentlemen may be an inclination of the head, a gesture of the hand, or a mere touching of the hat
·      stand up when a lady, elderly person, or dignitary enters a room, comes within your presence, or stands
·      offer a lady your seat if no others are available, and assist with her chair when she sits down or stands, especially when at a table or when chairs are small or light
·      offer your arm to a lady with whom you are acquainted when entering or exiting a building or a room, and whenever walking on uneven ground
·      open doors for a lady and offer to help her with hat, cloak, shawl, packages, refreshments, etc
·      turn and walk with a lady if she wishes to speak in public, and leave with a bow and lift of the hat when all has been said

Never ....
·      use tobacco in any form when ladies are present
·      curse or discuss impolite subjects when ladies are present
·      call someone by their first name in public
·      acknowledge a lady in public unless she acknowledges you first
·      remove your gloves when making a formal call
·      use too much perfume or smoke before entering a lady's presence
·      scratch your head, pick your teeth, clean your nails, or worse of all, pick your nose in company; all these things are disgusting. Spit as little as possible and never upon the floor

'When walking, one must advance or thrust forward the chest or sternum, by drawing back the tops of the shoulders, taking care to keep them down; and at the same time holding the arms a little forward, so that the hands may be in a line with the foreside of the thighs. The head is to be held back in a becoming manner, but without stiffness; and the chin kept down, but not so as to give the figure an air of constraint. It is a great thing to be able to walk like a gentleman--that is, to get rid of that awkward, lounging, swinging gate of a clown and stop before you reach the affected and flippant step of the dandy. In short, nothing but being a gentleman can give you the air and step of one.'

Basic rules for a lady:

·      wear gloves on the street, in church, or in other formal occasions, except when eating or drinking
·      graciously accept gentlemanly offers of assistance
·      stand up when an elderly person or dignitary enters a room, comes within your presence, or stands

·      speak in a loud, coarse voice
·      call someone by their first name in public
·      lift your skirts higher than absolutely necessary to go up stairs
·      sit with your legs crossed except at the ankles if necessary for comfort
·      lift your skirts up onto a seat, stool, or chair - wait for assistance when sitting down at a table on or a chair, especially if it is small or light
·      participate in any games which would result in you being kissed or handled in any way - if a hand approaches a bit of jewelry, step back and unpin it for inspection

A true lady will go quietly and unobtrusively about her business when on the street, never seeking to attract the attention of the opposite sex, at the same time recognizing acquaintances with a courteous bow, and friends with pleasant words of greeting.