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!
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.