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remark that they are low or vulgar, or only to be heard in familiar conversation. Another class, not in the dictionaries referred to, is contained in the provincial glossaries of England. A third class, entirely distinct from the preceding, consists of slang words which are not noticed by lexicographers, yet are so much employed as to deserve a place in a glossary.
Such is the plan which I have thought most advisable to adopt, and which I hope will give satisfaction. In carrying out this plan, I have endeavored to give the most accurate definitions, citing the authorities in all cases where I have been enabled to find
any Except as regards words of purely American origin (e. g. those derived from the Indian languages and from the Dutch), I have generally kept aloof from etymologies and etymological discussions. These the reader will find in abundance such as they are - in the works of Johnson, Todd, Webster, and others.
Words of a provincial character, and such as have become obsolete in composition, are often of doubtful signification. Illustrations, from wellknown authors, wherein such words are employed, are of service in arriving at their true meaning. These have been employed in the present glossary, and serve the double purpose of illustration, and of rendering the book more readable than if confined to a dry collection of definitions. This mode of showing the sense in which words have been employed by authors, was first practised on a comprehensive scale by Dr. Johnson, whose labors are thereby greatly enhanced in value to the philologist; and has since been carried out more completely in Mr. Richardson's dictionary.
The class of words which are purely American in their origin and use, I have also attempted to illustrate, by extracts from American authors whose writings relate to that class of people among which these words are chiefly found. These books contain descriptions of country life, scenes in the backwoods, popular tales, etc., in which the colloquial or familiar language of particular States predominates. The humorous writings of Judge Haliburton of Nova Scotia give a tolerably correct though exaggerated specimen of the provincialisms of New England. The letters of Major Downing are of the same character, and portray the dialect of New England with less exaggeration.* There are no books in which the Western words and
* Among other books from which I have quoted examples of the use of words common to New England and the Northern States, are Judd's “Margaret,” the “ Widow Bedott Papers,” “ The Bigelow Papers,” and the Sermons of Dow, Junior. — [Note to Second Edition.]
phrases are so fully exhibited; though all the works which aim to illustrate Western life contain more or less of the idioms peculiar to the people. Judge Hall, Mrs. Kirkland (Mary Clavers), the author of the New Purchase, Charles F. Hoffman, and various tourists, have displayed in their several works the peculiarities of the people of the West, and occasionally their language. Mr. Crockett, however, himself a native of that region, associating from infancy with its woodsmen, hunters, and farmers, whose language is full of quaint words and figures of speech, has unintentionally made us better acquainted with the colloquial language of the West than any other author.
I am also indebted to a series of books published by Messrs. Carey and Hart, called the “ Library of Humorous American Works,” which consist of a series of tales and adventures in the South-west and West, by Wm. T. Porter, editor of the New York Spirit of the Times ; John S. Robb and J. M. Field, Esquires, of St. Louis, Missouri; the editor of the New Orleans Picayune ; and some anonymous writers. In these several works the drolleries and quaint sayings of the West are admirably incorporated into tales of the settlers, their manners and customs, vivid descriptions of Western scenery, political and dramatic scenes, etc. We have no books which present so graphic an account of Western life, related in the exaggerated and metaphorical language peculiar to the people of that region.
In Southern provincialisms I find myself most deficient, having seen no books except Major Jones's “ Courtship” and “Sketches," “ Georgia Scenes,” and “ Sherwood's Gazetteer of Georgia,” in which, however, a considerable number of local words are to be found.
The newspapers have afforded me many illustrations of the use of words, which I have not failed to make use of. These illustrations, it will be seen, are chiefly from the New York papers, viz. the Commercial Advertiser, the Tribune, and the Herald, for the simple reason that I have been in the practice of reading them daily. When I met with a word or phrase peculiarly American, or one which was employed in a sense differing from the use of the same in England, it was at once noticed and secured. All our newspapers contain more or less colloquial words ; in fact, there seems no other way of expressing certain ideas connected with passing events of every-day life, with the requisite force and piquancy. In the English newspapers the same thing is observable, and certain of them contain more of the class
denominated slang words than our own. The Whig papers throughout the United States employ certain political terms in advocating the principles of their party, and in denouncing those of their opponents. The Democratic papers pursue a similar course. The advocates and opponents of Abolition, Fourierism, etc., invent and employ many words peculiar to themselves. So with the religious sects; each new-fangled notion brings into existence some addition to our language, though that addition is not always an improvement.
The value of this Glossary would have been greatly enhanced, if, as is usual in the compilation of similar works, I had been able to avail myself of the assistance of persons residing in various parts of our country. No collection of words, professing to contain the colloquial language of the entire country, can approach any degree of completeness or correctness, without the aid of many hands and heads. None but a native of New England, educated on her soil, and who has mingled with all classes of society, has the requisite familiarity with the words and phrases peculiar to her people. So with the Western and Southern provincialisms. One born and brought up where they are spoken, who has heard and used them when a boy, and grown up in their midst, can alone portray them in their true
The aid of such persons it was impossible to procure, and the words here brought together have been, with very few exceptions, collected by myself. The deficiencies and imperfections are such, therefore, as could not be avoided under the circumstances.
The words of Dutch origin, most if not all of which are used or underderstood in the city of New York and those portions of its vicinity colonized by natives of Holland, were furnished by Mr. ALEXANDER J. CoTIEAL, a gentleman born and educated in New York, whose learning in other branches of philological science is well known to many. A few other words have been given me from time to time by other friends, who knew that I was making this collection. To all of these I am happy to express my acknowledgments.
When the work had advanced far towards completion, and one half had been put in type, the occurrence of some terms common in political language, the exact meaning of which was not clear, led me to apply to my friend JOHN INMAN, Esq., editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser, for aid. He readily complied with my request, and kindly furnished the definitions of
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
several terms of daily occurrence in the political language of the day. I
friend Mr. WM. W. Turner I am under great obligations for aid rendered me in preparing this work for the press. Mr. Turner's extensive acquaintance with the European and Oriental languages, together with an unusual sagacity in philological criticism, have peculiarly fitted him to give aid in the preparation of a work like this. I have, therefore, submitted the whole to his supervision, and adopted his views in all my conclusions. At his suggestion I have struck out many etymologies taken from standard dictionaries, which it was evident were wholly erroneous.
In noticing the words embraced in this Glossary, the reader will probably think that many have been admitted which ought not to have a place in a Dictionary of American Provincialisms. From what has already been said, it will be seen that it is very difficult to draw the line between what should be admitted and what excluded; and I have thought it better to err on the side of copiousness, than by too rigid a system of selection to run into the opposite extreme.
A careful perusal of nearly all the English glossaries has enabled me to select what appeared most desirable to embrace, and what to avoid, in an American book of a similar kind. Cant words, except such as are in general use, the terms used at gaming-houses, purely technical words, and those only known to certain trades, obscene and blasphemous words, have been discarded.
For a better understanding of the subject, as well as to show the importance of collecting and preserving the colloquial dialects of our country, I have prefixed to the Vocabulary some remarks on language, in which the reader will find that the study of dialects and provincialisms is considered as worthy the attention of philologists, as the investigation of the language of literature.
J. R. B.
DIALECTS OF ENGLAND.
The most recent investigations in which the science of philology has been brought to bear on the English language, have shown that it is of purely Gothic origin, descended through languages, of which sufficient remains to make grammatical as well as etymological comparisons practicable. It is true that some have regarded it as a perfect mongrel, without any natural parent, compounded of various languages and dialects, Greek, Latin, Saxon, French, Welsh, etc., etc. But although the language is very much mixed, it is a question whether it is not as pure, and as closely allied to the Anglo-Saxon and Mæso-Gothic, as the languages in the south of Europe are to the Latin. Or, in other words, it is probable that the English is not more impregnated with words of the Latin stock, than the Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are with words of the Teutonic stock.
The natural tendency of language is to improve; and when a people cannot express in a comprehensive manner a particular idea or shade of meaning, they either form a word to denote it from a root or roots already in the language, or borrow a word from other languages which expresses it already.
With regard to the English language this last-mentioned process has been adopted to an extent which, while it has enriched our vocabulary with a vast number of terms, has, it must be confessed, greatly impaired its reproductive power. The original substratum of Anglo-Saxon speech has been overlaid with multitudes of common and conversational words from the French, literary and ecclesiastical terms from the Latin, and technicalities from the Greek; and the process is constantly going on. Yet in spite of these immense accessions to its vocabulary, the structure of the English has remained in all essential respects the same from the period when it first became a language. Moreover, the number of foreign importations con