« PreviousContinue »
tions from several friends, who took an interest in the subject. To the Rev. WM. S. MURPHY, President of the University of Missouri, I am indebted for many words and phrases peculiar to the West. To Mr. JOHN GILMARY SHEA for New York words; to Dr. A. L. ELWYN of Philadelphia, for the use of a manuscript vocabulary of Americanisms collected by him; to Mr. JAMES MITCHELL, of Nantucket, for words in use in that island; to Professor GEO. C. SCHAEFFER of Washington, for many terms of natural history, words relating to the arts, and Westernisms; and to Dr. FRANCIS LIEBER, of Columbia College, New York, for many sound remarks, of which I have availed myself in the pages of the work.
Large additions have been made to the common terms of plants, trees, and fruits of the United States, as well as of those which enter into our commerce. These, being familiar words of our language, seem as worthy of being noted and explained as others. For valuable contributions to this class of words I am indebted to Dr. EDWARD FOREMAN, of Washington; while Mr. ALEX. J. COTHEAL, a merchant of New York, and well known in the field of Oriental literature, has kindly furnished me the common names of the trees, fruits, nuts, etc. which enter into our commerce.
In preparing the first edition of this work, I was at a loss what to include in the collection of words; and, preferring to err on the side of copiousness, admitted many words common to the colloquial language of England and this country, which have now been rejected to make way for pure Americanisms. Of the words so rejected there are nearly eight hundred; the following are examples: above-board, Adam's ale, to advocate, afeard, afore, afterclaps, bamboozle, to bark one's shins, bobtail, bogtrotter, bolt-upright, boozy, bo-peep, to bore, born days, bran new, brown study, by-the-by, to hold a candle, to catch a Tartar, caterwaul, catspaw, to chalk out, chink, chouse, chuffy, circumbendibus, clap-trap, clincher, clout, cool, cosey, cowlick, crambo, criss-cross, cross-grained, crotchety, crowsfeet, curmudgeon, curry favor, to cut one's acquaintance, cut and run, cut a dash, dabster, dead alive, dawdle, demijohn, duds, Dick's hatband, dilly-dally, dog cheap, down in the mouth, driving at, dumpy, elbow grease, to feather one's nest, etc., etc.
A good many such words have nevertheless been retained, on the principle that a word now used only in some out-of-the-way locality in England, but quite general here, may be regarded as a peculiarity of the English
language as spoken in America, i. e. an Americanism; but as it is often impossible to know with exactness to what extent a word is used in England, it is likely that many of these should properly have been omitted.
Many words common to the colloquial language both of England and America have been allowed to remain because they have not yet been honored with a place in the current standard Dictionaries. Of these there are many which in the glossaries are ascribed to "various dialects," and which should be inserted in any general Dictionary of the English language which aims at completeness. Were such a work as the new English Dictionary projected by the Philological Society of London already in existence, the insertion of a large number of words of this class could have been dispensed with.
From what has been said it will be seen that the present edition, while it does not wholly reject words of English origin, claims to be more strictly American than the first. At the same time, the first edition will still have a value of its own, as showing more fully how much of the colloquial language of England is retained in use in this country.
Due attention has been given to some valuable criticisms on the first edition, in a paper by the late Dr. Felix Flügel, entitled "Die englische Philologie in Nordamerika," which appeared in Gersdorf's Repertorium for 1852; also, to criticisms which appeared in the "Western Continent " newspaper of Philadelphia, and the "Literary World" of New York, soon after the publication of the volume. Some excellent illustrations have been obtained from a paper on "Canadian English," by the Rev. A. Constable Geikie, read before the Canadian Institute 28th of March, 1857, and printed in its Journal.
The first edition was translated into the Dutch language under the title of "Woordenboek van Americanismen, etc. Bewerkt door M. Keijzer. Gorinchem, 1854," leaving out the quotations which illustrate the use of words. It was hoped that this work would furnish assistance in settling the etymology and meaning of some of the old Dutch words still used in New York; but it has proved of little use.
At the close of the book will be found a small collection of American similes and proverbs, together with the abbreviations of the names of States, etc., which were inserted in the body of the first edition.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
To my friend, Mr. WILLIAM W. TURNER, of Washington, I take pleasure in again making my acknowledgments for the valuable aid furnished me in the present as well as in the former edition, not only for the contribution of numerous words and illustrations, but for his correction and supervision of the whole work.
PROVIDENCE, R. I., March, 1859.
J. R. B.
TO THE FIRST EDITION.
IN venturing to lay before the public a Vocabulary of the colloquial language of the United States, some explanation may be necessary for the broad ground I have been led to occupy.
I began to make a list of such words as appeared to be, or at least such as had generally been called, Americanisms, or peculiar to the United States, and, at the same time, made reference to the several authors in whose writings they appeared; not knowing whether, in reality, they were of native growth, or whether they had been introduced from England. When this list had expanded so as to embrace a large number of the words used in familiar conversation, both among the educated as well as among the uneducated and rustic classes, the next object was to examine the dialects and provincialisms of those parts of England from which the early settlers of New England and our other colonies emigrated.
The provincialisms of New England are more familiar to our ears than those of any other section of the United States, as they are not confined within the limits of those States, but have extended to New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan; which States have been, to a great extent, settled by emigrants from New England.
On comparing these familiar words with the provincial and colloquial language of the northern counties of England, a most striking resemblance appeared not only in the words commonly regarded as peculiar to New England, but in the dialectical pronunciation of certain words, and in the general tone and accent. In fact it may be said, without exaggeration, that nine tenths of the colloquial peculiarities of New England are derived (vii)
directly from Great Britain; and that they are now provincial in those parts from which the early colonists emigrated, or are to be found in the writings of well accredited authors of the period when that emigration took place. Consequently it is obvious that we have the best authority for the use of the words referred to.
It may be insisted, therefore, that the idiom of New England is as pure English, taken as a whole, as was spoken in England at the period when these colonies were settled. In making this assertion, I do not take as a standard the nasal twang, the drawling enunciation, or those perversions of language which the ignorant and uneducated adopt. Nor would I acknowledge the abuse of many of our most useful words. For these perversions I make no other defence or apology but that they occur in all countries and in every language.
Having found the case to be as stated, I had next to decide between a vocabulary of words of purely American origin, or one in which should be embraced all those words usually called provincial or vulgar — all the words, whatever be their origin, which are used in familiar conversation, and but seldom employed in composition-all the perversions of language, and abuses of words into which people, in certain sections of the country, have fallen, and some of those remarkable and ludicrous forms of speech which have been adopted in the Western States. The latter plan seemed the most satisfactory, and this I determined to adopt.*
With so broad a ground, many words must necessarily be embraced which are to be found in the dictionaries of Drs. Johnson and Webster, with the
* The term "Americanisms," as used in this Dictionary, may then be said to include the following classes of words:
1. Archaisms, i. e. old English words, obsolete, or nearly so, in England, but retained in use in this country.
2. English words used in a different sense from what they are in England. These include many names of natural objects differently applied.
3. Words which have retained their original meaning in the United States, although not in England.
4. English provincialisms adopted into general use in America.
5. Newly coined words, which owe their origin to the productions or to the circumstances of the country.
6. Words borrowed from European languages, especially the French, Spanish, Dutch, and German.
7. Indian words.
9. Peculiarities of pronunciation. — [Note to Second Edition.]