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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by

JOHN RUSSELL BARTLETT, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Rhode Island.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1877, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

Cambridge :
Press Of John Wilson & Son.



The second edition of this Dictionary was published in Boston in 1859, and a third the following year.

The former was greatly enlarged from the first edition, the latter was a reprint of the second edition without alterations.

During the eighteen years that have passed since the last revision, the vocabulary of our colloquial language has had large additions, chiefly from the sources whence additions usually

To the Indian, the Dutch, the German, the French, and the Spanish elements, there have been but few contributions. From the arts, from new inventions, from new settlements, particularly those in mining districts, from commerce, many words have been adopted; while the late civil war has also furnished its share. But, perhaps, the larger share of additions is from the vocabulary of slang, which may be divided into several classes. First are the terms used by the bankers and stockbrokers of Wall Street, which are well understood, and employed by those who operate in stocks in all our large cities. These may be classed among the more respectable slang. They are employed not only by merchants, but by all who have money to invest, or who operate in stocks. Educated men also make use of them, for the reason that there are no terms which so well express the operations connected with money. Next we have “College Slang," or words and expressions in common use among the students in our colleges and pupils of our higher schools. These words are so numerous that, when explained at length, and accompanied by examples, they make a volume of themselves. Then there is the slang of politicians, of the stage, of sportsmen, of Western boatmen, of pugilists, of the police, of rowdies and “roughs,” of thieves, of work-shops, of the circus, of shopkeepers, workmen, &c., which taken together form a rich mine whence new words are derived ; some of which, after a struggle, become engrafted on our language, and finally obtain places in * Webster's Unabridged."

Objections have been made to the incorporation of slang terms in a work like the present, on the ground that it tends to preserve them and perpetuate their use. It is true that it does preserve them, but it does not perpetuate their use; for they often disappear as suddenly as they come into existence. Slang terms will remain in use only so long as they may be useful in colloquial language. They may then be supplanted by others more expressive, and sink into oblivion. But, even though they may become obsolete, it is no reason why they should not be included in a Dictionary or Glossary. Words having a political significance sometimes have an existence of ten or twenty years. They are employed by the newspaper press, are heard in the halls of legislation, and find a place in our political annals. The extinction of an old political party, the organization of another with new issues and a new platform, will be accompanied by new terms which will become the shibboleth or watchword of the party. The names of the older parties cease to be used, and are soon forgotten. Such is the history of the terms Federals, Bucktails, Barnburners, Old Hunkers, Loco-Focos, Silver Greys, and Know-Nothings. The clubs and flashy young men have their slang, often growing out of the fashion of the day, or out of the customs of society ; while the number introduced from the humbler classes is much greater. Sometimes these strange words have a known origin ; but, of the larger number, no one

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knows whence they come. Slang is thus the source whence large additions are made to our language.

A writer in “ Household Words” (No. 183) has gone so far as to remark that à person “ shall not read one single parliamentary debate, as reported in a first-class newspaper, without meeting scores of slang words,” and “that from Mr. Speaker in his chair to the Cabinet Ministers whispering behind it, from mover to seconder, from true-blue Protectionist to extremest Radical, the New House of Parliament echoes and re-echoes with slang.”

“ The universality of slang,” says Mr. Hotten,1 " is extraordinary. Let any person for a short time narrowly examine the conversation of their dearest and nearest friends; aye, censorlike, even slice and analyze their own supposed correct talk, and they shall be amazed at the numerous unauthorized, and what we can only call vulgar, words they continually employ. ... I am aware that most new words are generally regarded as slang, although afterwards they may become useful and respectable additions to our standard dictionaries."

Within the last few years, several English writers have had the courage to acknowledge the importance of the slang element in our language, and to write in its defence. Among them is Mr. E. B. Tylor, the learned author of “Primitive Culture,” and of “Researches into the Early History of Mankind," who thus writes :

“Slang, despised and ignored till lately by the lexicographers, is a genuine and influential branch of speech. It is one of the feeders of what may be called standard language, which with little scruple adopts and adapts the words it happens to want, whether from the technical terms of shopmen and artisans, or out of the quainter vocabularies of coster-mongers and prizefighters, school-boys and fops. This practical importance

1 Slang Dictionary, p. 40.

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entitles it to be treated linguistically, like any other working dialect. Nor is its theoretical value inconsiderable to the student. Like other dialects, slang is developed according to the general laws of language, and very striking are some of its illustrations of those laws. Many a philological hint may be gleaned from the talk of factories and stables, music-halls and thieves' kitchens and pawnbrokers' shops, which would be more hardly sought from the super-refined English of the school-room.” 1

Philologists and other scholars, when a term is wanted for some new invention, some new product in the arts, in machinery or manufactures, usually form one from the Greek or Latin. A word thus formed may be plain to scholars familiar with those languages; but, where one comprehends the meaning, a hundred fail to do so. This is particularly the case with the scientific names of plants and flowers. The botanist creates a name from the Latin, which is only familiar to scholars; while the common people invent a name which is descriptive of the plant, or of its habits, to which they cling with great tenacity, and by which the plant is ever after known. Such are the “ Pitcherplant,” “Love-lies-bleeding," "Sweet William,” “Jack-in-thepulpit,” “None-so-pretty.” So, too, of birds. The peasant christens them, like his flowers, after their habits.

The late civil war has given rise to many singular words. Some of these, in common use among our soldiers during the war, have since been dropped. Others have not only been preserved in our colloquial dialect, but have been transplanted to and adopted in foreign countries where the English language is spoken. Among the former are the words contraband, as applied to slaves, bummer, copperhead, confederates, carpet-baggers, jayhawker, greenback, monitor, ku-klur, skedaddle, skyugle, &c.

In the mining districts of California and Nevada, many strange words and phrases have sprung into existence, some of

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1 The Philosophy of Slang, in Macmillan's Mag., Vol. XXIX. p. 502.

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