Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Sharp stick


When I bumped up against "sharp stick" in Americanisms, Old and New by John Stephen Farmer, my first thought was the phrase: "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick."

But, of course, that is too literal to be a slang term.

Any guesses as to what this might have meant in casual conversation in times of old (i.e., 19th century)?
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Well, guess no more! To say "He's after him with a sharp stick" means someone is determined to have satisfaction or revenge.


That's no stick, but it *is* sharp. [The Peoples' Revenge by Leopoldo Mendez, 1943. National Gallery of Art]

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Jackson crackers


This week's bit of language fun ties directly into last week's holiday.

That's your clue to the meaning of "Jackson crackers."

I'll let you ponder a bit...
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Pondering time is over!

From Americanisms, Old and New by John Stephen Farmer, we have:
Jackson Crackers—A Southwestern term for firework crackers.

You may all now return to your summery activities....

By J.W.Photography from Annapolis - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8331045


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Voice of the People by Guest Author Camille Minichino


Please welcome my guest this week: author and long-time friend, Camille Minichino.

Camille received her Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University, New York City. She is currently on the faculty of Golden Gate University, San Francisco and teaches writing throughout the Bay Area. Camille is Past President and a member of NorCal Mystery Writers of America, NorCal Sisters in Crime, and the California Writers Club. Camille has published over 20 novels and many short stories and nonfiction articles. For more about her and her works, please visit her website: http://www.minichino.com/index.html

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Franklin Delano Roosevelt lived down the street from us in Revere, Massachusetts. He was the best friend our family had. Or so I thought growing up in the early 1940s.

"Roosevelt gave me this job," my father would say, tapping a small brown envelope of cash, his week's wages.

"If it weren't for Roosevelt and the WPA, you wouldn't be getting new shoes for school," my mother would remind me.

I pictured a benevolent Mr. Roosevelt driving the old truck that picked up my father and his cronies, day laborers, from the corner of our street, taking them to the construction site of the day. I imagined the WPA, whoever they were, helping my mother shop for my school clothes.

My parents, as well as our neighbors and friends, were acutely aware of House Speaker Tip O'Neill's All politics is local. My father's (metal) social security card was a prized possession.

It seemed to me that every year was an election year, every election important to us. My mother especially was always campaigning, urging people to sign this or that petition, to vote, vote, vote. Our front window was never without a sign, RUSSO FOR MAYOR, AVALLONE FOR COUNCIL, SIEGEL FOR SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT.

And it all came together on the Fourth of July. Independence Day and Voting Day were the biggest holidays in our lives, competing with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but better because there was no back-breaking food prep or lugging a tree up the stairs. My father died on July 4, 1981—I've always felt that he timed it that way, going up with the glorious fireworks on Revere Beach.

Following politics, debating issues, voting, are still a priority for me. Being invited to contribute a story to LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE has been a highlight of my year. Thanks to Mysti Berry and the grand array of colleagues in this anthology! And thanks, Ann Parker, for giving the Independence Day slot to me!

I'm thinking of making a poster of the LOW DOWN DIRTY VOTE cover, and propping it on my lawn.

Low Down Dirty Vote cover

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Mammoxed


Are you flumoxed by mammoxed? I love the sound of it, but had nooooooo idea what it meant. Americanisms, Old and New by John Stephen Farmer, to the rescue!
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Mammoxed—A doubtful word, current in the South and West. It seems to bear a meaning of serious personal injury, and may, perhaps, be  compared with "flummuxed" in the sense of great mental perturbation.

A doubtful word??
Hmmm.
Time to dig a little more (lest I lead you all astray!). I found the term again in Volume 9 of The American Educational Monthly (which certainly sounds like a credible journal) from 1872. This is what I found (and here's the link):



Sounds like a useful word for a crime fiction novel set in the American West of the 19th century, don't you think? :-)

Looks like someone is in danger of being mammoxed! (from Wikimedia - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wild_West_Show_p%C3%A5_High_Chaparral.jpg)




Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Square deal


"Square deal" is a familiar term to me, but I'll admit I'd not considered how it might have evolved. Win Blevin's Dictionary of the American West, as well as American Slang edited by Robert L. Chapman, set me straight.
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From Blevin's dictionary:
In card-playing, a fair game. The term arose from the dealer's using a pack of square-edged cards, which are harder to cheat with. By extension, any kind of fair arrangement. "A square deal" was Teddy Roosevelt's slogan in the 1904 campaign. When the term square is applied to a man, it is a compliment meaning that he's straightforward and trustworthy.

American Slang notes this phrase was in use by 1876.

Think you'd get a square deal playing with this deck?



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: crack-loo (or crack-a-loo)


This nifty little bit of slang, variously listed as crack-loo or crack-a-loo, refers to a gambling game.

I first stumbled across it in Dictionary of the American West by Win Blevins, and then found more discussion in a 1894 issue of American Journal of Philology (Volume 15, to be exact).

Any guesses as to what this game involves?
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If you are wondering, wonder no more!
Here's what Blevins' dictionary has for the rules of the game:
Players pitched coins against the ceiling, and the coin that came to rest nearest a crack in the floor won.
 The American Journal also describes how it is played and then muses a bit on the possible derivation of the term:
.... [T]he game is played by two or more persons, and consists in shooting a small coin to the ceiling and letting it fall near a crack in the floor. The owner of whichever coin falls nearest the designated crack "takes the pile." ... It has been suggested that the name may be shortened from "Crack or Lose"; or it may be derived from compounding the word Loo, the game at cards, with the word Crack, which plays the important part in the game.

Sounds like a game of pitching pennies, with a twist...
Mill boys pitching pennies on the Main St. in the afternoon. One said he sweeps. One said "I was workin' but got canned 'cause I was not fast enough." The other was "jest hangin' around."  By Hine, Lewis Wickes; National Child Labor Committee Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Three cheers and a tiger

Now here's one for the books: Three cheers and a tiger!

I've heard of "three cheers" ... but a tiger?

What's that all about?
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The little volume Heavens to Betsy! and Other Curious Sayings by Charles Earle Funk says this:
The three cheers are self-explanatory, but why the "tiger"? It is, to be sure a vociferous yell or howl added with utmost enthusiasm at the close of the cheering, perhaps emulating the roar or yowl of a genuine tiger.
And here, in more detail, is an explanation of its origin from Dictionary of Americanisms: A Glossary of Words and Phrases Usually Regarded as Peculiar to the United States, by John Russell Bartlett (Fourth Edition, 1877).
In 1822, the Boston Light Infantry, under Captain Mackintosh and Lieutenant Robert C. Winthrop, visited Salem and encamped in Washington Square; and during their stay a few of the members indulged in sports incidental to camp duty, when some visitor exclaimed to one who was a little rough, "Oh, you Tiger!" It became a catchword... On the route to Boston, some musical genius sung an impromptu line, " Oh, you Tigers, don't you know," to the air of " Rob Roy McGregor, oh! " Of course, the appellation soon induced the Tigers by name to imitate the actions of the Tiger; and the "growl" was introduced, and at the conclusion of three cheers "a tiger " was invariably called for.

So, if you are attending any graduations this month, give them three cheers and a tiger!

By Topjur01 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons