Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Flambustious


My first thought on seeing the word flambustious was that it must have to do with the flammability of an object.

But I was WRONG.

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According to Americanisms, Old and New by John Stephen Farmer,  flambustious is defined as follows:
Showy; gaudy; or applied to enjoyment, good; as "we will have a flambustious time." If, as is asserted, this word is derived from "flam," a lie or cheat, a certain transition of meaning has occurred.
No foolin'!

I wondered if I could find out anything more about this word. I noodled around on the internet a bit, and found this enticing clip, which appears in The Beloit College Monthly, Editors L. S. Swezey, W. C. Bailey, G. W. Christie, Volume XIV, October 1867, in the article "A New School of Romance," p. 175 (courtesy of the blog Words and Phrases from the Past):


Wow... look at those words: busticate, dumfoodle-doode (?? is that even a real word ??), doddi-poljolt

In any case, it's all quite delightful, and I hope you can find an opportunity to incorporate flambustious into your conversation in the coming week...

 
Kick up your heels and have a flambustious time!
[Moulin Rouge-La Goulue, Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de (1891)]



Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Honeyfuggle


Doesn't the word honeyfuggle sound like it's just made for Valentine's Day activities?

Well, not so fast! You may not want to honeyfuggle, once you read more about its origins...

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Green's Dictionary of Slang has the low-down on this interesting slang word.

My favorite definition, from 1856 is to "sweet talk," to flatter, to entice. (Such a perfect word cannot be ignored... I think someone in my next book is going to have to be accused of honeyfuggling.)

When it originally popped up in about 1829, honeyfuggle (or honeyfogle, or honeyfugle) meant to swindle, to trick, to fool.

A couple of really lovely alternative dialects include:
  • connyfogle: entice by flatter, to hoodwink
  • gallyfuggle: to deceive or trick
So, is there nothing nice to say about honeyfuggle? Well, another definition (first spotted 1969-70) is to "cuddle up to." And much, much earlier (1872), Susan B. Anthony used honey-fugling for "kissing" in her lectures on Women's Rights.

So if there's any honeyfuggling going on for you on Valentine's Day, here's hoping it all had to do with kissing and cuddling and none of it with cozening.*

I sense honeyfuggling is afoot!
[1882: The Conquest, by John Lavery - Glasgow Boys, Roger Bilcliffe, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17870167]

*cozening being another word for deceiving, winning over, or inducing to do something by artful coaxing and wheedling or shrewd trickery.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Topsy-turvy


Well, I just did something I haven't done before: Wrote the VERY LAST CHAPTER of the next book in my Silver Rush series, even though I'm only a tad over halfway through the draft.

I'm into experimenting with different approaches to writing, because... why not?... but still.

After writing THE END (in nice big capital letters), I thought to myself, "This is sure a topsy-turvy way to go about it."

Of course, my second thought was (you can guess, I'm sure):

"Topsy-turvy. Hmmmm. How (and when) did that arrive on the slang scene? It sounds oooold."
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The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology: The Origins of American English Words by Robert K. Barnhart has this to say (and yep, topsy-turvy dates back quite a bit):
topsy-turvy adverb. (1528) topsy-tervy in utter confusion; (1530) topsy-tirvy upside down; probably formed from tops (plural of TOP, highest point) + obsolete terve, tirve turn upside down, topple over, from Middle English terven (about 1400), from Proto-Germanic terbanan
The Online Etymology Dictionary also gets into the act (with an earlier date and additional information in bold):
1520s, "but prob. in popular use from an earlier period" [OED]; compare top over terve "to fall over" (mid-15c.); likely from tops, plural of top "highest point" + obsolete terve "turn upside down, topple over," from Old English tearflian "to roll over, overturn," from Proto-Germanic terbanan (source also of Old High German zerben "to turn round"). Century Dictionary calls it "A word which, owing to its popular nature, its alliterative type, and to ignorance of its origin, leading to various perversions made to suggest some plausible origin, has undergone, besides the usual variations of spelling, extraordinary modifications of form." It lists 31 variations. As an adjective from 1610s.

Ah-HA! What is this Century Dictionary whereof they speak? I go a-looking around and... oh goody! It's another 19th-century dictionary free to download from Google! So, if you want to go all agog at the page-plus information on topsy-turvy (from topsy-terve to topsytervyfy), be my guest. As for me, I better get back to drafting the muddle in the middle of my next Silver Rush story...


Something's not quite right here...
Strobridge & Co. Lith. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Bamboozle


Bamboozle! How can you not love a word that is so much fun to say and has such a quirky lilt to it?

Most folks know the definition, but I'll offer up the Merriam-Webster version here (by the way, bamboozle is a transitive verb):
  1. to deceive by underhanded methods : dupe, hoodwink. 
  2. to confuse, frustrate, or throw off thoroughly or completely
I tell you, this is my kind of word! But... the question is (and you knew this is coming, if you read Slang-o-rama regularly)...what's the origin of bamboozle and how long has it been around?
 
Care to make a guess?
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Here's the skinny from a couple of different sources.

First, from the Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, we have:
1703, origin uncertain (but compare Scottish bumbase, bombase to confuse, probably from bombase stuff with cotton, pad, borrowed from Old French bombace, n.; see BOMBAST).
Pretty cool, wouldn't you say?

The Online Etymology Dictionary also mentions the Scottish origin, but includes some other alternatives (which I've bolded below):
1703, originally a slang or cant word, of unknown origin. Perhaps Scottish from bombaze, bumbaze "confound, perplex," or related to bombast, or related to French embabouiner "to make a fool (literally 'baboon') of." Wedgwood suggests Italian bambolo, bamboccio, bambocciolo "a young babe," extended by metonymy to mean "an old dotard or babish gull."
So maybe Scottish, maybe French, maybe Italian... Hmmmm even trying to pin down the word's origin invites bamboozlement!*


Dress to impress (or to bamboozle...)
[By Internet Archive Book Images - https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14598098127/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/blastsfromramsho00unse/blastsfromramsho00unse#page/n107/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42482742]

* To my everlasting etymological delight, there is also a related word—de-bamboozle ("undeceive, disabuse"). Alas, de-bamboozle arrived about 1919. Too late for my Silver Rush series! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Helter-skelter


I am probably showing my age, but the first thing that pops to mind when I see the term helter-skelter is the song of that title by The Beatles (see YouTube clip below).

Well, I also think of the murderer Charles Manson (ack!)... which also probably shows my age.

However, the phrase go way way back... many centuries, in fact.
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The definition from my copy of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth edition) gives definitions for its use as a noun, an adjective, and an adverb.... take your choice!
  • noun — 1. a disorderly confusion: turmoil; 2. a spiral slide around a tower at an amusement park (<--now I understand The Beatles song a little better!).
  • adjective — 1. confusedly hurried: precipitate; 2. marked by a lack of order or plan: haphazard.
  • adverb — 1. in undue haste, confusion, or disorder; 2. in a haphazard manner.
Helter-skelter!
[By Steve F, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13743455]

As for the years of first use? How about 1713 for the noun, 1785 for the adjectival form, and 1593 for the adverb!

I shouldn't be surprised, because now I also recall that Shakespeare used it... although I had to go digging to find out where (Henry IV, Part II).



The Phrase Finder has a nifty post on helter-skelter, which is sort-of, semi-related to harum-scarum, hurly-burly, and pell-mell.

Finally, as promised, here is your musical interlude, straight from '68.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Take a powder (AND News Flash!)


~~ NEWS FLASH!
This just in: A DYING NOTE is nominated for a "Lefty Award" in the Best Historical Mystery category (along with piles of other wonderful books). Winners will be announced at the Left Coast Crime mystery convention, in Vancouver, BC, late March. Click here for all Lefty nominations in all the categories.  END NEWS FLASH! ~~


 Now that the winter holidays are pretty much over, quite a few folks I know have decided to take a powder to warm spots south (Hawaii, Mexico!), icy/snowy climates north (Canada, Colorado, New York!) or other geographical vacation spots, all in the name of R&R. I can't say I blame them. In fact, I wish I could do the same.

However, since I am here and you are here (virtually speaking), let's take a closer look at take a powder. How did this phrase come to mean charging off at top speed?
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The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer suggests the following etymology:
This slangy idiom may be derived from the British dialect sense of powder as "a sudden hurry," a usage dating from about 1600. It may also allude to the explosive quality of gunpowder.

I'll admit that my first thought was that maybe it had to do with gunpowder, so I was please to see this pop up here. However, not so fast (so to speak!) because the Online Entymology Dictionary has this to say:
The phrase take a powder "scram, vanish," is from 1920; it was a common phrase as a doctor's instruction, so perhaps from the notion of taking a laxative medicine or a sleeping powder, with the result that one has to leave in a hurry (or, on another guess, from a magician's magical powder, which made things disappear).
 Whoa! I never thought of the laxative angle. Checking American Slang, 2nd Edition, by Robert L. Chapman/Barbara Ann Kipfer also mentions the magical powder connection, noting that this use of take a powder had appeared by 1688 (which pre-dates 1920 by quite a bit!).

So, whether you decide to take a powder or stay put, here's hoping the first month of the new year gives you some time for your own version of R&R, along with the inevitable return to  routine. 
"I think a quick trip to Hawaii might be nice right about now, don't you?
[Flucht eleganter Reiter vor dem Kampfgeschehen by Alexander von Bensa, Public domain]


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Flabbergasted


A new year, a new Wednesday, a new bit of slang for your enjoyment.

Are you flabbergasted? Well, since Slang-o-rama posts every Wednesday, you shouldn't be. ;-)

 This week, let's take a closer look at flabbergasted. Sounds like what what happens to the physical body when too much chocolate is consumed over the holidays, right? However, just to be clear, here is the definition from Dictionary.com:
flabbergast (verb) — to overcome with surprise and bewilderment; astound. 
Where did such a strange word come from? I have no idea. Do you?

Time for research!
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The Dictionary.com entry has this to say about the origin: 
1765–75; variant of flabagast (perhaps flabb(y) + aghast)
Hmmmm. I'll bet we can find a bit more about this odd bit of slang. Sure enough, the Online Etymology Dictionary says:
flabbergast (v) —1772, flabbergasted, mentioned (with bored) in a magazine article that year as a new vogue word, of uncertain origin. Perhaps from some dialect (in 1823 flabbergast was noted as a Sussex word), perhaps ultimately an arbitrary formation alluding to flabby or flapper and aghast. "Like many other popular words expressing intensity of action, ... not separable into definite elements or traceable to a definite origin" [Century Dictionary]. Related: Flabbergasted; flabbergasting; flabbergastation.
World Wide Words adds a little more (and has a nice write-up about the word in general), which notes that the first part of the word might be linked to flabby, "suggesting that somebody is so astonished that they shake like a jelly."

StackExchange also has a discussion of the word's etymology, including the following:
Here’s the OED’s etymological note (lightly edited): First mentioned in 1772 as a new piece of fashionable slang; possibly of dialectal origin; Moor 1823 records it as a Suffolk word, and Jamieson, Supplement 1825, has flabrigast, 'to gasconade' [to boast extravagantly], flabrigastit 'worn out with exertion', as used in Perthshire. The formation is unknown; it is plausibly conjectured that the word is an arbitrary invention suggested by flabby adj. or flap n. and aghast adj.
With that, I welcome you to 2019! Let us pray for a minimum of gasconade in the coming year, so we don't suffer from an overdose of flabbergastation.

I am already flabbergasted. Less gasconade, please.
Clio, by Pierre Mignard [Public domain]