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the lips arc limbered by downright living interests and by passions in the very throe. Language is the soil of thought; and our own especially is a rich leaf-mould, the slow growth of ages, the shed foliage of feeling, fancy, and imagination, which has suffered an earth-change, that the vocal forest, as Howell called it, may clothe itself anew with living green. There is death in the Dictionary; and where language is limited by convention, the ground for expression to grow in is straitened also, and we get a potted literature, Chinese dwarfs instead of healthy trees. We are thankful to Mr. Bartlett for the onslaught he makes in his Introduction upon the highfulnting style so common among us. But we are rather amused to find him falling so easily into that Anglo-Saxon trap which is the common p,tfall of those half-learned men among whom we should be slow to rank him.* He says, "The unfortunate tendenry to favor the Latin at the expense of the Saxon element of our language, which social and educational causes have long tended to foster in the mother country, has with us received an additional impulse from the great admixture of foreigners in our population." (p. xxxii.) We have underscored the words of Latin origin, and find that they include all the nouns, all the adjectives but two, and three out of five verbs,—one of these last (the auxiliary have) being the same in both Latin and Saxon. Speaking of the Bostonians, Mr. Bartlett says, " fhe great extent to which the scholars of New England have carried the study of the German language and literature for some years back, added to the veru qenrral neglect of the old master-pieces of English composition, have [has] had the effect of giving to the writings of many of them an artificial, un,diomatic character, which has an inexpressibly unpleasant effect to those who are not habituated to it." (p. xxv. We again underscore the unSaxon words.) Now if there be any short
* fhis, perhaps, was to be expected; for he calls lir. Latham's English languagt " unquestionably the most valuable work on English philology and grammar which has yet appeared," (p. xxx., note.) and refers to the first edition of 1841. If Mr. Bartlett must allude at all to Dr. Latham, (who is reckoned a great blunderer among English phi!ologers,)he should at least have referred to the second edition of his work, in two volumes, 1855.
cut to the Anglo-Saxon, it is through the German; and how far the Bostonians deserve the reproach of a neglect of old English masterpieces we do not pretend to say, but the first modern reprint of the best works of Latimer, More, Sidney, Fuller, Selden, Browne, and Feltham was made in Boston, under the care of the late Dr. Alexander Young. We have no wish to defend Boston; we mean only to call Mr. Bartlett's attention to the folly of asking people to write in a dialect which no longer exists. No man can write offhand a page of Saxon English; no man with pains can write one and hope to be commonly understood. At least let Mr. Bartlett practise what he preaches. When a deputation of wig-makers waited on George III. to protest against the hairpowder-tax, the mob, seeing that one of them wore his own hair, ducked him forthwith in Tower-Ditch,— a very AngloSaxon comment on his inconsistency. We should not have noticed these passages in Mr. Bartlett's Introduction, had he not, after eleven years' time to weigh them in, let them remain as they stood in his former edition, of 1848. In other respects the volume before us greatly betters its forerunner. That contained many words which were rather vulgarisms than provincialisms, and more properly English than American. Almost all these Mr. Bartlett has left out in revising his book. Once or twice, however, he has retained as Americanisms phrases which are proverbial, such as "born in the woods to be scared of an owl," "to carry the foot in the hand," and "hallooing before you're out of the woods." But it will be easier to follow the alphabetical order in our short list of adversaria and comments.
Alkwtfe. We doubt if Mr. Bartlett is right in deriving this from a supposed Indian word aloof. At least, Ilakluyt speaks of a fish called "old-wives"; and in some other old book of travels we have seen the name derived from the likeness of the fish, with its good, round belly, to the mistress of an alehouse.
Bankb,,.t.. Is not an Americanism. It is used by Swift, Pope, and Fielding.
Bom:s. Mr. Bartlett quotes a derivation of this word from the name of a certain Borghese, said to have been a notorious counterfeiter of bank-notes. But is it
not more probably a corruption of bagasse, which, as applied to the pressed sugarcane, means simply something worthless? The word originally meant a worthless woman, whence our "baggage" in the same sense.
Cii.uNEn-LionTNiNG. More commonly chain-lightning, and certainly not a Western phrase exclusively.
Chebacco-boat. Mr. Bartlett says, "This word is doubtless a corruption of Chedabucto, the name of a bay in Nova Scotia, from which vessels are fitted out for fishing." This is going a great way down East for what could be found nearer. Chebacco is (or was, a century since) the name of a part of Ipswich, Massachusetts.
To Fall a tree Mr. Bartlett considers a corruption of to fill. But, as we have commonly heard the words used, to fell means merely to cut down, while to fall means to make it fall in a given direction.
To Go Under. "To perish. An expression adopted from the figurative language of the Indians by the Western trappers and residents of the prairies." Not the first time that the Indians have had undue credit for poetry. The phrase is undoubtedly a translation of the German untergelien (fig.), to perish.
Hat. "Our Northern women have almost discarded the word bonnet, except in sun-bonnet, and use the term hat instead. A like fate has befallen the word gown, for which both they and their Southern sisters commonly use frock or dress." We do not know where Mr. Bartlett draws his Northern line; but in Massachusetts we never heard the word hat or frock used in this sense. They arc so used in England, ami lint is certainly, frock probably, nearer Anglo-Saxon than lionnet and gown.
Improve. Mr. Bartlett quotes T)r. Franklin as saying in 1789, " When I left New England in the year 1723, this word had never been used among us, as far as I know, but in the sense of ameliorated or made better, except once in a very old book of Dr. Mather's, entitled Remarkable. Providences." Dr. Increase Mather's Providences was published in 1084. In 1679 a synod assembled at Boston, and the result of its labors was published in the same year by John Foster, under the title, Necessity of a Reformation. On the sixth page we find, " Taverns being for the entertain
ment of strangers, which, if they were improved to that end only," etc. Oddly enough, our copy of this tract has Dr Mather's autograph on the title-page. Bnt Mr. Bartlett should have referred to Richardson, who shows that the word had been in use long before with the same meaning.
To Initeaven. "A word invented by the Boston transcendentalists." And Mr. Bartlett quotes from Judd's Margaret. Mr Judd was a good scholar, and the word is legitimately compounded, like ensphere and imparadise; but he did not invent it- Dante uses the word : —
"Perfetta vita ed alto merto inciela
Ladies' Tresses. "The popular name, in the Southern States, for an herb," etc. In the Northern States also. Sometimes Ladies' Traces.
Liefer. "A colloquialism, also used in England." Excellent Anglo-Saxon, and used wherever English is spoken.
Loafer. We think there can be no doubt that this word is German. Ltivfen in some parts of Germany is pronounced lofen, and we once heard a German student say to his friend, Irh lanf (lofe) hier his dn wiederkehrst: and he began accordingly to saunter up and down, — in short, to loaf about.
To Mull. "to soften, to dispirit." Mr. Bartlett quotes Margaret,—'' Tlivre has been a pretty considerable mullin going on among the doctors." But mullin hero means stirring, bustling in an underhand way, and is a metaphor derived from mulling trine. Mull, in this sense, is probably a corruption of met!, from Old Fr. mesler, to mix.
To Be Nowuf.re (in the sense of failure) is not an Americanism, but TnrfSlang.
Sally-Lex, a kind of cake, is English.
To Save, meaning to kill game so as to get it, is not confined to the Ear West, but is common to hunters in all part9 of the country.
Shew, for showeel. Mr. Bartlett calls this the "shibboleth of Bostonians." However this may be, it is simply an archaism, not a vulgarism. Show, like blow, crow, grow, seems formerly to have had what is called a strong preterite. Shew is used by Lord Cromwell and Hector Boece.
Slashes. "Swampy or wet lands overgrown with bushes. Southern and Western." Used also in New York. Span of horses is Dutch (High or Low). To Walk Spantsh; to "walk" a boy out of any place by the waistband of his trousers, or by any lower part easily prehensible. N. E. This is, perhaps, as old as Philip and Mary. To Spread One's Self is defined by Mr.Bartlett " to exert one's self." It means rather to exert one's self ostentatiously. It is a capital metaphor, derived, we fancy, from the turkey-cock or peacock, — like the Italian pavomgliarsi. We find in the Tatlcr "spreading her graces in assemblies." This last, however, may be a Gallicism, from e'taler.
Straw Batl. "Worthless bail, bail given by 'men of straw.'" This is surely no Americanism, and we have seen its origin very differently explained, namely, that men willing for a fee to become bail walked in the neighborhood of the courts with straws stuck in their shoes, — though Mr. Bartlett's explanation is ingenious.
Sunftsh. Mr. Bartlett thinks this a corruption; but the resemblance of the fish, as seen in the water, to the ordinary portraits of the sun in almanacs and on tavern-signs seems to us enough to account for the name. A few phrases occur to us that have escaped Mr. Bartlett. A Carry: portage. Passim.
Cat-n'ap: a short doze. New England. Chowder-head: muddle-brain. New England.
Cohees (accent on the last syllable): term applied to the people of certain settlements in Western Pennsylvania, from their use of the archaic form, Quo' he. To Cotton To.
Don' Know- As I Know: the nearest your true Yankee ever comes to acknowledging ignorance.
Gandek-party: a social gathering of men only. New England. Lap-tea : where the guests are too many to sit at table. Massachusetts.
Last Of Pea-ttme: day after fair.
LosE-Lun (loose-laid): weaver's term, and probably English; means weak-willed. Massachusetts.
Moonglade: a beautiful word for the track of moonlight on the water. Massachusetts. Off-ox : an unmanageable fellow. New England.
Old Driver: ) euphemistic for the
Old Spl,t-foot : f Devil.
Onuttch (unhitch) : to pull trigger. Rote: sound of the surf before a storm. Used also in England. New England.
Seem: I can't seem to see, for I can't see. She couldn't seem to be suited, for couldn't be suited. State-house. This seems an Americanism. Did we invent it, or borrow it from the Stad-huys (town-hall) of New Amsterdam? As an instance of the tendency to uniformity in American usage, we notice that in Massachusetts what has always been the State-House is beginning to be called the Capitol. We are sorry for it.
Strtke: ) terms of the game of nine
Strtno: ) pins.
Swale : a hollow. New England. English also; see Forby.
Tormented: euphemistic, as "not a tormeated cent." New England.
We have gone through Mr. Bartlett's book with the attention which a work so well done deserves, and are thoroughly impressed with the amount of care and labor to which it bears witness. We have quarrelled with it wherever we could, because it cannot fail to become the standard authority in its department. Its value will increase from year to year. For instance, the Spanish words, in which it is especially rich, are doomed to undergo strange metamorphoses on Anglo-Saxon lips; for it is the instinct of the unlearned to naturalize words as fast as possible, and to compel them to homebred shapes and sounds. There is often an unwitting humor in these perversions.* and they are always interesting as showing that it is the nature of man to use words with understanding, however appearances might lead us to an opposite conclusion. The least satisfactory part of Mr. Bartlett's book is the Appendix, in which he has got together a few proverbs and similes, which, it seems to us, do no kind of * We remember once hearing a mnn pay of something, that it was wriften in a "very grand delinquent [grandiloquent] style,"—a phrase certainly not without modern application. We have heard nl=o An^oIn-Snxons and Angular-Saxons,— the h,tter, at least, not an unhappy perversion.
justice to the humor and invention of the people. Most of them have no characteristic at all, except coarseness. We hope there is nothing peculiarly American in such examples as these:—" Evil actions, like crushed rotten eggs, stink in the nostrils of all"; and "Vice is a skunk that smells awfully rank when stirred up by the pole of misfortune." These have, beside, an artificial air, and are quite too long-skirted lor working proverbs, in which language always " takes on" its coat to it," if we may use a proverbial phrase, left out by Mr. Bartlett. We confess, we looked for something racier and of a more puckery flavor. One hears such now and then, mostly from the West,—like "Mean enough to steal acorns from a blind hog"; "I take my tea bar-foot," the answer of a backwoodsman, when asked if he would have cream and sugar. Some are unmistakably Eastern: as, "All deacons are good,— but there's odds in deacons"; "He's a whole team and the dog under the wagon"; "That's firstrate and a half"; "Handy as a pocket in a shirt" (ironical). Almost every county has some good die-sinker in language, who mints phrases that pass into the currency of a whole neighborhood. We picked up two such the other day, both of the same coinage. The countyjail (the only stone building where all the dwellings were of wood) was described as "the house whose underpinning comes up to the eaves"; while the place unmentionable to ears polite was " where they don't rake up the fires at night." A man, speaking to us once of a very rocky clearing, said, " Stone's got a pretty heavy mortgage on that farm"; and another, wishing to give us a notion of the thievishness common in a certain village, capped his climax thus: —" Dishonest! why, they have to take in their stone walls o' nights." Any one who has driven over a mountain-stream by one of those bridges made of slabs will feel the force of a term we once heard applied to a parson so shaky in character that no dependence could be placed on him, — "A slab-bridged kind o' feller!" During some very cold weather, a few years ago, we picked a notable saving or two. "The fire don't seem to git no kind o' purchase on the cold." "They say Cap'n M'C'lure's gone through the Northwest Passage." "Has? Think likely, and left the door open, too!" Elder Knap]), the once noted
itinerant preacher, had a kind of unwanted poetry in him. We heard him say once.— "Do you want to know when a Unitarian" (we think it was) "will get into heaven! When hell's froze over, and he can skate in!" We quote merely for illustration. and do not mean to compare the EUa with Taylor or South.
The element of exaggeration has often been remarked on as typical of American humor. In Dr. Petri's "Compact Handbook of Foreign Words,"* (from which Mr. Bartlett will be surprised to learn that Hoco-jmxos is a nickname for the Whig party in the United States,) we nre told that the word humbug "is commonly used for the exaggerations of the North-Americans." One would think the dream of Columbus half-fulfilled, and that Europe had found in the West the near way to Orientalism, at least of diction. But it seems to us that a great deal of what is set down as mere exaggeration is more fitly to be called intensity and pieturesqueness, symptoms of the imaginative faculty in full health and strength, though producing, as yet, only the raw material.t By
* Gedrdngtei Humlbuch drr FrtmditOrttT, etc., etc., Leipzig, 1852.
t Take, for instance, the "negro so Maek that charcoal m:nle a clmlk-mark on him," or the "shingle painted to look so like stone that it sank in water," — itself overpersnsded by the skill of the painter. We overheard the following dialogue last winter. (Thermometer,—12°.) "Colli, this morning."—" That'* so. Hear what happened to Joe? "—" No, I didn't."—" Well, the doctors had ben giTin' him one thing another with mere'ry in't, and he walked out down to the Post-Office and back, and when he eome home he kind o* felt somethin' hard in his boots. Come to pull 'em off, they found a lump o' quicksilver in both on 'em." — "Sho! " — "Fact: it had shrunk clean down through him with the cold" This rapid power of dramatizing a dry fact, of putting it into flesh and blood, and the instantaneous conception of Joe as a human thermometer, seem to us more like the poetical faculty than anything else. It i«, at any rate, humor, and not mere quickness of wit,— the deeper, and not the shallower quality. Humor tends always to overplns of expression; wit is mathematically precise. Captain Basil Hall denied that our people bad humor; but did he possess it himself? for, if not, he would never find it. Did he always feel the point of what was said to himself? We doubt, because we happen to know • and-by, perhaps, the world will see it worked up into poem and picture, and Europe, which will be hard-pushed for originality ere long, may thank us tor a new sensation. The French continue to find Shakspeare exaggerated, because he treated English just as our folk do when they speak of " a steep price," or say that they "freeze to" a thing. The first postulate of an original literature is, that a people use their language as if they owned it. Even Burns contrived to write very poor English. Vulgarisms are often only poetry in the egg. The late Horace Mann, in one of his Addresses, commented at some length on the beauty of the French phrase s'orienter, and called on his young hearers to practise it in life. There was not a Yankee in his audience whose problem had not always been to find out what was "alxmt east " and shape his course accordingly. The Germans have a striking proverb: Was die Gans yedacht, das der &:hwan voUbra,ht: What the goose but thought, that the swan fullbrought; or, to de-Saxonize it a little, tx,ce Mr. Bartlett, What the goose conceived, that the swan achieved;—and we cannot help thinking, that the life, invention, and vigor shown in our popular speech, and the freedom with which it is shaped to the need of those who wield it, are of the best omen for our having a swan at last. Even persons not otherwise interested in the study of provincialisms will find Mr. Bartlett's book an entertaining one. The passages he quotes in illustration are sometimes strangely comic. Here is one: "To Save. To make sure, i. e., to kill game, or an enemy, whether man or beast.
To yet conveys the same meaning
The notorious Judge W of Texas
once said in a speech at a barbecue, (after his political opponent had been apologizing for taking a man's life in a duel,)—
chance ho once had given him in vain. The Captain was walking up and down the piazza of a country tavern while the coach changed horses. A thunderstorm was going on, and, with that pleasant Kuropean air of indirect self-compliment in condescending to American merit, which is so conciliating, ho said to a countryman lounging near, "Pretty heavy thunder, you have here." The other, who had taken his measure at a glance, drawled gravely, '' Waal, wc da, consideriu' the number of inhabitants."
"' The gentleman need not make such a fuss about getting such a rascal; everybody knows that I have shot three, and two of them I saved.'"
We have but one fault to find with Mr. Bartlett's Dictionary, and that it shares with all other provincial glossaries. No accents are given. No stranger could tell, for example, whether hacmatank should be pronounced hae'mataek, haema'tack, or haemataek'. The value of Mr. Wright's otherwise excellent dictionary is very much impaired by this neglect. Ignorance of the pronunciation enhances tenfold the difficulty of tracing analogies or detecting corruptions. The title of Mr. Coleridge's volume (the second on our list) is enough to give scholars a notion of its worth. It is the first instalment of the proposed comprehensive English Dictionary of the Philological Society, a work which, when finished, will be beyond measure precious to all students of their mother-tongue. At the end of the volume will be found the Plan of the Society, with minute directions for all those who wish to give their help. Cooperation on this side the water will be gladly welcomed. Of Dean Trench's two volumes, one is new, and the other a revised edition. No one has done more than he to popularize the study of words, which is only another name for the study of thought. His new book has the same agreeable qualities which marked its forerunners, maintaining an easy conversational level of scholarly gossip and reflection, the middle ground between learning and information for the million. Without great philological attainments, and without any pretence of such, he gives the results of much good reading. Mr. Craik's book is a compact and handy manual. The Slang Dictionaries are both as illdone as possible, and the author of the smaller one deserves to be put under the pump for taking the name of the illustrious Ducange, one of those megatheria of erudition and industry that we should look on as an extinct species, but for such men as the brothers Grimm. The larger book has the merit of including a bibliography of the subject, for which the author deserves our thanks, though in other respects showing no least qualification for