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How to Speak 19th Century
August 30, 2006 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Forgotten vocabulary. Words and phrases from an earlier era, the early Nineteenth century. Some slang too. (via the Presurfer)
posted by caddis (41 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is awesome. Thanks, caddis!
posted by Pastabagel at 7:22 AM on August 30, 2006


Hey! I still use some of these! Forgotton, indeed.
posted by Jilder at 7:30 AM on August 30, 2006


How cromulent!
posted by blue_beetle at 7:34 AM on August 30, 2006


Passport; document granting permission to travel. "Accordingly, I soon received a passport, signed by the colonel, in these terms, 'Permit the bearer,_______ ______, to pass into the country after some deserters, and to come back.'" P.210

That....that one's a joke, right? I mean, I know the percentage of Americans with one is less than 30, but that's not just because the word has fallen out of favour, is it?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 7:36 AM on August 30, 2006


You should read one of the Aubrey-Maturin (Master & Commander) books by Patrick O'Brien. Old English mixed in with naval terminology of the eighteenth century.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:39 AM on August 30, 2006


This actually reminded me of reading The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison many years ago. It was written using archaic diction, and is the only book I can recall where I needed two bookmarks...one for my place in the story and one for the corresponding place in the glossary.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:58 AM on August 30, 2006


Nice site. I like "be it what it would".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:01 AM on August 30, 2006


Besides "passport," there's this:
Cold; used in place of "catarrh".
Very strange. But nice post!
posted by languagehat at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2006


Hmm. There are only a handful of new or different phrases. Mauger. Considerate. A few words describing items I don't usually use. (langrage?) I wonder if people in small towns (where I grew up) use more old-fashioned language than people in urban areas. Or maybe we just read more old fashioned books. (Cable TV didn't get there until the mid-1980s.)
posted by small_ruminant at 8:12 AM on August 30, 2006


Also, consider that to-day and to-morrow, with the hyphens, were pretty common even in my grandparents' day (early to mid-20th century).
posted by pax digita at 8:20 AM on August 30, 2006


I use a lot of these. I blame my upbringing by a pair of grizzled ol' prospectors.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:20 AM on August 30, 2006


I am certainly looking forward to an anti-fogmatic this evening.
posted by patricio at 8:22 AM on August 30, 2006


Absquatulate sounds like something I'd have to change my pants after doing.
posted by quite unimportant at 8:28 AM on August 30, 2006


You should read one of the Aubrey-Maturin (Master & Commander) books by Patrick O'Brien. Old English mixed in with naval terminology of the eighteenth century.

Well Jsavimbi, not old English, but yes those books are a universe of their own, vocabulary and usage wise. "I say why do you thread... why do you transpierce another crumpet, for whom is that crumpet?"

There is a great glossary of the terminology of O'Brians books called A Sea of Words, very satisfying.

I was glancing over this page yesterday, very cool, thanks Caddis.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:33 AM on August 30, 2006


One would think that fogmatic woud be more descriptive than anti-fogmatic.
posted by caddis at 8:39 AM on August 30, 2006


absquatulate: to take leave, to disappear.

1843: A can of oysters was discovered in our office by a friend, and he absquatulated with it, and left us with our mouth watering. Missouri Reporter, February 2

1862- Rumor has it that a gay bachelor, who has figured in Chicago for nearly a year, has skedaddled, absquatulated, vamosed, and cleared out. Rocky Mountain News, Denver, May 10


Brilliant post, Caddis. I wrote my undergrad thesis on 19th century mining camp newspapers, this would have been handy.
posted by LarryC at 8:46 AM on August 30, 2006


Apparently my vocab is more than a little musty.

Cogitations? I'll warrant? By the by? Hammer and tongs? Risible? Hampered? Vexation? Peevish? Hence? Palaver? Wanton? Are these really out of date? I think maybe this guy just doesn't read much.

Then again, "I was completely graveled" is phat and I plan to incorporate it into my daily lingo.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:48 AM on August 30, 2006


Absquatulated??? FABULOUS!

That might take the place of my current favorite word, "squaloid" which I like to apply to lawyers.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2006


I'm reading Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle now, and in addition to introducing you to a lot of out-of-use vocabulary, he does a good job of explaining the origins of words we DO still use.

"Discover," for example, means to uncover, or to remove the cover on something to make it visible.

"Currency" once referred only to currents in bodies of water. Then to the flow of money.

"Confusion"- When a metal is melted down, it is said to be "fused." When you mix different metals together they become con-fused. Similarly, when ideas that are not true get mixed up with what you believe to be true, your ideas become confused.

"Network" came from the nets that fishermen used. "Web," of course, started with spiders. They were eventually used to describe more abstract things, like a network of friends, or business contacts- People who are spread out, yet still linked together by an invisible "net-work" of connections.
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 9:13 AM on August 30, 2006


One of my favorite expressions, I run across it in American Civil War era letters, is: "This letter finds me about as well as common."

I take that to mean feeling "average," or "about as well as can be expected."
posted by marxchivist at 9:13 AM on August 30, 2006


I wrote my undergrad thesis on 19th century mining camp newspapers.

At this moment in time, I can't think of anything I'd rather do that read 19th mining camp newspapers.

Seriously.
posted by marxchivist at 9:15 AM on August 30, 2006


I'd still use quite a few of these words... not on a daily basis, but regular enough... my favourite:

Palaver; useless talking. "After a good deal of palaver, he ordered them to shoulder their arms, but the men taking no notice of him..."

The way I'd use it - "Would you stop making such a palaver over nothing"
posted by twistedonion at 9:33 AM on August 30, 2006


i wonder how familiar the person who put together the slang list is with contemporary midwestern and southern usage, because quite a few of these words are still around
posted by pyramid termite at 9:46 AM on August 30, 2006


Exceeding fine post, amongst the common palaver and tattle withal.
*absquatulates stage left*
posted by asok at 10:16 AM on August 30, 2006


Caddis. THANK YOU. I'm helping somebody write a script set in the 19th century. This is awesome.
posted by tkchrist at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2006


I never realized that "palaver" meant useless talking. In the Dark Tower books, the word is used to describe an important meeting (or at least that's the way I took it).

From hence, when I want breakfast, I shall ask for slapjacks with some fried shoat.
posted by Shecky at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2006


At this moment in time, I can't think of anything I'd rather do that read 19th mining camp newspapers.

They are more wonderful than you can imagine--like the Idaho editor who referred to his rival as a "syphilitic monstrosity," or the long, loving description of a catfight between two "dunghill roosters" (prostitutes) in a Virginia City, Nevada paper. Mark Twain learned his craft on such newspapers, his comic western stuff is the only visible remainder of a submerged literature.

/sorry for the derail
posted by LarryC at 10:21 AM on August 30, 2006


A lot of the swear words are the same damn fucking cunt ass words we use today. But those blamed boat-licking cockchafers had some good words of their own. Now, if you don't mind, I'm piss proud in my unmentionables and need to visit the necessary.
posted by jefbla at 10:23 AM on August 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


On passport:

I think the different they're after is that then, a passport was any sort of safe-conduct pass written by someone in authority, but now it's an official identification document issued by a national government.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:28 AM on August 30, 2006


This probably isn't something that's good for me to read, I already have a bit too much of a tendency to use an antiquated vocabulary and archaic turns-of-phrase in my writing. But then I never much believed in following a strong grammatical code; I think it gets in the way of style.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:50 AM on August 30, 2006


Nice find, caddis. Someone page Chris Onstad!
posted by retronic at 10:53 AM on August 30, 2006


I'd be curious about the general pronunciation of the language at that point in time. In the U.S., there's a notable difference between 1940s/1950s English and English as it is presently spoken today. I've always wondered what I might do to affect a 1950s accent, and so it might be fun to hear approximations of 1890s English as well.
posted by taursir at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2006


The spirit beast of metafilter looked as Savage as a Meat Axe.
posted by uni verse at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2006


Is it called an accent? Or is that strictly for regional variations in pronounciation and there's a special term for historical changes?

/genuinely curious
//paging languagehat
posted by raedyn at 1:48 PM on August 30, 2006


*absquatulates drunkenly stage right*
posted by uni verse at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2006


Does watching Deadwood count?
posted by Rhomboid at 4:09 PM on August 30, 2006


Is it called an accent? Or is that strictly for regional variations in pronounciation and there's a special term for historical changes?

Well, "accent" isn't really a technical term; it's more what people use when they want to describe someone who speaks their language differently than they do. As someone who grew up in the '50s, I hear various changes in the way These Kids Today speak English—a kind of whiny Valley Girl intonation, an overuse of certain words, a preponderance of pop-culture references—but I don't think I'd describe them, overall, as an "accent," just a different way of talking.

I must say I'm curious about the "notable difference" taursir hears in earlier speech, and I hope for elaboration.
posted by languagehat at 5:10 PM on August 30, 2006


hooter: ... a tiny amount

Has the meaning of "tiny" changed that much since the days of yore?
posted by rob511 at 5:48 PM on August 30, 2006


Awesome, dude! This post totally rawks!

I never realized that "palaver" meant useless talking. In the Dark Tower books, the word is used to describe an important meeting (or at least that's the way I took it).
posted by Shecky at 10:20 AM PST on August 30 [+] [!]


In "This House of Sky," Ivan Doig quotes his father as using "palaver" in a completely different way. They're doing some sort of sheep-herding task, and the father says to the future author, "Ivan, (get ahold of) that goddamn palaver." I can't remember the exact verb, but I'm almost certain of the use of "palaver." Does that ring any bells with anybody else?
posted by diddlegnome at 7:05 PM on August 30, 2006


I've often dismissed my children's claims that I'm terribly old-fashioned as nothing but bunkum. Having read these lists, particularly the slang list, I've come across lots (having thrown a considerable conniption fit) to a whole new position; I shall never be able to do so again. Dash it all.
posted by Dreama at 8:56 PM on August 30, 2006


Re: palaver - It's still a common expression used in the pidgin English spoken in Anglophone West Africa. "What palaver be this?" translates loosely to "what the hell is this? Also "Ee no be your palaver" translates to "it's none of your business."
posted by ramix at 9:14 PM on August 30, 2006


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