To all extremely sensitive people reading this blog,
Hello, and thank you for reading. Please skip today’s blog post, as it can be offensive to the extremely sensitive among us. I have attempted to rewrite today’s blog many times so it will not offend anyone. I have failed. I cannot, in good conscious, post this any other way than how I have written this blog. My apologies for being blunt with the hyper sensitive, but I will not back down from a good piece.
To everyone still reading this post….
Welcome to Words 101! Today’s lesson, cursing in the 1800s. Yes, you read me right. We are discussing the issue with cursing. My 1820s book is a lovely piece, if I may say so myself. The issue is wording. You would be surprised how often I get asked why my characters never seem to call their father “Dad”. I have learned to quit laughing at this suggestion. During most of the 1800s the word “Dad” was a euphemism for “God”. (Even the Irish said “Da” or “Daddy”, never “Dad”, to refer to their father. It would be bad if good ol’ Pa thought you were cussing at him when all you were doing was addressing him.) While I am certain all the fathers out there are going “That’s right! I am God in this house!” and puffing up, a proper young person would have never uttered the word without suffering major consequences. “Dad-gummed” could also be used in places we would use “god-damn” today. “You’re a damned liar!” would be “You’re a dad-gummed liar!” in the late 1800s. While the second would easily be accepted in today’s society, it wouldn’t be during my book. (Or, now by my mother after she reads this.)
It can also go the other way. Take the sentence. “He got a good lay.” Now, honestly, how many of you read that as “He got a good price.” and not a different way? “Lay” was commonly used as price or payment during the early 1800s. In fact, most primary documents from the early 1800s use “lay” frequently. It is another one of those that people are always asking me to fix. I love it, though.
Oh, another good one. (Can we tell I love playing with words?) “Puke” is one of my favorite words. It meant someone from Missouri, but it wasn’t derogatory. I’m not kidding here. “He’s a puke” was an extremely common way to address someone from Missouri.
Ah, and how can I leave out “blame”? “He’s so blamed annoying!” If you didn’t guess from that sentence, blame equals damn.
Let us not leave out “pants” “inexpressibles” “trousers” or about any other way you can think of to refer to those things on your limbs. No one, and I do mean no one, in even lesser society seemed to think it appropriate to mention those things you wear on your limbs. It was vulgar. With today’s ads for pants and jeans (also taboo) can you imagine a world where you did not mention jeans or pants? So, how do you describe britches (somewhat acceptable), pantaloons (iffy on who accepted it) or jeans in the early part of the century? My personal favorite is “sit-down-upons”, though “unwhisperables” and “unmentionables” also make me smile.
Here is where I must discuss “smile”. I love to smile. I really do. I also like to smile in saloons, though I rarely smile at home when I am by myself. People might think I have a problem if I smile by myself. I try my hardest not to smile before 5:00 pm. It is hard some days. Everyone has those days where they wish to smile at work. Co-workers, family and stress all make me want to smile. If one has too many smiles it is indeed a problem. Luckily, today we have Bill & Alcoholics Anonymous when one smiles too much. Don’t you want a smile after reading this? I think I will go pour a smile. Did I mention I love “smile?” I did? Good. I use this one on my friends when we are out having a good time a lot. If you didn’t catch it, “smile” means “drink”.
“Leg”, where do I start with “leg?” To begin with, “leg” is bad. By bad, I mean “In the stocks or whipped for using such vulgar language in public” bad. If the FCC had been around in the early 1800s the word “leg” would have been right up there with the words they bleep from television. Even the lowest of whites and slaves would not have used the word. “Leg” was so vulgar that if one had to refer to someone’s leg (or an animal’s leg) they referred to a “limb”. No, I’m not kidding. I sorta understand “bull” being banned, but leg is extremely normal to me.
Polite women and children never uttered the word “bull”. They went so far as to call a bull “gentleman cow”. Women in the lower classes might refer to a bull as a “top cow” or “seed ox.” I cannot imagine discussing stock and referring to a bull by any other name.
Pussy was a term of endearment most commonly used between a father and a daughter. Occasionally uncles or grandfathers would also use the term for a female relative. It was sometimes used with a sweetheart or wife. “Pussy, be a dear and get Papa his pipe.”
Pucker was to get mad. “She sure is puckered.”
Truck was garden vegetables going to market. Yep, that’s where we get “truck vegetables” and “truck” from today. Farming and ranching families know what I’m talking about when I use truck, but not all people. “He is taking the truck to market, and I pray Johnny gets a good lay.”
Orchard had a couple of meanings. “She walked through Cupid’s Orchard” means a woman made love. “Let us go to the Old Orchard” means “Let us go get a drink.” Yet, “He has an apple orchard” means exactly what you think it means. It amazes me how many different meanings one word can have.
Kick meant to protest or complain. It makes since that it also became to his something with a foot. “He kicked about having to go to school.”
Hooter, oh how I love hooter. “My mother had a hooter of corn. My sister a hooter of carrots. My brother a hooter of deer meat. I a hooter of cabbage. Somehow, my mother took all we had, and made a feast fit for good ol’ George Washington.” Another favorite way to use “hooter”, “The gentleman asked me where a young lass such as myself was going. I answered truthfully to get a hooter of medicine for my poor sick mother.” Hooter meant small, miniscule amount of an item. “He’s just a little hooter” has got to be one of my favorite lines from the time period. I want to go to Hooters and order a hooter of something just to see what they would do. “Can I get a hooter salad, please?”
Gum meant lies or exaggerations. “That dad-blamed son of a bitch is printing these gummed stories about my wife!”
A grocery was a drinking establishment that sold only liquor. “She went to the pastor to see if he might go down to the grocery. She streaked her husband was there once more.”
Streak was to fear. “He was streaked at the thought of his first battle, but he would never show it to the others.”
Fit was to fight. “Missus Jones could never keep her sons out of fits. It seemed to only get worse as they grew older. ‘Boys will get in to fits.’ Missus Jones told my mother once. ‘It’s best that they practice amongst brothers.’”
Diggings was one’s home. “I am headed to my diggings.”
Doggery was a cheap drinking establishment, like today’s dives. “Being the town bummer, he could only afford to drink in doggeries.”
Dash was a euphemism for damn, not a cooking measurement or a track and field event. “Dash it all to hell!”
Bummer was a lazy drunk. “Sam Houston, once an admired man, had fallen in to the role of town bummer.”
There are more words, but those are the ones people seem to be shocked at while reading my books/short stories. I hope those of you who are not sensitive enjoyed our little trek in to the world of words. Feel free to borrow a few of these words for your own personal use. Think of it as a secret code. And what adult doesn’t dream of those carefree childhood days where you had secret codes with your friends?
Update on the search for an agent: No rejections yesterday! I was thrilled not to receive a rejection. I guess I’m just getting a little tired of being rejected. Oh well, I guess rejection just means more time to get fans through the blog and the website. That also means more time to work through the kinks here on the blog and become a better blogger. I’m trying to look at the silver lining.
Don’t forget I am still looking for guest bloggers. Jacob (my husband) finally gave me dates. It’ll be 20 September to 1 October. Let me know if you want to guest by emailing me at my website addy email@example.com. If you know anyone else who would love to guest blog, pass on Saturday’s blog post & my address to them.
-Amanda Nicole Trisdale