Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mark Twain Slang (1862)

Caroline and old Mark Twain
One of the things I love about writing my P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries  is the richness of American vocabulary in the early 1860s. Another person who loved the language was Mark Twain. In 1863, the quick-witted, sharp-tongued, pistol-packing newspaper reporter named Sam Clemens was living in a Wild West mining town called Virginia City and had just started using the soon-to-be famous pseudonym "Mark Twain". The budding writer delighted in the latest popular slang words, some of which can be found in his early writings and letters home. Even his new name was slang. "Mark Twain" can mean two things: the depth of a sounding in the Mississippi River or two whiskeys on credit at a saloon. Here is an ABC taster of some of the other marvellous slang of the period.

Absquatulate = to leave abruptly
Bach (or Batch) = to live like a bachelor
Cheese it! = Shut up!
Dunderhead = fool, idiot
Eagle = a gold coin worth $10
Put some Killickinick in your pipe...
Flapdoodle = Nonsense
Gimcracks = A Knicknack
Hurry-Skurry = Rushed
Ironikle = Ironic
Jollification = Party, Celebration
Killickinick = Twain's beloved, yet cheap pipe tobacco
Lucifer = A Match (to light your pipe)
Mulligrubs = Grumpiness, Depression
Nabob = Wealthy and Important Man
"Undress Uniform"
Octaroon = Person w/ one Negro great-grandparent
Poltroon = Utter coward
Quirk = a Taunt, Retort
Rough = a Thug, Ruffian
Spondulicks = Money
Toper = Drunkard
Undress Uniform = Long Johns
Vamoose = to depart hurriedly
Whale = to Beat or Thrash someone
Xeromyrum = Dry Ointment
You bet! = common exclamation
Zephyr = a Gale

The first book in my P.K. Pinkerton Mysteries series is The Case of the Deadly Desperados. It is available in hardbackpaperbackKindle and MP3 audio download

P.S. For more Wild West slang, read my post about audiobooks.

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