October 30th, 2009 at 11:28 am (Articles)
The use of language and terminology has changed immensely as times change. What was a simple term to us in this time often held a different meaning in ages gone by. If our ancestors heard how we speak and the terms we use today they would be shocked.
Each era seems to have a distinct way of speech. During Victorian times the “niceties” were to be observed at all times. Manners were to be used at all times. In the Wild West a huge leap was made to western slag. There were not some many manners being used then. Many cultures use terms that here in America we are not familiar with. When researching and viewing documents try to think of the time and place that the information is being written and include the location.
I good practice is to read through and watch for items that may sound a bit off. Look the terms up on the internet or stop by your local library and ask for a historical dictionary. Most libraries should have them available. I try to do this as I go so that in information I am working on at that point is clearer so that I can move on.
When I first married and met my husband’s family I found they use terms I was not used to. I was helping my mother-in-law in the kitchen and we were preparing dinner. She was cooking at the stove and suddenly said “Oh no the meat is scrauzled!” (I am not sure of the spelling of this one.) I asked her what that was. She looked at me like I was crazy and said “You know scrauzled.” I had no idea what that was. It means to overcook so the meat shrinks too much. Also another term they use is spragged, as in “they had a spragging cough”. This means to cough so hard that one shakes physically. In their family and from the part of Utah that they are from, these are regular terms. Sometimes we have to ask questions and see if the older family members remember what things are or what the meaning of these unusual words could be.
One other example is when I was younger my sisters and I were talking to our Mom. I don’t really remember what about, but she had mentioned something about “picking up a fag”. Well in my time this had a total different meaning. She said it meant a cigarette butt and what did we think she was saying? Well to say the least, she was shocked a bit to find a fag in the 70’s was a homosexual. Do you see how we can get off on the wrong foot?
Here are a few word examples from The Macmillan dictionary of Historical Slang;
Altham-a mistress…..apron-up- because modest women tend, in pregnancy, to use their aprons as “disguise”…..boke-the nose…..bevie or bevvy-public house…..bible-a thin strip of blubber ready for the fry pot…..brattery- a nursery…..clobberer-a transformer of old clothes…..drag-a four horse coach….dunaker-a stealer of cattle…..glister-a glass or goblet…..kenning-wages…..lucky piece- an illegitimate child who’s father has provided money for the mother……mizzard-mouth…..moth-harlot…..nale-ale house…..nig- a slip of paper…..paddy- Irishman…..pakeha-white man…..peacock-to pay……plumy-rich…..public man-bankrupt…..quoz-odd or unusual…..rux-to reprimand…..salt-costly…..sapper-one who studies hard…..squeaker-a child…..squirl-a flourish in writing…..tatto-a potato…..tigerish-flashy, loud….traps-personal belongings.
Just for fun: If you have any interesting words that you would like to share, please send them in. I think it is fun to see what others have found.