One of the best things about the internet is the availability of written resources. You can read (and see page images) for Noah Webster’s The American Spelling Book,(which is, I’m sorry to say, pretty dull). Or there’s the Dictionary of Americanisms by John Russell Bartlett published in 1848. The information in this little book has to be taken with a grain of salt — this was one person’s experience of English as it was spoken in the States, and not an impartial observer either. A few examples that might convince you to go have a wander round Mr. Bartlett’s dictionary (and yes, it’s that Barlett).

PLAGUY SIGHT. This is a very common expression in the colloquial language of New England, and means, a great deal.

Squire, said Slick. I’d a plaguy sight sooner see Ascot than anything else in England.–Sam Slick in England, ch. 19.

TO PLANK. To lay; to put; generally applied to money; as, ‘He planked down the cash.’

I’ve had to plank down handsome, and do the thing genteel, but Mr. landlord found he had no fool to deal with, neither.–S. Slick in England.

4 Replies to “wordplay”

  1. Like how he downplays Dr. Webster and his dictionary in the American dielects part, hehehe. Fascinating stuff, have ta go over it more thoroughly, I’m guessin there’s quite a few tidbits of history in it. I’m assuming I should read between the lines though?

  2. Wolfy: yes, of course. There’s always a lot more on the page than what’s printed. Let me know if you run across anything interesting, okay?

  3. Lotta neat words in there. Didn’t realize there were so many American originated words in the English langauge “Realize” being one of them, though the author says it’s used in Scotland as well.
    Also a liquor list(208) with no drinks I’ve heard of, unless “Apple-Jack” is bourban and apple juice :)
    Interesting reading.

  4. Did you know that yesterday October 16th was National Dictionary Day, I heard about this on the evening news.

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