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 Civil War Slang

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Posts : 483
Join date : 2013-08-31
Location : Madrid

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PostSubject: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptyFri Oct 25, 2013 1:39 pm

I found this site very useful for my upcoming challenge story, as it is difficult for someone with English as a second language to get the colloquialisms.

Now I know the U.S. members will probably have this all filed away in their collective folk-memories, but I thought I'd share this for my old-world sisters.

Absquatulate - to take leave, to disappear

Acknowledge the Corn - to admit the truth, to confess a lie, or acknowledge an obvious personal shortcoming

Arkansas Toothpick - a long, sharp knife

A.W.O.L. - Absent With Out Leave

Bad Egg - bad person, good for nothing

Balderdash - nonsense

Bark Juice, Red Eye, O Be Joyful - liquor

Beat the Dutch - if that don't beat all

Bluff - trick or deceive

Bragg's Body Guard - lice

Been Through the Mill - been through a lot, seen it all

Bellyache - complain

Big Bugs - big wigs, important people

Bivouac - to camp without formal shelter or in temporary circumstances

Blowhard - braggart, bully

Blue Mass - refers to men on sick call; named after blue pill.

Bread Bag - haversack

Bread Basket - stomach

Bully - exclamation meaning, &'terrific!' or 'hurrah!'

Bully for You - good for you

Bummer – malingerer, someone who deliberately lags behind to forage or steal on his own shrift

Bummer's Cap - regulation army cap with a high/deep crown, so-called because it could be filled with gathered foodstuffs

Bust Head / Pop Skull - cheap whiskey

Camp canard - tall tale circulating around camp as gossip

Cashier - to dismiss from the army dishonorably

Chief Cook and Bottle Washer - person in charge, or someone who can do anything

Chicken Guts - gold braid used to denote officer ranks

Company Q - fictitious unit designation for the sick list

Conniption Fit - hysterics, temper tantrum

Contraband - escaped slaves who sought refuge behind Union lines

Copperhead - Northern person with Southern, anti-Union sympathies

Cracker Line - supply line for troops on the move

Deadbeat - useless person, malingerer

Desecrated Vegetables - Union, dehydrated (desiccated) vegetables formed into yellowish squares

Dog Robber - soldier detailed from the ranks to act as cook

Dog Collar - cravat issued with uniforms, usually discarded

Duds - clothing

Embalmed Beef - canned meat

Essence of Coffee - early instant coffee, found in paste form

Forage - to hunt for food, live off the land; also came to mean plundering enemy property for sustenance

Fit as a fiddle - in good shape

Fit to be tied - angry

Forty Dead Men - a full cartridge box, which usually held forty rounds

French Leave - to go absent without leave

Fresh Fish - new recruits

Go Boil Your Shirt - take a hike, get lost, bug off

Grab a Root - eat a meal, especially a potato

Greenbacks - money

Grey Backs - lice, also derogatory term for Confederate soldiers

Grit - courage, toughness

Goobers - peanuts

Hanker - a strong wish or want

Hard Case - tough guy

Hard Knocks - hard times, ill use

Hardtack - unleavened bread in the form of ¼ inch thick crackers issued by the army

Haversack - canvas bag about one foot square, which was slung over the shoulder and used to carry a soldier's rations when on the march

High-falutin - highbrow, fancy

Horse Sense - common sense, good judgement

Hospital Rat - someone who fakes illness to get out of duty

Housewife - sewing kit

Huffy, In a Huff - angry, irritated

Humbug - nonsense, a sham, a hoax

Hunkey Dorey - very good, all is well

Jailbird - criminal

Jawing - talking

John Barleycorn - beer

Jonah - someone who is or brings bad luck

Knock into a Cocked Hat - to knock someone senseless or thoroughly shock him

Let 'er Rip - let it happen, bring it on

Let Drive - go ahead, do it

Likely - serviceable, able-bodied

Light Out - leave in haste

Long Sweetening - molasses

Lucifers - matches

Muggins - a scoundrel

Mule - meat, especially if of dubious quality

Mustered Out – wry term meaning killed in action

No Account - worthless

Not By a Jug Full - not by any means, no way

On His Own Hook - on one's own shrift, without orders

Opening the Ball - starting the battle

Opine - be of the opinion

Peacock About - strut around

Peaked - pronounced peak-ed; weak or sickly

Pie Eater - country boy, a rustic

Pig Sticker - knife or bayonet

Picket - sentries posted around a camp or bivouac to guard approaches

Play Old Soldier - pretend sickness to avoid combat

Played Out - worn out, exhausted

Pumpkin Rinds - gold lieutenant's bars

Quartermaster Hunter - shot or shell that goes long over the lines and into the rear.

Quick Step, Flux - diarrhea

Robber's Row - the place where sutlers set up to do business

Row - a fight

Salt Horse - salted meat

Sardine Box - cap box

Sawbones - surgeon

Scarce as Hen's Teeth - exceedingly rare or hard to find

Secesh - derogatory term for Confederates and Southerners: secessionists

See The Elephant - experience combat or other worldly events

Shakes - malaria

Shanks Mare - on foot

Sheet Iron Crackers - hard tack

Shoddy - an inferior weave of wool used to make uniforms early in the war; later came to mean any clothing or equipment of substandard quality

Sing Out - call out, yell

Skedaddle - run away, escape

Slouch Hat - a wide-brimmed felt hat

Snug as a Bug - very comfortable

Somebody's Darling - comment when observing a dead soldier

Sound on the Goose -

Sparking - courting a girl

Spondulix - money

Sunday Soldiers / Parlor Soldiers - derogatory terms for unsuitable soldiers

Take an Image - have a photograph taken

Tennessee or Virginia Quick Step - diarrhea

Tight - drunk

Toe the Mark - do as told, follow orders

Top Rail - first class, top quality

Traps - equipment, belongings

Tuckered Out - exhausted

Uppity - arrogant

Vidette - a sentry same as Picket but usually on horseback

Wallpapered - drunk

Whipped - beaten

Wrathy - angry

Zu Zu - Zouaves, soldiers whose units wore colorful uniforms in a flamboyant French style with baggy trousers, known for bravery and valor
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Posts : 812
Join date : 2013-09-08
Age : 64
Location : Seattle

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PostSubject: Re: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptyFri Oct 25, 2013 2:14 pm

Thanks for these Gringa, they are very interesting.

Some of these are still common and used today. I am from the Midwest (southern Illinois) and I heard them used more often back there than up here is Seattle.

These are the ones I know of that are still in use, more so in the southern states: AWOL, Bad Egg, Balderdash, Red Eye, Bluff, Belly Ache, Blow Hard, Breadbasket, Bully for You!, Chief Cook and Bottle washer, conniption fit, deadbeat, duds, forage, fit as a fiddle, fit to be tied, greenbacks, grit, goober, hanker, hard case, hard knocks, hardtack, high falutin', horse sense, in a huff, humbug, hunkey dorey, jailbird, jawing, let er rip, light out, peaked, played out, row, sawbones, shoddy, skedaddle, snug as a bug, sparking, tuckered out, uppity, whipped. Maybe some of the other ladies have heard others on the list used today.

I really don't know how those of you who do not have American English as your first language carry on so well, writing about the west in the 1800's. It's hard enough when it's your first language.
Bully for You!!

"If I asked for a cup of coffee, someone would search for the double meaning." Mae West
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Posts : 460
Join date : 2013-08-24
Age : 101
Location : Chicago, Illinois, USA

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PostSubject: Re: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptyFri Oct 25, 2013 3:04 pm

I was born and raised in the Midwest, northern Indiana and Illinois. My mom was also born and raised in Indiana; my dad was an easterner (to us Midwesterners, at least), as he was from the hills of western Maryland. My mother's father was born in Michigan in 1876. I bring all this up to let you know that I'm very exposed to a lot of old expressions that some of my contemporaries, and even some younger people, don't know. Coming from a line of people that had their kids late, I always say I understand words and phrases that aren't commonly used anymore. My stepfather used to say "I'd as lief" do something instead of "I'd rather," for example. Nobody says "I'd as lief" anymore.

At least 80% of those you list I'd say are still common and understood. I just heard somebody referred to as "looking peaked" a couple days ago. Some of these phrases that particularly relate to the war, such as "vidette", "somebody's darling", "go boil your shirt," and the like, I've never heard.
Malaria's pretty uncommon in the U.S. now. If somebody's got the shakes, it's nothing to do with fever.

But I've definitely been through the mill. I'm pretty tuckered out right now, but not whipped. Fact is, I'm snug as a bug in a rug. I'm not about to light out of here. I got more horse sense than that.

An exchange student from France told me a long time ago, the hardest part about learning a different language is learning the common expressions and sayings. I admire you for working your way through all this, Gringa. I doubt if many Americans know all of these. I think this reference you provided will be very helpful for all of us writing AS&J fanfic. You're a good egg, Gringa!
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Posts : 483
Join date : 2013-08-31
Location : Madrid

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PostSubject: Re: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptyFri Oct 25, 2013 4:51 pm

Wow, thank you, RosieAnnie. I will try to be the best egg I can. I would love it if expressions could be posted. It would help my English so much and then, hopefully, my stories! You are right. Idioms are hard!
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Posts : 1356
Join date : 2013-08-27
Age : 45
Location : The Hideout

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PostSubject: Re: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptySat Nov 02, 2013 3:40 pm

Here are a few used in my neck of the woods:

Crazy as a loon - insane

Bless his/her heart - Can mean many things depending on the situation i.e. to show sympathy, nice way of saying someone's not smart, ect.

Your neck of the woods - where you live

Old stomping ground - a place where someone has spent a considerable amount of time, usually in their youth

Liable - likely

Untelling - no telling

If I think of any more, I'll post them :)

Come to the dark side...we have cookies Very Happy  safe
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Posts : 289
Join date : 2013-10-27

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PostSubject: Re: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptySun Nov 03, 2013 5:33 am

Loving the slang thread. Thanks for posting these, ladies.
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Posts : 1545
Join date : 2013-09-09
Age : 59
Location : West of the Mississippi

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PostSubject: Re: Civil War Slang    Civil War Slang  EmptySun Nov 03, 2013 7:50 am

Thanks for the Civil War slang! It's great to know what really dates back a ways. I try to avoid having bad anachronisms in my writing, although goodness only knows the series had plenty of them. I know that I slip up often - there's just not time to look up everything. If you want to get a good feel for real western talk of the era, try reading Mark Twain - like Heyes did. Before I use an expression, like OK, or a quotation, I try to look it up and see if the origin is too recent. It gets frustrating when something I really want to use is too late! But then again, there are so many inspirations from the real old expressions. When in doubt, I turn to old stories and expressions from my Texas and Oklahoma parents - like "all to onced," [all at once] or "I about gave you out a' comin'." [I almost gave up waiting for you.] Since my grandparents were born in the early 1880s, my parents grew up with very authentic western language from the era we are dealing with.
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