Mountain Oysters (1862)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri May 7 02:10:41 UTC 2004

>    I've been re-checking the progress of Colorado's Historic Newspaper
>Collection, and I'm proud to say that I now discovered that I have better
>     10 May 1862, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS WEEKLY (Denver), pg. 4:
>    The folks boarding at some of our "first-class hotels," these later days
>are growing very fastidious in their choice of "grub."  Two or three years
>they thought they were "in luck" to run against a board with bread and beans,
>and exclaimed "bully!"  Yesterday a gentleman at a dinner table complacently
>ordered the waiter to fetch him "some soused eels' feet and a dozen mountain

IMHO, this passage does not seem to exemplify what I presume is the lexical
item in question, i.e., "mountain oysters" = "[animals'] testicles" or so.

I believe "mountain oysters" in this 1862 piece means about the same as
"eels' feet", i.e., = "nonexistent items", a humorous exaggeration of "very
rare viands" or so.

I suppose both "mountain oysters" and "prairie oysters" arose from this
sort of humorous exaggeration. The oysters harvested in the mountains and
prairies were rare delicacies indeed.

-- Doug Wilson

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