Love It and Leave It (1937); Joe Doakes, Big Dick, Big Show, Big Top (1911)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Mon Dec 12 03:16:46 UTC 2005

Good find, Barry !


Bapopik at AOL.COM wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Bapopik at AOL.COM
Subject: Love It and Leave It (1937); Joe Doakes, Big Dick, Big Show, Big
Top (1911)

16 May 1937, NY Herald Tribune, pg. 8, col. 2 (Stern Brothers ad):
_Love It and Leave It!_
Only two weeks to go, and then you'll see in the papers "Holiday Crowds Jam
Terminals at Week End," and Decoration Day will begin New York's sudden
I wrote about this here before 1999 (old archives), but it's been destroyed.
I don't know where my HDAS is in this apartment. I gotta type this all
again. All this work for fifteen years and I'll never even get a free copy of the
books I contribute to.
2 April 1911, NY WORLD, Metropolitan section, pg. 2, col. 4:
_The Jargon of the Circus Is Picturesque_
_and Hard to Understand._
DID you ever talk to a circus man? and the answer is, yes, if you are a
linguist. It really is so. If you want to go up to the "Big Show" at Madison
Square Garden and sit down to a heart to heart talk with one of the old time
circus men you really have got to have a smattering of a language that isn't
taught in any school--except the circus school.
Here are just a few samples of the circus language. For every one that is
printed here there are a dozen other expressions that the people connected with
the circus make us of daily.
If, when you are going in to the show some night you suddenly hear one of
the gatemen shout out at the top of his voice, "Ground arms," look around
quickly and you will see some proud father carrying a fourteen year old boy into
the circus to save an admission ticket. The cry, "Ground arms," quickly brings
a gateman to the scene who compels the father to put the boy down and
purchase a ticket for him.
"Razorbacks" in the circus are not a species of wild animal, as you might
naturally suppose, but (Col. 5--ed.) merely the men who have charge of placing
the parade wagons on the flat cars when the circus is going from one town to
"Razorbacks" first came into the circus language in the old days when they
had little short wagons that instead of standing lengthwise on the flatcars as
do the big wagons to-day were placed crosswise. The old wagons were run on an
incline, then the train hands got beneath them and, at a cry of "Raise your
backs" from the foreman of the crew, the men raised their backs and turned
the wagons around.
The canvas to a circus is the "rag." The circus grounds are the "lot." The
circus detective is the "Big Dick," and the "Big Dick" in turn always speaks of
the local policemen as the "harness men."
Lemonade to the circus folks is ""juice," the concert is the "blower," the
main tent is the "big top." To the front door people the circus performers are
known as the "kinkers," the money is "kale," and passes are "snow."
The band is the "horn gang." The men who work on the seats speak of their
job as "working in the lumber camp." The ringmaster (Col. 6--ed.) for some
unknown reason has been called "Joe Doakes" ever since the days of P. T. Barnum.
So too have the trains always been called the "rattler," though the name
to-day is less deserved than it was in the old times.
Too, when a circus man speaks of going down to the railroad yards where the
flat cars are standing he always says he is going down to the "runs." The
advance agent when he wants to find out how business is going on back with the
show writes and asks his friend, and his friend, if the business is good, tell
him they packed 'em in "to the ball (bail?--ed.)-rings."
When you are coming out of the show the circus folks call it rather
appropriately "the come out," and then they break for the "cook house," which means
that it is time to eat.
Circus folks never talk of the electric lights. If something goes wrong with
the lighting effects to the circus man it is one of the "chandeliers" that
has "blown." The clowns are always called "jovies." While the circus nowadays
never travels by wagon from one town to another as it did, the circusfolks
still speak of making their "jumps" and taking their "bikes" (illegible--ed.).

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