Princeton student slang 1883. Two questions

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jul 5 21:37:27 UTC 2006

It ought to mean "to play whist assiduously and interminably."


"Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU> wrote:
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Poster: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"
Subject: Princeton student slang 1883. Two questions

Would anyone know what "poll on whist" means in the 1883 college slang item below? (Whist is a card game, of course, but what is "poll on whist"?). And what is "the little book" referred to at the end? Is it a humorous reference to a deck of cards?

This is from the _Princetonian_, 23 Feb. 1883, p. 206/1-2, spotted by Barry Popik and reprinted in his article on Princeton student slang: Comments on Etymology, Nov. 1998, vol. 28, #2, pp. 5-7.

The Princetonian article says in part:
'Many colleges have a different slang expression to convey the same idea. If a man is studying faithfully at Harvard he is said to be 'GRINDING"; at Yale, "DIGGING"; and here the hard worker is a "POLLER." The derivation of the first two is quite obvious, but the origin of the latter is shrouded in mystery. Our enemies have suggested this explanation. They claim that Princeton men are always found to be experiened manipulators of 'PASTEBOARDS" [G. Cohen: i.e., playing cards] and hence must have devoted much time and careful attention to "poll on whist." So, when the examinations draw fearfully near, and demand immediate atention, the student applies himself with that assiduity which has characterized his study of the little book already mentioned in short, he "POLLS."'

Gerald Cohen

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