"blowing out"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Mar 28 21:04:54 UTC 2008

Well done!  Convinces me.  A syncretism one part from merry England
of the Tudor/Elizabethan period (and earlier), the other from the
American Industrial Revolution -- and tolerated by Presbyterians et al.


At 3/28/2008 02:50 PM, Baker, John wrote:
>         It sounds like a spring dance, apparently held at the equinox,
>to celebrate that the longer days make the use of candles unnecessary.
> From Alexander Blaikie, A History of Presbyterianism in New England 415
>- 16 (1881) (Google Books full text):
>         <<On going thither [to Lowell, Massachusetts] in the evening on
>March 20th, the writer found the extensive factories all illuminated.
>The sight was pleasant and the question, "Why?" was answered by, "It is
>the blowing out ball." For the next six months the factories would not
>be operated by artificial light. Hence the _dance_ to-night.>>
>         I think the "blowing out until day-light" reference simply means
>that the dance lasted all night.  The sexual association is apparently
>mild enough to give little disturbance to a 19th century Presbyterian
>John Baker
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>Of George Thompson
>Sent: Friday, March 28, 2008 9:47 AM
>Subject: "blowing out"
>This passage seems to have thee difference senses of "blowing out", but
>what these senses are isn't at all clear.
>         The Boston Artillery will attend the "blowing out"** ball at
>Manchester, N. H., March 19 (Monday.)  On the next evening, 20th, there
>will be a grand ball at Lowell, on the occasion of the "blowing out."
>Pushee's band will be on hand as usual.  [footnote]  ** "Blowing out"
>means when the girls do not work by candle-light.  [quoting a Boston
>          We have known "blowing out" balls in the interior of New Jersey
>before now, where the boys and girls, after blowing out the candles,
>continued "blowing out" until day-light.  We thought the custom obsolete
>in New England, however.
>         New York Daily Globe, March 12, 1849, p. 2, col. 4
>#3, what the boys and girls do in Jersey, seems to indicate a practice
>like bundling?  In any event, there's a sexual association.  The
>connection with "blowing out" is perhaps based on the sense of regaling
>one's self, treating one's self to a good time?
>The Editor of the Globe I take it was put in mind of this sense by an
>apparent implication of the paragraph from the Boston paper.  But I'm
>sure that the young men of the Boston Artillery were all most virtuous
>chaps, and don't believe that the balls in Manchester and Lowell were of
>the ballum rankum sort.  (If you don't know what a ballum rankum is, ask
>Jonathan, Jonathon, or Captain Grose.)   The expression perhaps has
>reference to a militia exercise, perhaps practice firing of artillery?
>And treating that as a major event by having a dance afterwards?
>The definition of "blowing out" offered by the Boston paper doesn't help
>at all.  The definition seems to me to connect to a labor demand.  The
>girls working at the Lowell factories were pretty obstropulous at this
>time, and were perhaps refusing to work by artificial light?
>I don't see these senses in the OED, DARE, or the A-Man's dictionary,
>nor the O-Man's.
>GAT, who's baffled.
>George A. Thompson
>Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
>Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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