196 years o' braggin'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Aug 8 01:46:31 UTC 2009

At 5:44 PM -0400 8/7/09, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>  What follows was drafted in the summer of 2004, but never sent so far as I
>can tell. The phone must have rung or something:
>I was passing through Houston International last month when I happened to
>fall in with a trio of welders back home from a Vegas vacation.
>At one point the eldest man, who'd been talking about retirement, casually
>said, "I can weld anything but a broken heart."
>The second eldest said, "I can weld anything I can jump across."
>The youngest, who looked to be in his late thirties, said, "I can weld the
>crack of dawn."
>  Cool enough, right?  Now get a load of this:

Shades of Mike Fink, keelboater of legend, who also had an
interesting heritage, as reported e.g. at:


Well, my daddy was a bear in the Allegheny Mountains
And my mother was a 'gator in the Ohio.
I was born full-growed at the forks of the river
And I cut my teeth on a catfish bone.

Oh, my name is Mike Fink, I'm a keelboat poler,
I'm a half-alligator and I ride tornaders,
And I can out-feather, out-jump, out-hop, out-skip,
Throw down and lick any man on the river.


>1810 Christian Schultz, Jr.,  _Travels on an Inland Voyage through the
>States of New-York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee;
>and through the Territories of Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and
>New-Orleans, Performed in the Years 1807 and 1808 _ (N.Y.: Isaac Riley)
>145: * *In passing two [keel] boats next to mine, I heard some very warm
>words; which, my men informed me, proceeded from some drunken sailors who
>had had a dispute respecting a _Choctaw Lady*_.* Although I might fill half
>a dozen pages with the curious slang made use of on this occasion, yet I
>prefer selecting a few of the most brilliant expressions by way of sample.
>One said, 'I am a man; I am a horse; I am a team; I can whip any man _in all
>Kentucky_*, *
>by G-d.' The other replied, 'I am an alligator; half man, half horse; I can
>whip any _on the Mississippi_,* *by G-d.' The first one again: 'I am a man,
>have the best horse, best dog, best gun, and handsomest wife _in all
>Kentucky_,* *by G-d.' The other, ' I am a Mississippi snapping turtle; have
>bear's claws, alligator's teeth, and the devil's tail; can whip _any
>man_*,*by G-d.' This was too much for the first, and at it they went
>like two
>bulls, and continued for half an hour, when the alligator was fairly
>vanquished by the horse."
>That was in Natchez.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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