"fork *up*" (July 1837), and other slang

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Mar 2 00:39:14 UTC 2010

At 3/1/2010 12:36 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>No. Because the dictionaries and thesauruses you use (I assume) are the
>carefully edited kind that don't include ghost words, irresponsible
>definitions, and all sorts of other errors.

Of course!  I always verify a slang word by checking against each
other two or more cant dictionaries that include ghost words,
irresponsible definitions, and all sorts of other errors.

>Furthermore, they assure you
>(generally on the basis of evidence) that unless so noted, the words you're
>using are not obsolete, archaic, or ultra-rare.

First, my quotation from 1837 employs only words present in the OED
(and in phrases either present in the OED or differing only modestly
from the OED), and with the sense given in the OED.  Second, many of
the OED's quotations for these terms are not from dictionaries (while
it has only one quotation for "post the poney", from a slang
dictionary, I assume it is related to "pony up").  So, I conclude the
1837 author was not

>... picking bizarre words from
>crummily edited cant dictionaries (which are in no small part plagiarized
>from earlier ones) and repeating them, sometimes with distortions, and often
>with the imputation that they're current and used by everybody, or at least
>everybody in the red-light district

but rather taking a set of expressions he had heard or seen, all
having the same meaning, and putting them into a humorous
exchange.  All of them have quotations in the OED from sources near
1837 that are not dictionaries:

rhino n1:  1834, 1851.
tip v.4 sense 1.b. [us money]:  1829, 1851
down with the dust (the 1837 has "out"):  s.v. dust n.1 sense 6:  a1845
post:  v.4 sense 1.  1821, 1829
post the poney:  1819  [This is the only expression the OED finds
only in a dictionary.]
shell out:  1819, 1863
cash down:  1817, 1855.
fork:  v. 5.a up 1843 ("fork out" 1831)

And the 1837 author was certainly *not* imputing "that they're
current and used by everybody, or at least everybody in the red-light
district" -- the second speaker doesn't understand a word.

P.S.  Robin Hamilton wrote earlier:
>Actually, I'm wrong on "tip" [as "give"], come to think of it -- it
>comes into "Of the
>Budge" (often miscalled "The Budg and Snudge Song") about 1673 --

The OED has tip v.4 sense 1.b., "With a coin or sum of money as obj.
(Hence sense 2, in which the person, here the indirect or dative,
becomes the direct obj.) Also with up and absol." -- with quotations

1610 ROWLANDS Martin Mark-all Eiv, Tip a make ben Roome Coue, Giue a
halfepeny good Gentlemen.
1673 R. HEAD Canting Acad. 13 Tip him no Cole, give him no Money.

(and others later).


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

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