"chicken-livered" antedatings, and "turn chicken"

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 7 02:11:45 UTC 2011

Since we are doing livers, here's another one. Note that the OED does not
even attempt to offer a definition--if it did, some editor would have
noticed that this one does not belong among the "yellow-crested", "beaked",
"footed", etc.

Yellow adj. C2. combinations

>  b. Parasynthetic and instrumental combs. (many of which are used in the
> names of species or varieties of animals or plants). Also yellow-haired adj.

yellow-livered adj.

> 1935    S. Lewis It can't happen Here xv. 156   The meanest, lowest,
> cowardliest gang of yellow-livered, back-slapping, hypocritical gun-toters.
> 1979    PN Rev. No. 9. 27/1   O green, green eating out my eyes, A
> yellow-livered green in a wet light.

A Year in a Yawl. A True Tale of the Adventures of Four Boys in a Thirty
Foot Yawl. By Russell Doubleday. New York: 1901
p. 108

> "I reckon you can," was the answer. "Look out, you yellow-livered son of a
> bale of cotton! Do you want to knock the young gentlemen overboard?"

The Medical and Surgical Monitor. [Medical Art and Indianapolis Medical
Journal.] Volume 7(4). April 15, 1904
The Waiting Room. p. 186

> Dead silence from the inner room of mysteries, dead silence from the
> sad-eyed, despondent, yellow-livered looking people in the waiting room.

A Yankee's Adventures in South Africa. By Charles H. Simpson. Chicago: 1908
p. 72

> "What, ho there, Jante!" cried Loffden, "what's up? You look as if the
> devil had called on you for a roast and was chasing you out of the woods!
> Speak, you yellowlivered cuss!"

p. 102

> "Darn you, you yellow-livered snake eater! What are you doing here?"

The Lone Adventure. By Halliwell Sutcliffe. New York: 1911
p. 48

> "If they but knew, Oliphant!" The older man's glance was no less direct,
> but it was wistful and shadowed by some doubt that had taken him unawares.
> "We've all to gain, we loyalists, and George has left us little enough to
> lose. And yet our men hang back. Cannot they see this Rising as I see it?
> Prosperity and kingship back again—no need to have a jug of water ready when
> you drink the loyal toast—the Maypole reared again in this sour,
> yellow-livered England. Oliphant, we've the old, happy view of things, and
> yet our gentlemen hang back."


On Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 8:50 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> 1804 -- "I am resolved, and they will find me no chicken livered
> fellow ..."  Corrector {New York, NY], published as The Corrector;
> Date: 03-31-1804; Issue: 2; Page: 6.  EAN.  Antedates
> OED/1989  1872--.  Although the OED has "chicken-hearted" from 1681.
> 1847 -- "Shame! shame upon the chicken livered wretch!"  Vermont
> Patriot, (Montpelier, VT) Thursday, April 01, 1847; Issue 1106/66;
> col D. 19th C. U.S. Newspapers.  (And 12 additional "chicken-livered"
> through 1899.)

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

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