Puritan euphemisms

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Oct 25 13:49:47 UTC 2012

"Till within a few years past the editing of newspapers has been wholly in
the hands of mere printers.  From them *original* matter was not to be
expected.  ***"
     Commercial Advertiser, January 21, 1802, p. 3, col. 1

Before the Revolution, newspapers were edited by a craftsman, a printer.
 After the Revolution, big-city papers, at least, were edited by guys who
were expected to think deeply about government and such like.  Whether they
did or not, they at least wrote a fine turgid prose, in which nothing is
ever "seen" -- it's "perceived".   A good portion of their other stuff was
submitted by subscribers, writing under pseudonyms.  the subscribers were
mostly businessmen, not necessarily educated, but equally turgid.
The newspapers of the 1750s, 60s & 70s are likely to be written in a more
colloquial prose, but not slangy, of course.

I've read a good deal in the NYC papers of the mid 18th C, and haven't
encountered "Jiminy Cricket" or anything similar.  What I have found of
interest I've noted and posted here.  Some of you may still remember fondly
the Gormagunt.

When I was in 6th grade, the school librarian heard a girl say Jeepers
Creepers, or maybe Gosh, or perhaps even Gadszooks.  In any event, she
pulled her to one side and chastized her for using a word that was clearly
a euphemism for A Forbidden Term.  Meriden, Conn., ca. 1952.


On Thu, Oct 25, 2012 at 12:03 AM, James Harbeck <jharbeck at sympatico.ca>wrote:

> On 2012-10-24, at 12:29 PM, Baker, John wrote:
> > But when did Americans start writing plays?  If before about 1830, I
> don't think it was vastly before.
> >
> 1665. The first recorded piece in English in the colonies was Ye Bare and
> Ye Cubb, written by William Darby of Accomac County, VA, and performed in
> Cowles Tavern. In 1690, a Harvard College student named Benjamin Colman
> wrote a play, Gustavus Vasa, thought to be the first play by an American
> (by birth) to be acted in the colonies. Where there are people, there is
> enertainment, and where there are European colonists, there is certainly
> theatrical entertainment; this is pretty consistent over the centuries. It
> starts with amateurs, naturally, but people do write plays. In that era,
> plays were a very important entertainment, so it would be surprising for
> them to be importing absolutely all their drama from across the ocean with
> no local efforts.
> Of course, although professional theatre existed in the US by the
> mid-1700s, American dramatists of note did take a bit longer in emerging.
> There were plays written by Americans around the time of the revolution,
> but these were often political satire meant more for reading; theatrical
> entertainments were proscribed. But after the country was born, things
> really got into gear. In 1787, the first professional production of a
> native American comedy on a native American subject, Royall Tyler's The
> Contrast, was performed. By the later 1790s, Philadelphia and Boston had
> developed into significant theatre centers in America. New York too, of
> course.
> James Harbeck.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much since then.

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

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