Snake oil

Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Mon Jan 27 16:42:49 UTC 2014

Hugo wrote

> "oil of rattle snake", 1687
> The Royal Society of London's Philosophical Transactions ... Vol. XLI. Part
> I For the Years 1739, 1740, published 1744.  "Some Account of Virginia",
> Page 149, from a 1687 letter written by John Clayton:
> [Begin]
> There are three Sorts of Oils in that Country, whose Virtues, if fully
> proved, might not perhaps be found despicable. The Oil of Drums, the Oil of
> Rattle Snakes, and the Oil of Turkey Bustards. [End]

An excellent find. Very many thanks. But, as so often, this raises a
further question: what is "oil of drums"?

Michael Quinion
World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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