_Angel of Darkness_ items, #1

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Jul 29 22:05:55 UTC 2001

    I just posted a message on "Big Onion" as attested (late!) in
Caleb Carr's novel _The Angel of Darkness_. While reading through it
slowly for attestations of "Big Onion,", I'm keeping my eyes open for
anything else that might be of lexical interest.

    Here's installment #1, from chapters 1-2:

1) page 6: "first horse out the gate" (= right from the start, right
off the bat): "'Don't take on airs,' I answers. 'The _Times'_'s given
you the sack twice that I know of, exactly because you *didn't* know
how to approach your public.  The Beecham case was strong stuff,
maybe too strong for your readers to take first horse out of the
gate.  Could be you should've eased them into it, started with
something that didn't involve talk about slaughtered boy-whores,
cannibalism, and eyeballs in a jar.'"

2) page 7: "stick" (= cigarette): "I take a deep breath, followed by
a drag off my stick, and then I say quietly: ..."
and page 22: "As I lit up a stick and handed it to Mr. Moore,..."
(Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says: "1910s+")

3) page 14; " be a rat's ass away from..." (= be within a whisker of
doing sth.): "It was Miss Sara Howard, busting just about every rule
in the housebreaker's bible, if there ever was such a thing, and
cursing heaven like a sailor all the while.  She had on her usual
daytime rig--a simple dark dress without a lot of fussy, fashionable
undergarments--but uncomplicated as her clothes were, she was having
a hell of a time keeping a grip on the rain gutter and the protruding
cornerstones of the house, and was a rat's ass away from falling into
the Doctor's front yard and breaking would would most likely have
been every bone in her body."

4) page 15: "Like a dog has fleas" (humorously strong
affirmation):"She smiled back at me. 'Got a cigarette?'
        'Like a dog has fleas,' I said reaching inside the room for a
packet and handing her one."

5) page 21: "stems" (_Cassell's Dictionary of Slang_ says: "mid 19C+;
the legs, esp. of an attractive woman"):"And this was, I can say now
with even more appreciation than I could then, a _woman_. With long
golden hair that hung down to her waist and robed in only a coverlet
that she clasped with one hand at her side, she had a set of stems on
her what started in a pair of slender ankles and didn't seems to end
till somewhere up around the ceiling--and the ceilings in that
building were high, mind you."

---Gerald Cohen

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