What and Why is Slang? (OUT WEST, 1911)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Wed Nov 7 01:57:52 UTC 2001

   OUT WEST magazine isn't on the MOA databases, so I had a look.  From OUT WEST, October 1911, pg. 239:

_What and Why is SLang?_
By Morris H. Crockett
   Socially slang is a "climber" from Climbersville.
(...)(Pg. 240--ed.)
   What, then, is to be said of the mental caliber of the group of "bachelor girls" from whose drab and purple conversation we catch such phrases as "wouldn't that rattle your slats?" "my, what a fright she looks!" "Gee, but ain't he a swell looker?" or that of the society lady whose friend is "in the swim" at a fashionable resort and who invites you to "cut in on a rubber of whist."  This same lady uses "climber," "bounder," and kindred "picturesque (?)" words freely, but considers the user of "in the push,"--synonymous with "in the swim,"--"moak," "cove," et cetera, a subject for missionary effort.
(...)(Pg. 241--ed.)   Every walk in life has been behind in its contributions to our vocabulary.  "Hiking" originated among the troops in the Philippines during our late unpleasantness with Spain and is a corruption of a native word meaning to move on, or travel.  It is synonymous with "beat it," which is purely American and means to "hit the high spots."  The soldiers also brought "cold feet" from their sentry duty in the Philippines.  "Treking" came to us from far away South Africa, being adopted by the war correspondents who "wrote up" the Boer war.  It is Dutch for "hiking."  The expression "Great Scott" dates back to the Mexican war in which General Winfield Scott distinguished himself and is an example of the tenacity with which a phrase clings to our vocabulary long after the sense has departed from it.  "Cinch" comes from the paddocks of the race course and means a "sure thing."  A "lead-pipe cinch" is a doubly sure thing.  For "ditch," "side track," "off his trolley," et cetera, we are indebted to the railroad calling
  Chasing the word "brick," as affectionately applied to a human being, full cry back through the years it leads one into the gray mists of antiquity and to Aristotle and Plato.  "Up the flume" was handed down to us by the forty-niners, as was "petered out;" "up Salt Creek," a synonymous expression, defies research.  "Roundup," a cow country coloquialism, has degenerated into common slang and needs no defining.  "Cut of his jib" and "hard up" floated to us on the tides, being sailor expressions.  "Graft," a very popular expression as well as occupation, probably came from the nursery.  It is very well understood in its new sense.  "Hello," shades of our Puritan ancestors, is of Boston origin.  Ask the telephone girl its exact meaning.
   But where, oh where did "put one over," "kibosh," "brace," "touch," "pinch," "swipe," "up against it," "hough," "on one's uppers," and a thousand and one other of their ilk come from?

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