Early use of "phatt" (1873)

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Tue Jun 1 05:17:38 UTC 2004

Henry Wheeler Shaw, who used the pseudonym was born and raised in
Massachusetts. As an adult he settled in Poughkeepsie, NY, where he did most
of his writing. "Josh Billings" was poor, white, and rural. I assume that he
was supposed to be from either New England or upstate NY.

Whether this represents a continuous line of usage is a question. I would
suspect that the modern, urban use of "phat/phatt" is a separate coinage.

--Dave Wilton
  dave at wilton.net

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Sam Clements
> Sent: Monday, May 31, 2004 8:36 PM
> Subject: Early use of "phatt" (1873)
> Using Newspaperarchive, we find:
> 3 June, 1955  _Bennington(VT) Evening Banner_  8/5
> (This article is referring to Copies of "Josh Billings' Farmer's
> Alliminax."  One was 1873, one was 1878.
> <<Here is a sample of what she found in the 1873 copy:
>     Joel Briggs a peddlar was,
>     A peddlar of renown,
>    He delt in tin ware and sl(?)ich,
>    And druv frum town to town.
>    "Once his hoss had been a nag,
>     A troiting nag at that,
>     But now he was a pelter,
>    An enny thing but phatt.>>
> Now--I have a question.  What's the dialect that 'Josh Bilings'
> stuff represents?  Black?  Poor white?  I'm sure that I could
> find it, but others here surely know the answer, and it's getting late.
> Sam Clements

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