Loaferism, gutterhorn, soaplock, shortboy: 1851 American politics

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Jan 18 02:31:17 UTC 2008

Tremendous row at Hoboken yesterday: a battle of the peoples, like
Leipzig. German loaferism warring with the Aaron Burrs of New York,
the gutterhorn soaplocks and shortboys of the wharves and their Irish
allies. Some lives lost, and strong possibility that the fight may be
renewed here. ["Here" is New York City.]

1851 May 27.

loaferism antedates 1889.  With EAN I find three instances, 1841 (2) and 1850.

gutterhorn not in OED2.  One instance in Google Books (Sperber and
Trittschuh; see below).

soaplock antedates 1864.  With EAN searching for "soaplock" and
"soap-lock" I find 14 instances, from 1840 through 1846 (the 1818 is
a false positive). One or two refer to the hair rather than the rowdy.

shortboy not in OED2.  Many instances in Google Web, which I haven't
tried to analyze.  (Including as an appellation for Stephen Douglas,
the more positive one being "the Little Giant".)

In _The Diary of George Templeton Strong, Vol. 2: The Turbulent
Fifties, 1850-1859_.  Ed. Allan Nevins and Milton Halsey
Thomas.  Macmillan, 1952.  Page 48.

This passage from Strong's diary is quoted in _American Political
Terms, An Historical Dictionary_, Hans Sperber and Travis Triffschuh (1962).

Considering this one passage, I wonder if Strong (4 volumes in
total!) -- despite having been a vestryman at Trinity Church, NY, and
a trustee of Columbia College! -- would be a good source of
mid-nineteenth century slang?  He apparently began his diary at age
16, and kept it for 40 years [Wikipedia].


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

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