New Zealand 1881 article on American Drink Slang

Michael McKernan mckernan51 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 22 02:20:53 UTC 2010

Having no idea if this item from an 1881 New Zealand newspaper has made the
rounds, I post it here.  It seems likely that this was purloined from an
English source, and refers to the famous promenade concerts held in/near
London, but I haven't taken the time to investigate any of the details.
Probably nothing too startling here, but it's not my cuppa whatever.

-Michael McKernan
Benson, Arizona


Nelson Evening Mail, Volume XVI, Issue 295, 12 December 1881, Page 4

The principle underlying the well-known fact that the name of a rose has no
effect upon its smell would appear not to apply to drinks and their flavour,
if we may trust the programme of potations offered to the thirsty at the
American bar of the Covent Garden Promenade Concerts.  It is difficult to
believe that the two elements of wine and spirits are suspectible [sic] of
sixty or seventy distinct transformations, and curiousity is awakened as to
the state of mind that corresponds to the multiform nomenclature under which
refreshments seem to be presented.  A “livener,” a “cooler,” a “nerver,” an
“appetiser, “ [sic] a “nightcap,” even and “eye-opener,” appeal to obvious
conditions of feeling,  [sic] The relation between a “settler” and a “corpse
reviver” is also conceivable; but what is the subtle distinction obtaining
between “whisky twist” and “whisky crusts,” between “brandy sling” and
“brandy scaffs,” between “gin cock-tail” and “Bombay cock-tail,” between
“President Lincoln” and “General Gran?”  How is a fancy for liquids supposed
to be stimulated by offers of “white lion” and “prairie oyster?”  “Flash of
lightning” and “thunder” are manifestly arranged for those in need, or in
search of a double draught, and we can understand the people who imbibe
“parson’s delight,” “too-too,” and even “mother’s milk;” but what
inscrutable beings are they who relish “egg nogg,” “straights,” “sangaree,”
“flip-flap, “John Collins,” “stone-fence,” or “swizzle?”  Probably the
difference between “gin skin,” “Bourbon skin,” and “rye skin” lies on the
surface; but the ordinary and un-Bacchanalian observer who has mislaid his
slang dictionary is not unlikely to be as much bewildered as tempted by this
infinite and mysterious wealth of choice.

The American Dialect Society -

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