Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, John

Today in 1805, John Russell Bartlett was born. He was a co-founder of the American Ethnological Society and author of that invaluable book, A Dictionary of American Regionalisms (on line here). Some entries:

HALVES. An exclamation entitling the person making it to the half of anything found by his companion. In the Craven Dialect, says Mr. Carr, on such occasions, if the finder be quick he exclaims, 'No halves--finder keeper, loser seeker,' to destroy the right of the claim.

HANDSOME. In familiar language this word is used among us with great latitude, and, like some other words mentioned in this Glossary, is difficult to define. "In general," says Dr. Webster, "when applied to things, it imports that the form is agreeable to the eye, or to the taste; and when applied to manner, it conveys the idea of suitableness or propriety with grace."

HANG. 'To get the hang of a thing,' is to get the knack, or habitual facility of doing it well. A low expression frequently heard among us. In the Craven Dialect of England is the word hank, a habit; from which this word hang may perhaps be derived.

TO HANG AROUND. To loiter about. To 'hang around' a person, is to hang about him, to seek to be intimate with him.

HARUM-SCARUM. A low but frequent expression applied to flighty persons; persons always in a hurry, as if they were hared or frightened themselves, or haring others by their precipitancy; as, he is a harum-scarum fellow.--Johnson.

TO HAVE A SAY. To express an opinion. A phrase in vulgar use.

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