English phrases from another century sound foreign today

While my friends and children are busy learning foreign languages, such as French, Spanish, Russian, and German, I’m learning one myself. I’m learning slang from the 1800s. It’s interesting how language and communication change over the centuries. Let’s see if you can decipher the following sentences?

A body druther not argie with sich widders afore vittles whupped. For a spell I studied on it. Her pone and lasses were tolable, though now I’m puny feelin’.

Translated: A person would rather not argue with such widows before food was whipped up. For a time, I thought about it. Her cornbread and molasses were tolerable though now I’m sick.

The biggest toad in the puddle had an Arkansas toothpick and seemed corned. The boodle was afraid, with good reason. They didn’t want to be catawamptiously chawed up.

An Arkansas toothpick, Missouri toothpick, or California toothpick are all the same thing: a long knife. The biggest toad in the puddle is the most important person in the group. If someone is corned, it means he’s drunk. Never heard of a boodle? I hadn’t either. Today, we just say crowd. Catawamptiously chawed up means utterly defeated, badly beaten. Translated: The most important person in the group had a long knife and seemed drunk. The crowd was afraid, with good reason. They didn’t want to be badly beaten.

I’ve taken a cotton to that guttersnipe whom I met on the trace. That high-falutin critter I met was all gum, I declare.

If I’ve taken a cotton to something, it means that I’ve taken a liking to it. A guttersnipe is a homeless child roaming the streets. High-falutin is highbrow or stuck up. A trace is a path or trail. Gum means lies, exaggeration. Translated: I’ve taken a liking to that homeless child I met on the trail. The highbrow person I met was exaggerating, I say.

Even a peart Jonathan might wake snakes and kick if you hornswoggle him.

Peart is fresh and happy, sprightly. Jonathan is another name for a Yankee. Wake snakes means raise a ruckus. Hornswoggle means to cheat or pull the wool over one’s eyes.  Translated: Even a happy Yankee might raise a ruckus if you cheat him.

I’m afeared I’d be a gone coon—or at least pull foot—if I saw a gallnipper. I’d be hankering to exfluncticate it.

Gone coon means a goner. Pull foot means to leave in a hurry. A gallnipper is a large mosquito. Hankering is a strong desire. Exfluncticate is a verb one doesn’t hear anymore; it means to utterly destroy.  Translated: I’m afraid I’d be a goner—or at least leave in a hurry—if I saw a large mosquito. I’d want to destroy it.

Well, I’ll absquatulate, skedaddle, clear out ’til next week. I hope you set store by this little interlude. (Set store means set value upon, appreciate.)

Please share some phrases that you know from other times with us here. Be sure to let us know from what century you are speaking!

6 thoughts on “English phrases from another century sound foreign today

  1. I ain’t seen you in a coons age.
    Don’t know from whence or when, but it was said in my family.

    1. I think I may have heard that one before also. What do you think a coon’s age means? Do coons live a long time? It would be interesting to learn from where these sayings originated. Here I go, starting on a rabbit’s trail. LOL

  2. “Always behind like an old cow’s tail.” Said about people who were slow or distracted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *