Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Regionial language


Regional language

Language grows and changes, often with some sort of epicenter. This week’s post takes a look at several words born in very specific spots.

The term jarheads arrived in English in 1979, used to refer to US Marines, is generally associated with the classic Marine haircut. Interestingly, jarhead came to English in the state of Georgia in the 1920s, meaning mule. Connection?

Another word born in Georgia & its environs is juke. Today, juke generally appears as half of a compound word or paired words (jukebox, juke joint, jook organ). Originally, juke was considered so derogatory and inappropriate it was not used in polite society. It meant wicked, disorderly, nasty, & showed up in English in the 1930s. When juke was first associated with coin operated phonographs, the industry fought the association, fearing the negative image would hurt business. In time, though, the negative connotation was eclipsed by the magic of choosing one’s tunes at the diner.

In Maine in the 1830s, the word sumptuous gave birth to the word scrumptious, meaning splendidly stylish. Within fifty years scrumptious had spread across the country and had come to mean tasty & delicious.

Another Maine-born word that arrived in the 1870s is the regional term moxie, which was originally written with a capital letter, as it was the brand of a bitter beverage & patented medicine said to “build up the nerve”. It appears to have its roots in the Abenaki language, in which moxie meant dark water. These days moxie means both courage & intelligence.

Tump is used in the American South and means to turn over or knock down. Though nobody knows its etymological roots, it was first written down in England in 1589.

And those wild folk of Connecticut have the word bundling, which means to share a bed for the night with someone of the opposite sex, fully dressed. The term has been used since the 1780s & many stalwart, upstanding Connecticuters (yes, I looked it up) have defended the moral nature of the practice.

So good readers, what regional usages are you aware of in this wacky language?

Big thanks to this week’s sources:,  Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, & the OED.

4 comments:

  1. I loved reading this. You taught me a few things. I spend lots of time in Maine, but never knew that about Moxie, which tastes horrible.

    Thanks for this!

    Sharon

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  2. Moxie was a regular on the menu at drugstore counters when I was growing up in Maine, but I never developed a taste for it. I never knew it was an Abenaki word. And, who knows--probably a native American beverage as well.

    I read somewhere that "juke" had its origins in a West African dialect. That may be why it had negative connotations to the Southern white population. So many of the terms associated with jazz came from the Vodun West African-Haitan religion, which the slave owners demonized as Satanic. Of course, in the 1950s, people demonized the rock and roll on those juke boxes as well.

    Fascinating stuff, as always, Mr. Monger!

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  3. Hey Sharon & Anne,
    Thanks so much for coming by. Anne, you juke story sounds quite plausible, but I didn't find any reference to it in my usual etymological haunts. And it sounds as though I'm not too sorry that I've never tried Moxie.

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  4. There's a free ebook online about bundling by Henry Reed Stiles titled Bundling: Its Origin, Progress and Decline in America. It includes an anti-bundling poem written in the early 1800s by a Harvard educated Doctor of Divinity. He dedicated it to "Ye Youth of Both Sexes." Here it is for your enjoyment.

    Hail giddy youth, inclined to mirth,
    To guilty amours prone,
    And blush with me, to think and see
    How shameless you are grown.

    'Tis not amiss to court and kiss,
    Nor friendship do we blame,
    But bundling in, women with men,
    Upon the bed of shame;

    And there to lay till break of day,
    And think it is no sin,
    Because a smock and petticoat
    Have chanced to lie between.

    Such rank disgrace and scandal base,
    All modest youth will shun,
    For 'twill infest, like plague or pest,
    And you will be undone.

    Let boars and swine lie down and twine,
    And grunt, and sleep, and snore,
    But modest girls should not wear tails
    Nor bristles any more.

    Let rams and sheep mount up and leap,
    Without restraint or blame,
    But will young men act just like them?
    Oh! 'Tis a burning shame!

    It Is not strange that horses range
    Unfettered to the last,
    But youthful lusts in fetters must
    Be chained to virtue fast.

    Dogs and bitches wear no britches,
    Clothing for man was made.
    Yet men and 'women strip to their linen,
    And tumble into bed.

    Yes, brutal youth, it is the truth,
    Your modesty is gone,
    And could you blush, you'd think as much,
    And curse what you have done.

    To have done so some years ago,
    Was counted more disgrace
    Than 'tis of late to propagate
    A spurious bastard race.

    Quit human kind and herd with swine,
    Confess yourself an whore;
    Go fill the stye, there live and die,
    Or never bundle more.

    Shall gentlemen and ladies join
    To practice like the brutes,
    Then let them keep with cattle and sheep,
    And fodder on their fruits.

    This cursed course is one great source.
    Of matches undesigned,
    Quarrels and strife twixt man and wife,
    And bastards of their kind.

    But in excuse of this abuse,
    It oftentimes is said,
    Father and mother did no other
    Than strip and go to bed.

    But grant some did as you have said,
    Yet do they not repent,
    And wish that you may never do
    What they so much lament?

    A stupid ass can't he more base,
    Than are those guilty youth
    Who fill with smart a parent's heart,
    And turn it into mirth.

    Others do plead hard for the bed,
    Their health and weariness,
    So drunkards will drink down their swill,
    And call it no excess.

    Under pretense of self-defense,
    Others will scold and say,
    An honest maid is chaste abed
    As any other way.

    But where's the man that fire can
    Into his bosom take,
    Or go through coals on his foot soles
    And not a blister make?

    Temptation's way has led astray
    The likeliest of you all,
    And yet you'r found on slippery ground,
    And think you cannot fall.

    A female meek, with blushing cheek,
    Seized in some lovers arms,
    Has oft grown weak with Cupids heat,
    And lost her virgin charms.

    But last of all, up speaks romp Moll
    And pleads to be excused,
    For how can she e'er married be,
    If bundling be refused?

    What strange mistake young women make,
    To hope for sparks this way!
    Your fond bold acts can't lay a tax
    That men will ever pay.

    So cheap and free some women be,
    That men are cloyed with sweet,
    As horse or cow starve at the mow
    With fodder under feet.

    'Tis therefore vain yourselves to screen,
    The practice is accursed,
    It is condemned by God and man,
    The pious and the just.

    Should you go on, the day will come,
    When Christ your judge will say,
    In bundles bind each of this kind,
    And cast them all away.

    Down deep in hell there let them dwell,
    And bundle on that bed;
    There burn and roll without control
    'Till all their lusts are fed.

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