Gleaned from antiquated dictionaries, dialect glossaries, studies of folklore, nautical lexicons, historical writings, letters, novels, and miscellaneous sources, Informal English offers a captivating treasure trove of linguistic oddities that will not only entertain but also shed light on America's colloquial past. Among the gems are:
Surface-coal: cow dung, widely used for fuel in Texas
Bone-orchard: in the Southwest slang for a cemetery
Chawswizzled: "confounded" in Nebraskan idiom. "I'll be chawswizzled!"
Leather-ears: to Cape Cod inhabitants, a person of slow comprehension
Puncture lady: a southwestern expression for a woman who prefers to sit on the sidelines at a dance and gossip rather than dance, often puncturing someone's reputation
Whether the entries are unexpected twists on familiar-sounding expressions or based on curious old customs, this wide-ranging assortment of vernacular Americanisms will amaze and amuse even the most hard-boiled curmudgeon.
Jeffrey Kacirk is the author of Forgotten English, The Word Museum, and Altered English, as well as a daily calendar based on Forgotten English. He can be found on the web at www.forgottenenglish.com and lives in Marin County, California.