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A Selected Glossary

Blarney Stone: a stone in Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland, said to give the powers of eloquence and flattery to those who kiss it.

 

Boola-Boola: a Yale University fight song. The term has expanded to refer to anything having to do with Yale.

 

Bromo Seltzer: an effervescent headache remedy and antacid.

 

bulldog briar pipe: a short, stout pipe made from the root of the briar plant.

 

carping: finding fault with everything.

 

caution: in this context, one who astonishes or commands attention.

 

delirium tremens: a violent loss of mental and physical faculties marked by trembling and quaking, often resulting from the excessive and prolonged use of alcohol.

 

dinner: in the context of the early 20th century, the main meal of the day, eaten at noontime.

 

discomfited: perplexed or embarrassed.

 

Dutch courage: alcohol.

 

in Dutch: in trouble, as in "in Dutch with the boss."

 

gabbler: someone who babbles.

 

gawk: a clumsy or stupid person; one who gapes or stares stupidly.

 

greenhorn: an inexperienced, unsophisticated person; a newcomer unfamiliar with local customs.

 

gunwale: the upper edge of a boatís side.

 

Heart Bowed Down: a song from the Irish opera The Bohemian Girl (1843), lyrics by Alfred Bunn and music by Michael William Balfe.

 

jag: a temporary state of exhilaration, usually induced by liquor.

 

Kelly pool: a variety of 15-ball pool, popular from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s.

 

Lucretia Georgia: a confused reference to Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), a noblewoman who figured prominently in the Italian Renaissance. A member of an extremely powerful and infamous family, she is associated with ambition, incest, and murder.

 

a warm lulu for fair: something that is striking to the greatest degree.

 

Macushla, Mavourneen: dear or darling; from the Irish.

 

natty: neat, dapper.

 

Nick Carter, Old Cap Collier: characters from popular "dime-books" of the late 1800s. These dime-books depicted the romanticized and violent adventures of their protagonists and were frowned upon as having a corrupting influence upon children.

 

Peckís Bad Boy: a mischievous young character featured in George W. Peckís weekly newspaper column from the late 19th century.

 

piazza: a veranda or porch; from the Italian word for a village square.

 

piker: one who plays cautiously or does things in a small way; a cheapskate.

 

pippin: an admirable person or thing.

 

Q.T.: abbreviation of quiet; used in the phrase "on the Q.T." meaning secretly or quietly.

 

rigged out: to be dressed for an occasion or event.

 

rube: an awkward, unsophisticated person.

 

ructions: disturbances or riots.

 

Sachem Club: the "sachem" were the most senior members of the Tammany Society, a group that dominated New York City politics throughout much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, taken from the title held by Native American chiefs.

 

salts: any of various mineral salts used as a laxative or cathartic.

 

Sandow: Eugene Sandow (1867-1925) was a body-builder who developed his physique using Greek sculpture as a model. An intelligent man and a major figure of his day, Sandow was one of the first proponents of governmental health agencies. A showman until the end, he died of an aneurysm after lifting a car out of a ditch.

 

second girl: euphemistically, the maid.

 

sedulously: diligently.

 

shirtwaist: a womanís tailored blouse or dress, featuring details similar to menís dress shirts.

 

skinful: a large quantity, especially of liquor.

 

sloe-gin: a liqueur made of sugar-sweetened gin in which sloe berries, the fruits from the blackthorn tree, have been steeped.

 

spooning: talking amorously, caressing and kissing.

 

sport: a bachelor, a fellow.

 

stolid: having or expressing little or no sensibility; unemotional.

 

sweet: a cigarette; from "Sweet Caporal," an American brand of cigarettes popular at the turn of the twentieth century.

 

tappee: a take on the word "tap."

 

on tenterhooks: strained or nervous; from tenter, a frame with hooks along two sides that is used to dry and stretch cloth.

 

tumbril: a two-wheeled farm cart, used during the French Revolution to carry the condemned to the guillotine.

 

Vesta Victoria: a comedienne popular in East Coast music halls of the late 1800s.

 

W.C.T.U.: the Womenís Christian Temperance Union, a national organization of women founded in 1874 to "proclaim [the] message of truth, purity, and total abstinence."

 

water wagon: a wagon or truck equipped with a tank or barrels for hauling or sprinkling water. To be "on the water wagon" or "on the wagon" is to abstain from drinking alcohol.

 

Waterbury: a city in Western Connecticut, about 20 miles northwest of New Haven, known primarily as a commercial and industrial center.

 

Waterloo: the scene of Napoleonís final defeat in 1815, by extension, a decisive or final defeat.

 

whited sepulchre: hypocrites, devils in disguise; from the New Testament, Matthew 23:27: "Woe unto you ... for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of uncleanness."

 

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