Watching a lot of HBO’s Deadwood this summer has made me want to grow a moustache and ride a horse, or at the very least to learn how to speak like a 19th century man of adventure. I’m working on the latter by studying this great 19th century vocabulary guide:
Smelt the rat; knew something bad was happening. When his grandfather heard the commotion from people hearing news of the war’s beginning—“My grandsire sighed, he ‘smelt the rat.'” P.7
Graveled; perplexed. “And now I was completely graveled; my parents were too far off to obtain their consent…”. P.8
Set; sit. Same as used by modern Southerners. P.8
Grandma’am; grandmother P.9
Affront; a verb which means “insult”. “…should they affront me grossly…” P.9
Hallo; hello. An expression of mock surprise, as the English use it today. “Hallo, where are you going?” P.11
Hammer and Tongs; having a serious intent, angry, acting energetically. “The old gentleman came at me, hammer and tongs, with his six-feet cart whip.” P.12
Check out the rest of this great guide, and be sure to try some of these great phrases out in modern conversation. I’m going to start using “smelt the rat” in my lessons when people play badly.
Deadwood, South Dakota is a really interesting town with a very colorful history. I am from South Dakota, but I come from the populous but less colorful eastern side of the state. Every summer I try to make it out to the Black Hills of South Dakota and visit Deadwood and other attractions. Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane spent time in Deadwood, as did many other colorful 19th century characters. You can hike up the hill in the center of the above photo to the old Deadwood graveyard where Calamity Jane is buried.
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