I'm going to be sharing some Americanisms that were common during the 19th Century. Some we still use today, some we don't. As a writer I have a lot of fun with these kinds of word groupings. I hope you'll find them useful as well. Today we're starting with Americanisms that begin with the letter "A" I haven't [psted the entire listing of A's but a select group of them. If you would like to see the entire book it is available in Google books. "Dictionary of Americanisms, 2nd Ed." ©1877
About Right. To do a thing about right is to do it well.
I fell foul of the old mare; and if I di.ln't give it to her about right, then there's none o' me, that's all. — New England Stories.
Above one's Bend. Out of one's power. A common expression in the Western States. Above one's huckleberry is a vulgarism of the same signification.
I shall not attempt to describe the curiosities at Peale's Museum; it is above my bend. — Crockett, Tour down East.
Above Par. A term originally applied to stocks, but often transferred to other things which are superior; as, "This horse is above par;" "These goods are above par;" meaning that they are above the ordinary standard, better than common.
Above Snakes. Exaggerated cant for "from the ground," or more than above the ground.
Those two tall Kentuckians, with their tufted chins, somewhere about seven feet ab»re snakes. — Worthy's Travels in the United States.
According to Gunter. Gunter was a distinguished arithmetician, and the inventor of a chain and scale for measuring. The Laws of Rhode Island, both colonial and recent, referring to measures, say, "All casks shall be gauged by the rule commonly called 'gauging by Gunter.'" This refers to the instrument called "Gunter's Slide-rule," adapted for gauging. Hence anything correctly and properly done is said to be "according to Gunter."
Mr. K , a respected citizen of Detroit, has published a letter entirely exonerating General Cass from the charge of having defrauded his association in the land speculations. He is positive that all was done according to Gunter. — JV. F. Tribune.
The expression "according toHoyle" is also common; and an old fellow, who never played a game of whist in his life, always said "according to Hodge."
Aoross Lots. By short cuts, in the quickest manner.
I swore in Nauvoo, when my enemies were looking me in the face, that I would send them to hell across lots if they meddled with me. —Speech of Brigham Young, 1857.
Affinity. A man or a woman for whom one of the opposite sex feels a strong attachment, amounting to a passion; indeed, so strong is this passion claimed to be, that husbands leave their wives, and wives their husbands, for one for whom they possess a stronger affection, and between whom they pretend there is a stronger affinity. This individual they call their " affinity." The following example conveys the meaning of the word: —
"Ain't Theron Gusher a married man?" [inquired Josiah Allen's wife of Miss Betsy Bobbet].
"Oh, yes, pome."
"Some! " 1 repeated in a cold accent "He is either married, or he hain't married, one or the other;" and again I repeated coldly, "Is he a married man, Betsy?"
"Oh, yes, he has been a married man a few times, or what the cold world calls marrying, —he has got a wife now; but Ido not believe he has found his affinity yet, though he has got several bills of divorcement from various wimmen, trying tofind her."—Betsy Bobbet, p. 190.
After Night. After nightfall; in the evening; as, "A meeting will be held in the court-house after night." This expression is said to be peculiar to the Middle States. — Hurd's Grammatical Corrector.
All-Day. Continuing a whole day, able to work a whole day or every day; steady; strong. "An all-day horse," &c.
All Sorts of. A Southern expression, synonymous with expert, acute, excellent, capital. It answers to the English slang term bang-up or out-and-out. It is a prevalent idiom of low life, and often heard in the colloquial language of the better informed. A man who in New England would be called a curious or a smart fellow would in the South be called all sorts of a. fellow; expert in many ways.
She was all sorts of a gal, — there warn'tasprinklin' too much of her: she had an eye that would make a fellow's heart try to get out of his bosom, her step was light as a panther's, and her breath sweet as a prairie flower. — Robb, Squatter Life.
All-to-smash. Smashed to pieces. This expression is often heard in low and familiar language. It is an English provincialism. Mr. Halliwell says, that a Lancashire man, telling his master the milldam had burst, exclaimed, " Maister, maister, dam's brossen, and aw's-to-smash."— Archaic and Prov. Dictionary. See Smash.
Alley. 1. A place where the game of nine or ten pins is played ; usually called a nine or ten pin alley, and sometimes simply an alley.
2. An ornamental marble, used by boys for shooting in the ring, &c.; also called in England a taw. It is made of marble or of painted clay or of alabaster. In some cities, the boys call white marbles alleys.
Jim. I '11 give you a marble. I 'II give you a white alley. White alley, Jim! And it's a bully taw.— Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, p. 27.
Associated Press. A number of newspaper establishments in New York and elsewhere, which have entered into a joint arrangement for procuring telegraphic and other news to be equally furnished to them all, have assumed the name of " The Associated Press."
A-tremble. Trembling, quivering; deeply moved.
And beholding a noble and venerable tree, he says, "Oh, what majesty and glory! Five hundred years sit enthroned on the top of that monarch of the forest." And he feels himself all a-tremble. — The Independent, Aug. 14, 1862. Sermon by H. W. Blecher.
Avalanche. A Texan corruption of the French Ambulance. A spring wagon.
Awful. 1. Disagreeable, detestable, ugly. A word much used among the common people in New England, and not unfrequently among those who are educated. The expression "an aw/uMooking woman" is as often heard as "an ugly woman." The word is now more common in England than in the United States.
The country people of the New England States make use of many quaint expressions in their conversation. Every thing that creates surprise is awful with them: "What an awful wind! awful hole! awful hill! awful mouth! awful nose!" &c. — Lambert's Travels in Canada and the United States.
The practice of moving on the first day of May, with one half the New-Yorkers, is an awful custom. —Major Downing, May-day in New York.
2. Very great, excessive.
Pot-pie is the favorite dish, and woodsmen, sharp set, are awful eaters
Carlton, The New Purchase, Vol. I. p. 182.
It is even used in this sense adverbially, and with still greater impropriety, like many other adjectives. Thus, we not unfrequently hear such expressions as " an awful cold day."
There was Old Crane pokin' round among the gals, and mighty particular to Kezier Winkle. Ain't it ridiculous? I don't see what he could fancy about her. I never thought she was so awful handsome as some folks does. — Widow Bedott Papers.
3. Enormous, flagitious; as, "an awful crime." Awfully. 1. Exceedingly, excessively. Now an adjective of all work in English society. "O thanks very much! I'm so awfully obliged!" 2. Enormously. The chimneys were awfully given to smoking. — Carlton, New Purchase.
To axe. (Ang.-Sax., acsian, axian.) To ask. This word is now considered a vulgarism; though, like many others under the same censure, it is as old as the English language. Among the early writers it was used with the same frequency as ask is now. In England it still exists in the colloquial dialect of Norfolk and other counties. "A true-born Londoner," says Pegge, "always axes questions, axes pardon, and at quadrilles axes leave."