Thursday, September 25, 2014

Americanisms beginning with the letter B

Continuing with Americanisms from the 19th Century the letter B. If you would like to see the entire listing for the letter B search for the "Dictionary of Americanisms ©1877

Babes. The name of a set of Baltimore rowdies.

Back, v. To back a letter is Western for to "direct" it.

Back is often used for ago; as in the phrase, "a little while back," i. e. "a short time ago."

Back and forth. Backwards and forwards, applied to a person in walking; as, "He was walking back and forth." A common expression in the familiar language of New England.

Backbone. Moral stamina, strength of will, firmness of purpose; the antithesis to doughface. A figurative expression recently much used in political writings.
Infirmity of purpose is the cause of more serious lapses of infirmity of principle. Men do not know how to resist the small temptations of life, from some deficiency in their dorsal arrangements; and the natural result is a departure from the right. Backbone is the material which is designed to make an upright man; and he must be firm on all points, if he would pass scatheless through the struggle of life. — The Republic, 1857.

Back Country. The interior and sparsely settled portions. See Backwoods.
To back down. To back out; to retreat.

Back out To give up.
Well, boys, you know Hoss Allen, — no back out in him, anyhow! — Hou AlUn, of Missouri,

Back Track. To take the back track is to retrace one's steps, to retreat; and hence is equivalent to to back out. Western.

To back Water, v. To retreat, or withdraw; a Western metaphor, derived from steamboat language.

Back-Log. A large piece of wood used in fire-places where wood is burned. Fore-sticks form part of the same fire.

Backward. Is sometimes used in the West for bashful, unwilling to appear in company, on the same principle as " forward" in correct language means the very contrary.

Bacon-Color. Being of a color of bacon.
Maria is eighteen years old, very likely; has a very pleasant countenance, light bacon-colored skin. Plato is nineteen years old, bacon-color and squarely built. — If. T. Tribune, Letter from Norfolk, May 19, 1862.

Bake-Oven. (Dutch.) This term is often used in the West for the simple word oven in a bakery. It is also applied to the iron bakepan.
Bake-Shop. The place where articles made by bakers are sold. Southern. As a general thing, the stores are closed; ... the bate-shops, however, seem to be driving a great business.—N. Y. Tribune, May 16, 1862, Letter from Norfolk, Va.
Balance. A mercantile word originally introduced into the ordinary language of life by the Southern people, but now improperly used throughout the United States to signify the remainder of any thing. The balance of money, or the balance of an account, are terms well authorized and proper; but we also frequently hear such expressions as the "balance of a speech;" "The balance of the day was idly spent;" "A great many people assembled at the church: a part got in, the balance remained without."
The yawl returned to the wreck, took ten or eleven persons and landed them, and then went and got the balance from the floating cabin. — Albany Journal, Jan. 7, 1846.
Most of the respectable inhabitants held commissions in the army or government offices; the balance of the people kept little shops, cultivated the ground, &c.— Williams's Florida, p. 115.
The boats of the South Ferry forced their way through the ice, and kept up their communication for the balance of the day. — New York Tribune.
The monopoly of the things of this world that are necessary to human subsistence by a few constitutes those few the masters of the balance of mankind. — The Suites ( Washington), March 26, 1858.

Bald-headed. To go it bald-headed; in great haste, as where one rushes out without his hat.

Bang up. Any thing of good quality; superior; first rate. "This cloth is bang up."

Beach-Combers. 1. The long waves rolling in from the ocean.
2. A term much in vogue among sailors in the Pacific. "It is applied to certain roving characters, who, without attaching themselves permanently to a vessel, ship now and then for a short cruise in a whaler, but upon condition only of being honorably discharged the very next time the anchor takes hold of the bottom, no matter where they are. They are, mostly, a reckless, rollicking set, wedded to the Pacific, and never dreaming of ever doubling Cape Horn again on a homeward-bound passage. Hence their reputation is a bad one." — Mellville, Omoo, p. 109. Beach Plum. See Sand Plum.

Beast A common name for a horse in the Southern and Western States. It is quite common to see in villages the invitation to travellers, "Entertainment for man and beast;" and in the Bible we read, "A certain Samaritan ... set him on his own beast."

Beef-Dodger. Meat biscuit. Comp. Corn-Dodger.

Bellows-Top. "When egg was beaten in it [flip], it was called bellowstop; partly, perhaps, from its superior quality and partly from the greater quantity of white froth that swelled to the top of it."—Joel Parker, Centennial Address, 1873.

Belly-Bender. Floating pieces of ice, or weak ice, which bend under one, as he passes from one cake to another. Boys take great pleasure in this precarious amusement. Belly-Bound. A sort of apple. (Fr. belle et bon.) Connecticut. Belly-Bumbo. A mode of sliding down hill by boys on their sleds,
when lying on their bellies. See Belly-Guts.

To best. To get the better of. "I've bested him more than he ever bested me."

Big Bugs. People of consequence. Probably the origin of this word lies hid in some anecdote that would be worth finding out.
Then we 'II go to the Lord's house, —I don't mean to the meetin' house, but where the nobles meet, pick out the big bugs, and see what sort o' stuff they 're made of. — Sam Slick in England, ch. 24.
These preachers dress like big bugs, and go ridin' about on hundred-dollar horses, a-spungin' poor priest-ridden folks, and a-eaten chicken-fixens so powerful fast that chickens has got scarce in these diggins. — Carlton's New Purchase, Vol. II. p. 140.
The free-and-easy manner in which the hare-brained Sir Robert Peel described some of the big bugs at Moscow has got him into difficulty. —N. Y. Times, February, 1857.
Miss Samson Savage is one of the big bugs, —that is, she's got more money than a'most anybody else in town. — Bedott Papers, p. 301.

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