How to swear, and rap, like an old prospector

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We talk a lot about language on this blog (mostly thanks to our resident published novelist and word-wrapper, David) and some of my favorite posts have been about strange jargon -- especially prospector-talk. It's way more fun than talking like a pirate; after all, some of us have grandparents who still say "whipper-snapper" and "dadburn it!" (Do let us know, however, if your grandparents are given to unironically cry out "avast!" or "shiver me timbers," because that would be awfully strange.) Continuing my week of nostalgia and old blog repurposing, I'm dusting off some oldies-but-goodies which will hopefully get you swearing, and rapping, like an old prospector.

How to swear like an old prospector
Word: Dumfungled
Function: adjective
Definition: Used up
Etymology: Also unknown, though it was coined during the Great Neologism Craze of the 1830s, and its common usage didn't survive the turn of the century.
Use it in a sentence: "Ye'd best put that dumfungled hoss out to pasture!"

Word: Sockdolager
Function: noun
Definition: A big finish.
Etymology: A mis-heard, semi-spoonerism of the word "doxologer," a colloquial New England rendering of "doxology," which was a Puritan term for the collective raising of voices in song at the end of a worship service. Thus, a "sockdolager" is something truly exceptional — the end-all-be-all.
Use it in a sentence: "Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologisin' old man-trap!"
Fun fact: The above line appears in Tom Taylor's play Our American Cousin, which was performed on the evening of April 14th, 1865 at Ford's Theater. It got a big laugh from the crowd, which John Wilkes Booth used to muffle the sound of the gunshot that assassinated President Lincoln.

How to rap like an old prospector
This is one of my favorite blogs ever, and I can't help but feel that it went a little too quietly into that good night. It's a complete prospector jargon translation of the rap song "U Can't Shine Like Me" by Lil' Romeo, which goes a little something like this:

Lil' Romeo:

I see dudes tryna act like me, be like me, dogg even dress like me
No, ya not me and there won't be anotha
So many rocks on my hand I'm a certified hustla
Got a wizard on ya hands, kinda like Ron Butler

Ol' Prospector:
Greenhorns playin' to tha gallery, even wear my union-suit and hat
Horsefeathers! You'll catch a weasel asleep "˜fore you cap my climax
Many nuggets in the sluice box, I'm a jo-fired hornswoggla'
Hot as a whorehouse on nickel night, I'm a dandy conjura'

Anyone feel inclined to try and translate either of these into standard English? Now that would be funny.

August 16, 2007 - 3:24am
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