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these letters About EJ
I was at first surprised by EJ Phillips' use of slang -- "kids", "snooze" and "sore" -- but perhaps the combination of the theatre, travel, and living in New York gave her vocabulary an informality rarely associated with the average Victorian matron.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for the sense of depression of spirit or despondency quotes Washington Irving (1807) and Harpers Magazine (Dec. 1883)
Chicago, June 16, 1886 I cried all the time I was writing to you on Sunday for I felt --that if you went to Texas I might never see you again. You know, your Mother loves you! and I am your Mother. And to go so far away to take up your abode, made me very blue, although I think in Texas you would not have the long winters and deep snows to contend with, as you would have in Dakota or Wyoming.
San Francisco, Aug. 14, 1886 Hope your wedding cards job was an omen of good luck and that other work follows to keep you employed and to dispel the "blues".
Philadelphia, Mar 24, 1894 I am as usual beginning to feel a little "blue" that my occupation is ended
21st St NY
My dear Son,
I was sorry to hear you were in a fit of "the blues" or that affairs were not progressing as smoothly with you, as you and I would have them. But perhaps it is not as bad as you think. B. may have a disagreeable manner when he is thinking, but I guess he appreciates your work even if he does not gush over it. You know I have often been accused of being cross, when I have been in the happiest of moods. And it may be the same with him.
If you feel you would like to come next Sunday and have a chat with "Mom" why come, and I will refund the money. Perhaps you are too familiar with the family to please WB. There are wheels within wheels sometimes, that one cannot account for. Anyway, do not get dispirited, but come and talk it over with me. Your Mother loves you and I am your Mother
Mom The OED's first record of this word appearing in print is in 1894, eight years after EJP used it here.
crush vs. crowd
Not a clear distinction according to the OED. The meaning of crush is given as crowding together a number of things, especially persons, with an 1806 quote.
New York, Feby 14th 1890 This afternoon I go to Mrs. [AM] & Miss Palmer's [daughter Phyllis] reception. I think we shall have rain. Therefore I imagine there will not be as great a "crush" as there was last Friday. "Crush" is the proper word now. "Crowd" is "bad form"!
Seems to be the second OED meaning "melancholy or depression ... heaviness of mind, dejection ... colloquial, "now only in the plural ... more or less humourous"
Philadelphia Sept. 18, 1894 I feel "right down in the dumps". I am still a member of the great army of the un-employed.
The OED quotes George Eliot in 1811 as using hangout in the sense of residing, lodging, living. (The sense of protruding dates to 1400, and suspending to 1564.)
San Francisco Aug. 26, 1886 Do not know where I shall hang out on my arrival in New York. Having been at the Ashland I may stop there again until I can make other arrangements.
head of the heap
This was long before Frank Sinatra used the phrase in New York , New York http://majortominor.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/never-sleepsdoesnt-sleep-heapsomething-else/
but after Davy Crockett used the phrase three times -- of politicians, honest and independent men "my little critter" -- a mustang-- in his 1834 autobiography http://books.google.com/books?id=NjYDAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA149&lpg=RA1-PA149&dq=%22head+of+the+heap%22&source=bl&ots=M_qntYcGVn&sig=VvpTfwUeFtQbB7LP86erx-kyYAY&hl=en&ei=beE4TcmEDoGKlwf4lN2XBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=12&ved=0CGYQ6AEwCw#v=onepage&q=%22head%20of%20the%20heap%22&f=false
Aug 10 1886 San Francisco I know you so well that I can see your business would be neglected through the excitement of being head of the heap in your fire company
The OED defines as to move hastily, with a quote from 1821 and to hurry with an 1891 quote..
Wissinoming, June 8, 1890 Was 25 minutes past 12 when I got through and I had to return to 47 [East 21st St.] to finish packing and get to the DesBrosses St ferry by 2. So I had to hustle and found it pretty hard work.
New York, May 4, 1892 I have no time to write. In [the Actors Fund ] Fair from 12M to 11 PM. And all other time is devoted to outside work Have to hustle I tell you.
Baltimore, Dec. 10, 1894 Must have been quite a houseful and Neppie must have had to "hustle"
Philadelphia, Mar. 15, 1898 Not having acted for a year and two and a half years since I studied the part -- you can imagine I had to "hustle" but everyone said I was very good and the management was very much pleased and thanked me very much.
The OED for the sense of to show temper or annoyance has a quote from 1388.
Boston, 1888 We cannot be anything but a failure. When [Al] Hayman the California manager sees the casts of the plays I think he will be justified to "Kick".
The OED sense of a young man or woman is described as US colloquial with a quotation from the Cheyenne Wyoming Sun Nov. 3, 1884.
Chicago, July 5, 1886 Mr. Robinson is the Husband and father of Kids, Maud [Harrison] and Ramsey [Walden]
Philadelphia, July 1,1888 No, I did not think you an "ungrateful Kid" dear, but I was on the point of writing to you when your letter arrived, to ask if you were ill.
New York, Jan. 17, 1890 I should like to have another visit from my "kids" before many weeks pass.
EJ Phillips' use seems to imply foolish or frivolous, more metaphorical than the meaning of knocked unconscious.
Boston, Apr 29, 1890 I cannot make you any promises about visiting you, for I was "knocked silly" when I was told this morning that we were to remain here six weeks.
Buffalo, Dec. 20, 1892 For a few moments, I was knocked silly and I have scarcely recovered from the shock yet.
OED quotes are from Byron 1816 "He is still worth at least 50-000 pds -- being what is called here a 'Millionaire' that is in Francs and such Lilliputian coinage"
March 1, 1888 Letter from Aunty [Christine Zavistowski] yesterday. Here is a postscript. "Fanny [Kirby] wrote Emmeline [Zavistowski Shailer] about the millionaire's Darter [Neppie's father Cornelius Macardell owned a seat on the New York Stock Exchange] as a settled thing. I hope it is, don't you?" I have not yet answered her on the subject. When I do I shall give her to understand that I am not as anxious to see my children marry the children of millionaires as she was.
OED dates to 1850 Dickens
OED US coinage, bewildered or confusion, rapid stir and bustle Gallup NM Gleaner 1889.
New York, Mar 8, 1891 Waking up and receiving such news put me in a state of Razzle Dazzle that I could not realize where I was or what I was doing.
OED Colloquial or slang, A place of business, the place where one's occupation is carried out 1779.1886? Stage slang An engagement, a "berth" Also in general use (rare) 1885. K. Jerome. On Stage and Off 1892
Frequently used in reference to going to the theatre to perform
New York, Feby 7th 1886 Thursday was also very cold & stormy but I battled through it twice - commencing in the afternoon at our own shop thence to Wallack, then to Daly's and back to Madison Square.
New York, Mar. 29, 1886 The snow melted as it fell and did not obstruct travel, but it was very wet walking. I had to have a carriage to & from the shop.
New York, Dec. 20, 1887 Tried to see AM [Palmer] last night but he had not come to the shop so had to wait until this morning.
San Francisco, July 28, 1890 It is six and I must go to dinner and then to Shop, S[aints] & S[inners] tonight.
New York, Dec. 26, 1890 At 5 PM went to 244 West 23rd to dine with Mrs. Harrison and Maud. There I did eat! First oysters on half shell -- soup -- Roast Turkey with sausage trimmings -- Plum pudding &c &c. Then went to shop at 7. A quiet but very pleasant day.
New York, 11-29-1895 I went to 11 o'clock Service at Calvary [Church] and to shop at 1. Mrs. Ahearn gave me my dinner at 12:25.
Chicago, Aug. 12, 1896 All ready to leave the hotel for shop where we give the 100th performance in Chicago of Gay Parisians and go to train as soon after as possible.
New York, Jan. 9, 1897 Only seven performances this week instead of nine or 11! I have not been out since my arrival except to go to the shop.
The OED dates this word to 1793 meaning to sleep, nap or doze.
Charleston, Feb. 23, 1897 I am sleepy and am going to take a little snooze before going to shop, so excuse a short letter this time.
OED defines as mental suffering, pain or trouble 1888, of persons and their feelings. Inclined to be irritated or grieved, Chiefly North American, c. 1694. Earlier meanings painful, grievous, distressing..
Chicago, Oct. 4, 1886 I see by the papers we do not open until the 1st of Novr. We have had no official notice of the same. All the Company feel very sore over it, and are willing to take any offer that may come to them.
New York, Nov. 4, 1886 No salary for me this week, the theatre having been closed last week. We all feel very sore about it but what can we do?
Pregnancy and childbirth EJ Phillips uses a number of terms for labor and delivery "picnic", "squalls", "the finale" and "the great event"
tears me to pieces
New York March 24 1892 My cold is still troubling me -- cough very hard -- tears me to pieces
OED Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. http://dictionary.oed.com/
Last updated Jan 22, 2011
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these letters About EJ