Boontling

Boonville, Calif., has a dwindling language all its own. “Boontling” grew up as a jargon among residents of Anderson Valley around the turn of the 20th century. It includes more than a thousand words and phrases but is dying out among the small population. A brief glossary:

applehead – a young girl
belhoon – a dollar
Bill Nunn – syrup
boshin’ – deer hunting
bucky walter – a pay telephone
can-kicky – angry
dicking – cheating at cards
forbes – a half dollar
glow worm – a lantern
greeley – a newspaper or reporter
harpin’ tidrick – a lengthy discussion
high pockets – a wealthy person
killing snake – working very hard
pearlin – light rain
skee – whiskey
tobe – tobacco
walter – a telephone
zeese – coffee

“A few of us try to keep our skills sharp on the teleef [telephone],” resident Bobby Glover told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2001. “We’re adding new words now that the old-timers are gone.”

Thanks to the efforts of a number of researchers, the jargon has been pretty well documented now — the Chronicle even managed to translate “Old Mother Hubbard”:

The old dame piked for the chigrel nook for gorms for her bahl belljeemer
The gorms had shied, the nook was strung, and the bahl belljeemer had neemer.

In a Word

affrontee
n. an insulted or offended person

In Gelett Burgess’ 1911 novel Find the Woman, a truck driver blocks the way of a parade organized by a society to ban profanity. He is addressed by Dr. Hopbottom, the society’s head:

See here, you slack-salted transubstantiated interdigital germarium, you rantipole sacrosciatic rock-barnacle you, if you give me any of your caprantipolene paragastrular megalopteric jacitation, I’ll make a lamellibranchiate gymnomixine parabolic lepidopteroid out of you! What diacritical right has a binominal oxypendactile advoutrous holoblastic rhizopod like you got with your trinoctial ustilaginous Westphalian holocaust blocking up the teleostean way for, anyway! If you give me any more of your lunarian, snortomaniac hyperbolic pylorectomy, I’ll skive you into a megalopteric diatomeriferous auxospore! You queasy Zoroastrian son of a helicopteric hypotrachelium, you, shut your logarithmic epicycloidal mouth! You let this monopolitan macrocosmic helciform procession go by and wait right here in the anagological street. And no more of your hedonistic primordial supervirescence, you rectangular quillet-eating, vice-presidential amoeboid, either!

The truck driver apologizes: “I see a plain, sea-faring man has no show with a doctor when it comes to exhibiting language in public. … If this here society what’s running this here procession can turn out graduates of the noble art of profanity like you are, I want to say this: Give me the pledge, and I’ll sign it.”

Presto

As military and computer technology exploded in the early 1960s, Raytheon compiled a helpful list of 400 “space-age” abbreviations:

CHAMPION — Compatible Hardware And Milestone Program for Integrating Organizational Needs
COED — Computer Operated Electronic Display
DASTARD — Destroyer Anti-Submarine Transportable ARray Detector
PIPER — Pulsed Intense Plasma for Exploratory Research

It published the list in a booklet titled ABbreviations and Related ACronyms Associated with Defense, Astronautics, Business, and RAdio-electronics — or ABRACADABRA for short.

A Reflexive Rainbow

sallows color table

From Lee Sallows: The international color code is used to mark the values of electronic components such as resistors. It assigns a distinct color to each of the 10 decimal digits, as seen in the center column of the table at right: 0 = BLACK, 1 = BROWN, …, 9 = WHITE.

Lee’s table has an ingenious reflexive property. The letters in the left-hand column are associated with the values -1 to -9, and those in the right-hand column with the values 1 to 9.

Now spelling the name of each color produces a sum that matches the number represented by that color:

sallows color sums

“This is more remarkable that it may seem,” Lee writes, “because the numbers assigned to the letters are now restricted to single-digit values only.”

Reverses

In one oft-repeated anecdote from the memoirs of Melville Stone, publisher of the Chicago Daily News in the 1870s, the News suspected that the Chicago Post and Mail, published by the McMullen brothers, was pirating its stories. The News retaliated by printing an account of a famine in Serbia, in which the local mayor was quoted as saying (ostensibly in Serbian) ‘Er us siht la Etsll iws nel lum cmeht.’ When the afternoon edition of the Post and Mail duly reproduced the quote, Stone ran to all the other Chicago papers to reveal the hoax: read backward, the supposed quote said ‘The McMullens will steal this sure.’ According to Stone, the Post and Mail never recovered from the embarrassment, and the Daily News was able to buy it for a pittance less than two years later.

— Stuart Banner, American Property: A History of How, Why, and What We Own, 2011

(Thanks, Keith.)

Dinner Wit

It’s said that when Frederick the Great hosted Voltaire at Sanssouci Palace, he sent him this puzzling note:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederick-rebus.png
Image: Wikimedia Commons

It’s a rebus in French: deux mains sous Pé à cent sous scie? (“two hands under ‘p’ at hundred under saw”) means demain souper à Sanssouci? (“supper tomorrow at Sanssouci?”).

Voltaire replied “Ga!”: Gé grand, A petit! (“big ‘G’, small ‘a’!”) means j’ai grand appétit!, or “I am very hungry!”

In a Word

excogitous
adj. inventive

volitorial
adj. pertaining to flying

empyreuma
n. a burnt smell

Newsreel men recently witnessed an unscheduled drama as flames ended the attempt of Constantinos Vlachos, co-inventor of one of the strangest of flying craft, to win government aid for its development. He had planned an ascent from the lawn of the Congressional Library at Washington, D.C., to demonstrate his ‘triphibian,’ which he claimed could navigate in the air, on land, or in the water. Hardly had he started the motor when fire enveloped the machine. Spectators dashed to his aid and dragged him, severely burned, from the blazing wreck.

Popular Science, January 1936

(Thanks, Tucker.)