Twanglish Lesson: Civil War Slang

In keeping with our theme for the week, we’re breaking from the usual structure of our Twanglish Lesson. Today, we’re bringing you a collection of slang and colloquial terms that were common during the Civil War. Not all of them are exclusively Southern, but some are so much fun you should make them part of your everyday Twanglish usage.

The first term is one that can still be found in the dark, dusty corners of everyday English. Few of us had ever heard it before this week, but trust us when we say we’re big fans.

Absquatulateverb 1. To run off, decamp or leave, often unexpectedly and without preparation 2. In a military context, to retreat:

“Old Reliable shore gave Sherman a tussle at Savannah, but eventually had to up and absquatulate.”

The next word is one of those that gets stuck in your head, and you just can’t stop saying it. Just thinking about it makes us giggle.

Dumfungleverb 1. To use up or exhaust completely 2. To squander:

“I done let my foolself dumfungle all my buckshot. Guess it’s time to absquatulate.”

And they just keep getting better. Why be simply embarrassed when the creativity of 19th Century American slang will allow you to…

Puckerstoppleverb 1. To embarrass or shame:

“I am plum puckerstoppled that I done dumfungled my shot slap up.”

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, in war and in peace, there’s always something about which you can be pleased, or better yet…

Goshbustifiedadjective 1. Feeling and/or showing pleasure or satisfaction, especially with an event or outcome:

“We was slap goshbustified to see them vittles the cook rustled up.”

Gather enough goshbustified troops, and you might have yourself a celebration or…

Blustrificationnoun 1. A raucous celebration:

“There was one devil of a blustrification in Charleston when the Yankees give up Sumter.”

Not worth celebrating were the hard conditions of a soldier’s life in the War. Pestilence was ever a problem.perhaps assigning foolish or sarcastic terms to the pests made them all the more tolerable.

Gallinippernoun 1. A mosquito or other biting insect

Bragg’s Body Guardidiom 2. A slang term for body lice:

“Between the gallinippers and Bragg’s body guards, I’d ruther be back with the Goober Grabbers and Yellowhammers.”

Goober Grabber and Yellowhammer were good-natured nicknames for Georgia and Alabama troops, respectively.

If you want to read more slang specific to the Civil War, this site has a good list of terms. And for a better look at colloquial terms in common use in mid-19th Century America, this digital version of Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms is a fun read – especially finding then new phrases that have survived the last century and half.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Get Your Civil War On | Real Southern Men - June 13, 2011

    […] Twanglish Lesson introducing you to some forgotten slang of the Civil War era proved very popular. If you don’t know what a Goober Grabber is or whether you’ve […]

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