Monday, December 26, 2005


Yankee Locutions

Robert Hendrickson, in his Yankee Talk: A Dictionary of New England Expressions (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2002), includes many words and phrases not unique to New England. For example, the book has an entry for the expression "plain speaking" (p. 184). Because Hendrickson can find the phrase in a poem by Robert Frost, he counts it as an example of Yankee talk. But you can also find the phrase in Charles Wesley, Thomas De Quincey, and Thomas Babington Macaulay, none of them from New England.

On p. 43, s.v. Careboo, Hendrickson informs the reader that this is "The Maine pronunciation of Caribou, as in Careboo County." There is no Caribou County in the state of Maine. Caribou is a town in Aroostook County.

A largely untapped mine of genuine Yankee talk can be found in the stories of C.A. Stephens (1844-1931). I once compiled a short list of what I thought might be true regionalisms from a desultory reading of just a few of Stephens' stories. Some of the entries in my list can be found in Hendrickson's compilation (gummer, hide-and-coop, piggin, etc.), but others cannot (chopper = lumberjack, cuddy = cupboard, gool = children's game, pummy = pomace, rum pole = ridge pole of house or barn, scarf = kerf, sheepskin = hot maple syrup on snow, etc.).

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