1800s slang words from Barkerville, BC
Somebody asked about “1800s slang words from Barkerville, BC“.
That’s a legitimate language-contact question. Barkerville, for its whole existence as a real town, was a new community that was populated by people from all over the gaff. This was true of many western frontier settlements, and the question’s been raised many a time in the latter-day media whether our Westerns portray period speech accurately in movie and story.
The Cariboo Sentinel newspaper is as likely a source for up-to-the-minute speech patterns as we’re likely to find outside an archive. The slang, typically for publications of that era, is most often conveniently to be found within quotation marks. I’ll include some expressions that might not’ve been as informal as slang, but were characteristic of how people in the region talked at the time.
I thought I’d sample 10 issues at yearly intervals, and see what leaped out at me. Not all issues provided me material.
- Tuesday, June 6, 1865:
Page 1: dust (gold obtained from local creeks)
Page 2: Jaw Bone Creek (bought on credit)
bench (level top of high stream bank)
Page 3: [interjection: a mining operation in the vicinity is the optimistically dubbed Hyack Co’y (as in we’ll get rich Quick Company) in the hill above the town of Richfield on Williams Creek) (not to be confused with famed firefighters, the New Westminster Hyack Company)
Page 4: the skedaddling Culverwell is a man described in unflattering terms as a shark
- Thursday, June 7, 1866:
Page 2: I wish I could’ve visited the “Hit or Miss Bakery and Coffee Saloon”
Page 3: (interjection: Cadwallader Creek, which I’ve blogged about, is called Caldwalader Creek)
- Thursday, June 6, 1867:
Page 1: (interjection: there’s an ad for the news agent T.N. Hibben of Victoria, who also published a Chinook Jargon dictionary)
Page 2: “the undersigned hopes his old pioneer friends will give him a turn, as he has experienced heavy weather lately”
“NO HUMBUG! GOOD FRESH BUTTER AT $1.25 A POUND!”
Page 3: “Canada“ is a section of news about the Eastern part of the country only
- Saturday, June 5, 1869: Page 1: Commodore Vanderbilt recently recovered from accidentally taking a swig of bedbug poison; a wag is quoted as saying the poison wasn’t for “big bugs” like him
- Saturday, June 4, 1870: Page 1: “We are all quacks, absolutely political quacks”
- Saturday, June 3, 1871: Page 2: “Siwash race, 100 yards”, 1st prize $6, 2nd prize #3–evidently a foot race for Native men, not a horse race)
- Saturday, June 8, 1872: Page 1: News from Yale–“Teaming very slow at present, several teams having turned out.”
- Saturday, June 6, 1874: Page 2: an on-foot Indian race is advertised now for Dominion Day festivities, it no longer being called a Siwash race…because…a horse race on the program of events is now called that (“for horses owned by Indians”, it’s explained). All of the Indian/Siwash and “Chinamen’s” races have prize purses quite a bit smaller than those for whites.
Page 3: (Interjection: News from Quesnelmouth of a horse race involving “Byrnes’ horse Mowitch“.)
“burgh” used to mean “town”
Page 4: (Interjection: A notice in English, French and German advises aliens on an upcoming change from lenient BC naturalization requirements to stricter Canadian ones)