British Americanisms

I HAVE heretofore had occasion to show —and have shown —that British writers are over-ready to pronounce, each not only for himself but for all, any word or phrase which has not a familiar sound to him an Americanism, and that, moreover, in so doing they put the American stamp upon speech fabric which is not only of their own home-make, but which is in every-day use in their workaday life, the very homespun linsey-woolsey of their garb of thought, the household words of the humblest and the highest of their own people. Fact and reason seem to set no limit to this blundering. I do not quite despair of seeing “ ’am and heggs ” declared to be an Americanism. Among my memorandums of words erroneously thus stigmatized is the following paragraph from a London newspaper, the name of which I have unfortunately lost, but that is of little importance to our present purpose : —

“ America is more anxious to hear about Stanley and Livingstone than is England. Mr. Stanley has accepted an engagement to deliver in the United States a series of lectures upon his explorations in Africa and his discovery of the great, father of all explorers, the Marco Polo of the unknown continent. The terms of his contract are, to use an American word, lucrative. The number of lectures is specified, the time is limited.”

And first I shall say that I think that every American reader will find the close of the first sentence jar upon his ear. It is a very obtrusive example of a construction which, although not absolutely new, is new in its common use in ordinary prose writing, and which has come greatly into favor of late years among British writers not of the first class, who use it to avoid what they regard as the “ inelegance ” of closing a sentence with a monosyllable. This seems to me a miserable affectation, and the result a very poor sort of English prose. The putting of the verb before its subject in such bald and simple prose as this is wholly at variance with the spirit of English speech. No English-speaking man, not even this writer, I am sure, would say, if he were talking, “ America is more anxious than is England,” but “ than England is.” Why, then, when he is writing such very level and every-day prose as this is, should he make such a violent and striking inversion ? This fashion has been adopted here to a certain degree ; but it is very much more prevalent among British prose writers than it is among our own, although it is rarely found on the pages of those of the highest rank. I do not remember having met with it in Macaulay, or in George Eliot, or in Matthew Arnold, or in Cardinal Newman. Perhaps, however, I am condemning what is offensive merely to my own personal taste ; in which case I can only plead that all criticism which is not scientific is necessarily more or less an expression of the personal taste of the critic.

As to the charge of Americanism in this paragraph, that, it need hardly be said, is a matter not of taste, but of fact; and of the fact in this case the writer was grossly and unpardonably ignorant. A mere reference to Johnson’s dictionary would have shown him that lucrative is a well-established English word, and that it was used by an English writer so eminent as Bacon at a time when modern English was at its best, and when there could not have been such a thing as an Americanism in language or in anything else : —

“ And it is to be noted that the trade of Merchandize, being the most lucrative, may bear usury at a good rate : other contracts not so.” (Essays : Of Usurie.)

The word also is found in Cotgrave’s French-English dictionary, 1611.

It may be of interest to the general reader to remark that lucrative is one of a class of words which are not formed upon their apparent stem or base. By no system of English development can you make lucrative from lucre. It is a mere English form of the Latin lucrativus, which is formed from a verb lucror, which is in turn formed upon the Latin noun lucrum, whence comes our lucre. This is a roundabout way for English-speaking folk to get a word for their daily speech. And indeed lucrative is a poor, pretentious superfluity to people who have so good a word as gainful, from which it has not a shade of difference in meaning. I wish that it were an Americanism, for then it would not be English.

It seems that the very word which I remarked upon, in the article upon English in England, as being the only one that I met with there which was entirely new to me, singlet, is one that might have been, and may yet be, stamped as an Americanism ! For, as I then said, it is in no English dictionary ; I found people even in Lancashire who had never heard it, and did not know what it meant, and yet I am informed by a correspondent that it is in use in Pennsylvania, and that he has seen it there in a newspaper report of a baptizing according to the practice of the Baptists. The immersion took place in winter through the ice ; and it was announced that a woman who was baptized “ wore nothing but a flannel singlet.” This is interesting; but of its value as evidence I have doubts. Not doubts, I hasten to say, that my correspondent saw the word thus used, but doubts that this single case of use was a sign of an American usage. That case, and others in the same quarter, might be accounted for by the presence in the neighborhood of a few emigrants from Lancashire, or even of a reporter born and bred in Lancashire; for English reporters of all nativities are scattered pretty freely through the country. What is needed to show the so-called Americanism of the word is evidence that singlet, meaning a single garment, is in colloquial use among people whose grandfathers were born in America.

The word is one of some interest. I have found it in Tim Bobbin’s Lancashire Glossary. It appears also in Mr. Halliwell-Phillips’s valuable Archaic and Provincial Dictionary, where it is assigned to Derby, and where it has this gloss : “ An unlined waistcoat. When double or lined it is called a doublet.” I mentioned before that its sufficiently obvious connection (c converso) with doublet occurred to me, and enabled me to understand it when I saw it for the first time on my printed washing-bill in Liverpool. I find that in the great and matchless Etymological Dictionary of the English language by the Reverend Walter Skeat, now in course of publication, doublet is defined as “ an inner garment,” — a definition which I read with some surprise. For all through the time when doublets were worn the word doublet is used to mean unmistakably an outer garment, — the outer garment of a man, that which had the place now taken by the waistcoat and the coat; unless, perhaps, the waistcoat has the place of the doublet, and the coat that of the short cloak. Minsheu, in his Spanish-English lexicon, 1599, gives jubón as the Spanish for doublet; and jupon, the same word, is defined by Cotgrave, in his French-English lexicon, 1611, as meaning “a short cassokke.” When Hamlet came in “ with his doublet all unbraced,” was it an inner garment that Ophelia saw open ? When Falstaff was “ eight times thrust through the doublet ” (on Shrewsbury field, and by Shrewsbury computation), was it his inner garment that suffered ? When Rosalind, on hearing that Orlando was in the forest, exclaimed, “What shall I do with my doublet and hose ? ” it surely was the outermost of all her garments, that which could be seen by everybody, as to which she was in perplexity. And Thurio, in the Two Gentlemen of Verona, says, “ My jerkin is a doublet.” But more than two hundred and fifty years before Shakespeare wrote these passages, Chaucer had shown the place of the doublet: —

“This knight tho in armea twaine
This lady took, and gan her saine
‘Alas, my birth; wo worth my life! '
And even with that he drew a knife
And through gowne, doublet and sherte
He made the blood come from his herte.”
(Chaucer’s Dream, 1. 1713.)

The doublet was the close-fitting outer garment next above the shirt, and over which, in full dress, there was worn a gown or cloak. The painful research of Mr. Halliwell deserves all praise, and Mr. Skeat’s position as facile princeps of all English scholars makes it almost presumption for a man of inferior acquirements to differ from him. But let us consider this little question of costume, adding to the light that has already been thrown upon it that of the illustrative dramatic passage to which I made allusion two months ago, and which I have since looked up. It is in Ford’s Love’s Sacrifice, Act II. Scene 1. Bianca speaks of herself as going “ thus singly ” from her chamber, and directly afterward she speaks of her garment as “this robe of shame.” From all this evidence I infer that a person clad singly had on but one garment, which was therefore called a singlet, and that the doublet was so called, not because it was double, or was lined, but because it doubled the clothing of the wearer, and thus was not an inner but an outer garment.

And now let us look at a few more of these alleged Americanisms, which, we are told, are so numerous as to fill a great octavo volume. We shall find that the study will advantage us in one respect, at least: it will teach us — English.

Mad, in the sense inflamed with anger, very angry, vexed, is, we are told, perhaps an English vulgarism, but quite unrecognized by good writers or speakers. The word is frequently found in this sense in Pepys’s Diary. For example, under date of September 6, 1666: —

“ To the office, where the falseness and impertinencies of Sir W. Pen would make a man mad to think of.”

Again, it occurs in this delicious picture of household life and feminine account-keeping, in which respect it will be seen that Mrs. Pepys was a very singular woman: —

“ Coming home to-night, I did go to examine my wife’s accounts, and finding things that seemed somewhat doubtful, I was angry, though she did make it pretty plain, but confessed that when she do misse a sum she do add something to other things to make it, and upon my being very angry, she do protest that she will here lay up something herself to buy her a necklace with, which madded me, and do still trouble me, for I fear she will forget by degrees the way of living cheap and under a sense of want.” (September 29, 1664.)

The famous diary furnishes at least a dozen such examples. A writer contemporary with Pepys, but of a different school, uses it in the same sense: —

— “ to see them all so desperately madded with the fear of being accounted holy.” (Ellis, The Gentile Sinner, 1672, page 187.)

So much as to the past. As to the present day, it is used commonly enough by good English writers in the same sense, of which here are instances : —

“ What should be said to the thousands of men who live well and make money by professing to make peace between the Omnipotent and All-Wise God and the beings which he, knowing what he was about, I suppose created ? It makes me mad to think of it.” (Earl of Pembroke, South Sea Bubbles, chapter iv.)

“At length it [a festival] came off, and, for one happy invited guest, made a hundred mad who were not invited.” (Life in the Nineteenth Century, Temple Bar, June, 1873.)

Mahogany. Under what possible pretense is this word foisted into a collection of words “ usually regarded as peculiar to the United States ? ” What human creature on the outside of a lunatic asylum ever so regarded it ? Were it the name of something peculiar to the United States, it would have no proper place here ; but it is not even that. Mahogany is a product of South and Central America, and was introduced into Europe by the Spaniards, who took possession of those countries. Hence it was known in England as Spanish mahogany before the time when there could have been any Americanisms, and that name has adhered to it until the present day. In the bagman’s story in the Pickwick Papers, the queer arm-chair, asserting its dignity and claiming attention, says, “ Come, come, Tom, that’s not the way to address solid Spanish mahogany.”

It is remarkable, by the bye, that the h difficulty produces an effect upon the lower-class pronunciation of this word. Although the h comes in the interior of the word, yet as the syllable in which it appears is accented, the h is not sounded, and the result is not simply mahogany without the h, but may'ogany. I have known of intelligent English artisans who, having lived in this country thirty years, still said may'ogany.

The presence of maize in a dictionary of Americanisms is no more defensible than the presence of mahogany is. Maize, like mahogany, was introduced into Europe by the Spaniards; and its name, a Carib word, was introduced with it by the Spaniards, and was brought from Europe to the colonies which are now the United States. More than this: as Mr. Bartlett most naïvely remarks, “ the word is never used in common language in the United States. Indeed, few would understand it.” Verily, a very wonderful Americanism !

And with what reason have we mananosay, which is the Indian name, we are told, for “ clam No. 2,” or the soft clam ? — a very second-class clam indeed. And in like manner we have manioc, and manitou, and muskelonge, and big medicine, and mesa, and mesilla, and metate, and mesquit, and mingo, and mobel, and moccasin, and monte, and mulada, and musquash, which are either aboriginal “ Indian ” words or Spanish words. What have we to do with them ? We are not Indians or Spaniards; nor is their language our language. These words would be less understood than Mr. Bartlett admits that maize would be. They have no rightful place in his dictionary, nor is there any semblance of reason for their being there, other than a desire to make it an omnium gatherum of words connected in any way with anything on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. This causes also the introduc tion of such words as manatee for the sea-cow, which comes from South America, and mangosteen for the jujube, which belongs to the island of Barbadoes! And yet a very considerable part of this so-called Dictionary of Americanisms is made up of words of this sort.

A perfect and characteristic specimen of the true Americanism is the word mail, with its derivatives and compounds, mailable and mail-rider. As Mr. Bartlett rightly says, mail properly means the bag in which letters are carried from one post-office to another. The common perversion of mail to mean (1) post, as to mail a letter instead of to post it, or to send by mail instead of by post, and (2) to mean the letters and papers which are received from the post-office or sent to it, as, “ He was looking over his morning’s mail,” is a true Americanism in language. It is an application, peculiar to this country, of an English word to other than its proper English use. The only other sort of Americanism is the use of a word unknown to the English language proper to designate a thing or an act for which there is already a recognized English word.

To make one’s manners, meaning to make a bow or a courtesy, may possibly be a phrase peculiar to New England ; but although I am not prepared to deny that it is so, I very much doubt it. In the first place, it is a thoroughly English form of expression, and one of a sort that could hardly fail to have come into use; and this is the more probable for the second reason of doubt, — that the phrase “ make an honor,” meaning make a bow or courtesy, is common in English literature down to the middle of the last century. And yet, by the bye, this meaning of honor, an obeisance, is given in no English dictionary that I have examined ; nor, indeed, has any English dictionary that I have examined the word manners as distinct from manner, although the two words are used by the best English writers with sharp discrimination. These are examples of neglect of essential things by the dictionary makers, while the unessential, and indeed more than unnecessary, compounds of nouns and adjectives, and verbs compounded with un and dis, crowd their pages by the hundred. Joseph’s brothers’ sheaves “made obeisance” to his sheaf, and Gulliver says, “I made my reverence to my master’s guest.” To make manners and to make an honor, to make obeisance and to make a reverence, are phrases so alike that it seems improbable that a people who have used one have not used the other.

Likewise, to make one’s mark is so thoroughly English an expression that I cannot believe that it is peculiar to this country. In any case, it is not properly an Americanism ; for it is composed of English words used in their recognized English sense, and put together in a perfectly English order, so that if the phrase were used to-morrow for the first time every English person who heard it would understand it at once. A word or a phrase of which all this is true is good English upon its first utterance, and wherever it is spoken. A man who demands “ authority ” for the use of such a word does not deserve a serious answer.

Marm, we are told, is a corruption of the word mamma, which is frequently used in the interior of New England for mother! Marm is a corruption not of mamma, but of madam. The first step is the common ma'am (pronounced mahm), and that once taken, marm is inevitable for slovenly speakers : the r is as sure to come as day is to follow night. Marm is as common in the interior of Old England as it is in that of New England. It could not be otherwise. The application of it may vary somewhat in the two countries. But the New England people who use it for mother—very few, I believe, and the worst speakers — have never heard mamma in use. They are accustomed only to mother, to mammy, and, the more elegant of them, to ma (pronounced mah), for which marm may be a substitute, but of which it is not a corruption.

Mass meeting is not an Americanism. It is a perfectly good English name for the thing to which it is applied. That thing was first known in America; but the name of it is not an Americanism any more than mocking-bird or hummingbird is an Americanism because mocking-birds and humming-birds are known in America, but not in England. If the simple words in either of these compound names were used in a sense different from that in which they are used in England, then the compounds would be Americanisms. But they are used in their received English sense. When meetings of the mass of the people began to be held in England, the name was adopted with them, and it now is almost as commonly used there as here.

“Mr. Bernal Osborne is announced by the Independent Society as another candidate, and was to address a mass meeting in the great market-place yesterday evening.” (London Times, April 28, 1866.)

To merchandise. It is amazing to be told of this word that “ in the West they say that a man is merchandising when he is in trade,” etc. Why, the word has been in common English use for certainly six hundred years. It was used by Robert of Gloucester about A. D 1300, in the following passage, a few words of which I shall modernize for the benefit of the general reader; for it is remarkable as an illustration of the free way in which nouns have always been used as verbs in English: —

“For ye are men better taught to shovel and to spade,
To cart-staff and to plow-staff, and a fishing to wade,
To hammer and to needle, and to marchandise also,
Than with sword or hauberk any battle to do.” 1

And Bacon, in his essay on usury, cited above, also uses it no less than four times. To quote one instance is enough: —

“For were it not for this lazie trade of usury, money would not be still, but would in great part be employed upon merchandising ; which is the vena porta of wealth to a state.”

Truly it would seem that to the saying of what is not English a knowledge of what is English is very requisite. Nor is a knowledge of the perversions in common use in England superfluous, as, for example, that merchant is there “ applied to any dealer in merchandise,” as it is here, which I had occasion to remark upon in the article on English in England.

The introduction of such words as metaphenomena (meaning the primordial facts of our being) and metaphenomenal into a dictionary of Americanisms has not a semblance of justification. They are technical scientific terms, belonging to no language; and the fact that they were first given to science by a distinguished American metaphysician no more makes them Americanisms than the introduction of the term “positive philosophy” by Comte makes that term a Gallicism. Such words are of no country; they form a part of the peculiar speech of no people.

For a reason directly the converse of this, such a word as middling, applied to a condition of health, cannot, in the nature of things, be an Americanism. By the untrained speakers of English everywhere it will inevitably be thus used. Consequently, we find it among Halliwell’s English provincialisms as meaning “not in good health,” which is exactly the meaning of a rustic New England speaker when he tells you that his wife is “pretty middling, thank ye.” Halliwell credits it to Worcestershire, and Brackett to the North of England ; the fact being that it is generally provincial in Old England, just as it is generally provincial in New England. Its position in both countries is exactly the same. It is in no way “ peculiar to the United States.”

Just such a word is mighty in the hyperbolical sense of very; and it would only be necessary to remark that it is and has been for centuries rather more commonly so used in England than here, were it not that Mr. Bartlett himself cites instances of its use by Pepys, by Dickens, and other British writers. What, then, does he mean by setting it forth as in any way an Americanism ? Is he blind to the fact that by so doing he impairs — may we not say utterly destroys ?— the value of his laborious compilation as an authority upon its subject, and that he makes it in its totality a libel on the language of his country ?

But perhaps the most extraordinary and unaccountable of all the misrepresentations of Mr. Bartlett’s book (I use the word, I need hardly say, with no suggestion of intentional misrepresentation) is that which gives us mile “ often in the singular with a numeral, instead of the plural miles,” as one of the words “ peculiar to the United States.” Now the truth is that for once that mile has been thus used in the United States it has been used ten hundred thousand times in England. Thus to use mile, and foot, and pound, and ton, and a few other words of the same sort, has been the custom in England from a time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. It was the usage not only of the common people, but of the best speakers and writers. English literature is full of it, from the time of Wycliff and Chaucer, and earlier, to that of Pope and Addison, and later. This fact is so well known to every person who reads anything but the newspapers and the novels of the day that I shall quote nothing in illustration of it. It were as needful to cite passages in illustration of the use of deer, fish, and sheep in the plural. But this is not the whole of the case, for the fact remains that the plural forms of mile, foot, pound, ton, etc., are very largely more in use in America than they are in England. Americans of middling condition and education are far more “grammatical,” and somewhat less free and idiomatic, in their use of language than English people of corresponding condition are; and for one American who at the present day says five mile, ten foot, twenty pound, forty ton, there are probably more than five hundred Englishmen who do the same. And yet this usage, which in England goes back before the Conquest, and which now is almost distinctively British, is recorded in our Dictionary of Americanisms ! Would it not be well to take Johnson’s Dictionary, or Mrs. Clarke’s Concordance to Shakespeare, or Cruden’s Concordance to the Bible, add a few exquisite extracts from our “American humorists,” and publish the collection as a “ Dictionary of words and phrases peculiar to America,” and have done with it?

It should seem so ; for here we have mind in the senses to recollect, to remember, to remind, and to notice, set forth as an Americanism and a Scotticism. The real state of the case in regard to this word is that before and during the Elizabethan period, that is, from about 1575 to 1625, its use as a verb was very rare. Shakespeare, using the word more than four hundred times, has it, even colloquially, in a verb sense only three or four times. After the time of the Commonwealth, the verb use increased gradually, and during the last half century this use has become very common, but it is most common in England. It may be met with, of course, among speakers and writers in the United States and in Scotland and in Australia, because those countries are inhabited by English-speaking peoples, who are in constant communication by speech and by writing ; but the use of mind in all possible verb senses is so general in England as to be almost a distinctive trait of the British English of to-day. I remarked upon this in English in England.

With a like disregard of fact, we are told that “ many American writers, following Scottish models, make use of mean instead of means in the singular.” Now, the truth is, as any reader may see by simply turning to Johnson’s dictionary, that those American writers who do use mean in the manner here indicated follow, not Scottish models, but English models of the Elizabethan period. Whether in this they do well is another question ; but as to the perfect Englishhood and high rank of their models, there can be no dispute. Next, although the preponderance of usage since the Queen Anne period has been largely in favor of means in the singular, as “ by this means,” that has not been the “established practice” “from the time of Addison.” Indeed, Addison himself uses the singular form mean, and since his day usage as to this word has been divided, although far from equally, in England, just as it has been in America.2 Very few writers here use the singular form, as “ by this mean,” — very few indeed. There is in their sparsely distributed affectation nothing “ peculiar to the United States.” Not to weary my readers with a frequent repetition of the same objection, I gather together the following words under the letter M, in addition to those already mentioned, as to which it need only be said that they are common in England, and in some cases more common there than here: mitt, a fingerless glove; monstrous, for very, great, exceedingly; mopusses, money ; mortal, very ; mought for might; much, as “ not much of a man ; ” mull, to dispirit ; musicianer. I cannot forbear remarking that Mr. Bartlett says, and rightly says, of mopusses that it is an English slang term, and then adds that it is “ not often heard among us.” In the name of the Sphinx, then, que (liable fait-il dans cette galère ?

Milion for melon is worthy of a passing word on the score of pronunciation. It is a mere mispronunciation, which is heard in England as well as in America. Halliwell gives it as millon, on the authority of Palsgrave. It is a rare example in English of what is known to French grammarians as the l mouillé or softened l, which appears in all the Romance tongues. Melon became millon, and millon million, through the same phonetic influence as that which, for example, causes the Spanish pillon, (a cushion behind a saddle for woman’s use) to be sounded pillion, which word, that is, sound, with its appropriate spelling, was transferred to the English language. It would be an Americanism if it were peculiar to America; but we have seen that it is not so.

More, most. We are told that “ the comparative endings er and est are very commonly discarded both by speakers and writers, even from monosyllabic adjectives, and their places supplied by more and most;” of which grievous “ American ” fault " more full ” from Worcester’s dictionary and " more fond ” from a writer in Harper’s Magazine are given as examples. I add a few more from an " American ” writer of some note, named William Shakespeare : —

“Wishing me like to one more rich in hope.”(Son. xxix.)
“ But you shall shine more bright in these contents.” (Son. Iv.)
“ This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong(Son. lxxiii.)
“ My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming.” "(Son. cii.)
“ Like as, to make our appetites more keen.” (Son. cxviii.)
“Sets you most rich in youth before my sight.” (Son. xv.)
“ If it were filled with your most high deserts.” (Son. xvii.)
“ Yet be most proud of that which I compile.” (Son. lxxviii.)
“My most true mind thus makes mine eye untrue.” (Son. cxiii.)
“My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.” (Son. cxv.)

It thus appears that this exemplar of the American style of writing did not hesitate to discard the comparative endings er and est even from monosyllabie adjectives in the most reckless and “ ungrammatical ” way. Seriously, does not Mr. Bartlett know that this use of more and most is as English, and as common, as the national oath ?

Muss. As to this Americanism, we are told that it is “a corruption of mess, a state of confusion, a squabble, a row,” and that “ this vulgarism is very common in New York ; ” to which it is added that “ there is also an old English word muss, meaning a scramble, but it has apparently no connection with the above.” This is quite correct, with two exceptions. Muss is not a corruption of mess, which does not mean (except in slang) a state of confusion ; and the old English word muss, meaning a scramble, has so direct a connection with “ the above ” that it is the word itself. Muss is a scramble, when any small objects are thrown down to be taken by those who can seize them. (See Nares’s Glossary.) Gargantua played at “ the musse ” (Rabelais, Book I. ch. xxi.) ; and we are also told by the same writer that “ the game of the muss is honest, healthful, ancient, and lawful. . . . Such as play and sport at the muss are excusable in and by law. . . . And at the very same time was Master Tielman Piquet one of the players at that game of muss. There is nothing I do better remember, for he laughed heartily when his fellow-members of the aforesaid chamber spoiled their caps in swingeing of his shoulders. He nevertheless did even then say unto them that the banging and flapping of him to the waste and havoc of their caps,” etc. (Book III. ch. cc.) Verily, this Gargantuan game seems strangely like a muss in the Bowery. The French original here is ”jeu de la mousche;” and Cotgrave, in his French-English dictionary, 1611, has, “ Mousche, a fly; also the play called musse.” Finally, we have these passages by English writers of some note : —

“ When I cried, hoa!
Like boys unto a muss, kings would start forth And cry, Your will.”
(Antony and Cleopatra, Act III. Scene 2.)

Costardmonger. Buy any pears, very fine pears, pears fine!
[Nightingale sets his foot afore him, and he falls with his basket.
Cokes. Gods so! a musse, a musse, a musse, a musse!
[Cokes falls a scrambling;”
(Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, Act IV. Scene 1.)
“The monies rattle not, nor are they thrown
To make a muss yet ’mongst the gamesome suitors.”
(The same, Magnetick Lady, Act IV. Scene 1.)
Fd. Was't not well managed, yon necessary
mischiefs? did the plot want either life or art ?
Maw. ’T was so well, captain, I would you
could make such another muss, at all adventures.”
(Middleton, A Mad World, my Masters, Act III. Scene 3.)
“ Bawble and cap no sooner are thrown down,
But there’s a muss of more than half the town.”
(Dryden, Prologue to Shadwell’s True Widow.)

So much for this American vulgarism, common in New York. The Bowery boys, a mob of Monsieur Jourdains, seem to have been speaking very good English all their lives without knowing it.

Richard Grant White.

  1. For ʒe ben men beter ytagt to schoule and to spade To cartestaf and to plowstaf and a fischyng to wade, To hamer and to nedle, and to marchandise al so Þan with sword or hauberk eny batail to do. (Ed. Hearne, 1810, page 99.)
  2. I have somewhere a collection of passages by British writers, beginning with Addison, in which the singular form mean is used. Unfortunately I cannot now put my hand upon it; but I shall be able to produce it hereafter.