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An affection for slang: everyday language in 1900 as seen in the media.

Everyday language is a topic that's been particularly difficult for me. There were no oral histories that I'm aware of, and the actual research done at the time is spotty. People had a fascination with slang, but ironically that's more a hindrance than a help. Slang depicted in newspapers and magazines is usually so exaggerated as to be silly. A prime example is Finley Peter Dunne's character Mr. Dooley, an Irish bartender in Chicago. He appeared in a column published in hundreds of newspapers and compiled in a series of books. Here's a sample of Dooley's speech:
Th' speaker iv th' house burrid his face in his hands, an' sobs shook him partly f'r manny minyits. Thin he raised his head, an' says he, 'Mack,' he says, 'I can't take it,' he says. ''Tis most gin'rous iv ye,' he says, 'but me hear-rt fails me,' he says.

A slightly less egregious example of such speech can be found in a series of books written by "Josiah Allen’s Wife" (Marietta Holley) about a woman from rural New England named Samantha.

Criminals in magazine stories always speak in an exaggerated lingo, while immigrants and African-Americans are depicted as incapable of putting two words together in standard English.

I came to the conclusion that what I saw in newspapers and magazines of the time had little to do with how people actually spoke, and I had this confirmed when I came across the passage below in O. Henry's Cabbages and Kings (1904).  In the story, a telegram was sent to an American in a South American country, and to hide the contents from prying eyes, it was written in exaggerated slang. This is one character describing it:
Tis what they call literature, and that's a system of language put in the mouths of people that they've never been introduced to by writers of imagination. The magazines invented it, but I never knew before that President Norvin Green had stamped it with the seal of his approval. Tis now no longer literature, but language. The dictionaries tried, but they couldn't make it go for anything but dialect. Sure, now that the Western Union indorses it, it won't be long till a race of people will spring up that speaks it.
And here's another O. Henry passage, from Whirligigs (1910), where two characters are discussing the colorful language of a third:

"This tough talk is the very stuff that counts. There is a picturesqueness about the speech of the lower order of people that is quite unique. Did you say that this is the Bowery variety of slang?"

"Oh, well," said Rivington, giving it up, "I'll tell you straight. That's one of our college professors talking. He ran down for a day or two at the club. It's a sort of fad with him lately to use slang in his conversation. He thinks it improves language. The man he is talking to is one of New York's famous social economists."
Speaking of professors, here's an example that touches on both people's interest in slang and their understanding of scientific method. It's from what is supposed to be a list of terms used in the lumber industry compiled by two people at Cornell University and published in an academic journal of the time, Dialect Notes. They took words from a book, letters to newspapers, their own memory, etc., but here's my favorite:
  stent, n. for stint. Marietta Holley (Josiah Allen's Wife), My Wayward Pardner, p. 74.
Their source is a fictional character! And these guys taught at Cornell. Meanwhile, the term peavy (a tool commonly, and uniquely, used in lumbering) isn't mentioned.

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