Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Slang Words and Phrases


The Origin of "Outsider," "You're a Daisy" and "Too Thin."

"Dun" is a word whose meaning is now known to every one who understands the English language. About the beginning of the century a constable in England named John Dun became celebrated as a first class collector of bad accounts. When others would fail to collect a bad debt, Dun would be sure to get it out of the debtor. It soon passed into a current phrase that when a person owed money and did not pay when asked he would have to be "dunned." Hence it soon became common in such cases to say, "You will have to dun So-and-so if you wish to collect your money."

Until the nomination of Franklin Pierce for the presidency the word "outsider" was unknown. The committee on credentials came to make its report and could not get into the hall because of the crowd of people who were not members of the convention. The chairman of the convention asked if the committee was ready to report, and the chairman of the committee answered, "Yes, Mr. Chairman, but the committee is unable to get inside on account of the crowd and pressure of the outsiders." The newspaper reporters took up the word and used it.

"You are a daisy" is used by Dickens in "David Copperfield" in the sense of calling a person a daisy in the way to express admiration and at the same time to laugh at one's credulity. Steerforth says to young Copperfield: "David, my daisy, you are so innocent of the world. Let me call you my daisy, as it is so refreshing to find one in these corrupt days so innocent and unsophisticated. My dear Copperfield, the daisies of the field are not fresher than you."

"Too thin" was given currency by Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia in the United States congress in 1870. Seine members had made a reply to Mr. Stephens, and the latter had his chair wheeled out in the aisle and said in that shrill, piping voice which always commanded silence: "Mr. Speaker, the gentleman's arguments are gratuitous assertions made up of whole cloth, and cloth, sir, so gauzy and thin that it will not hold water. It is entirely too thin, sir." — Boston Post.

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