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Colonial American English: A Glossary [Hardcover]

by Richard M. Lederer
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 267 pages
  • Publisher: Verbatim Books; First Edition edition (April 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930454197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930454197
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.5 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,090,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Word Lover, Historian, or Genealogist's Delight June 18, 2000
The great virtue of "Colonial American English" is that it collects many terms which are nowadays unfamiliar, defines them and in most cases provides an appropriate reference to demonstrate how the term was used at the time. For those interested in words and in the period, you can spend many enjoyable hours browsing through the book.
But this is a specialized book and I would recommend it only to historians, word lovers, and perhaps genealogists. The genealogist runs across many of these specialized words in transcribing estate inventories, daybooks and land records, but it certainly isn't for the average genealogist.
In defining particular goods such as types of cloth, the book lists "alamode, nankeen, jane, Kendal cotton, and Kersey." You will find all of these items in a good, standard American dictionary with perfectly adequate explanations. But it also lists "alopeen, bafta, bag Holland, barracan and beggar's velvet," which you won't find in a good, standard dictionary.
"Colonial American English" performs better when explaining cultural phenomena such a game "King and Queen" or the practice of giving money to a soldier to buy a coat "coat money" or the use of "barley water" to reduce inflamation. Standard dictionaries tend to put emphasis on the concrete and to gloss over the culturally ephemeral.
The book exells at defining two and three word phrases such as "Labrador Tea, knee tember and chip hat," largely because such phrases (two and three word combinations) so rarely make it to a standard dictionary.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful, Entertaining, and Concise December 12, 2007
By Shopper
This volume best serves a general audience - either those with a love for words, or those who'd like an affordable book on hand to reference when reading early American texts. Also it would be very helpful to a writer attempting to accurately represent the language of the period.

I would not classify it as an academic book - the scope of words addressed is ample but not comprehensive. The descriptions contain limited information on words origins and specific times/places of usage. In fairness, the author himself states in the preface, "...this glossary does not attempt to replace the Oxford English Dictionary.."

The book runs alphabetical, but there is also an index at the end (pages 251-267) that lists all the words by topic, which is quite handy for writers. Topics include agriculture, clothing, earthly terms [sexual intercourse, prostitutes, etc.], Fabrics, Fauna and Flora, Food and Drink, Games, Dances Musical Instruments, Household Contents, Law and Punishment, Medicine, Military and Nautical, Occupations, Places and People, Religion, Transportation, Weights and Measures.

There is a significant bibliography for those interested in additional resources. There is not any supplemental content that delves into commentary of language usage in Colonial America - this is strictly a glossary, albeit a very enjoyable one.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anyone who tries to understand our Constitution using current dictonary definitions for words is doomed to failure. The meanings of many words change in less than one generation.

I found this book, along with other "period" materials, instrumantal in gaining a clearer understanding of what the "Founders" had in mind ~ or at least what they collectively set to paper ~ when the Constitution was originally drafted.

I'm not a constitutional scholar ~ but, I am one who is keenly interested in the truest understanding of what was created those many years ago. This resource volume has helped in that quest.
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