Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/828

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822
BELIEF IN A CREATOR.

tion of a kind of wood, but the wood itself is abundant, and is called "white pine." "Vine" is used generically for any climbing plant, and the common phraseology runs of "grapevine," "ivy-vine," and again of "poison ivy." English terms of natural history are misapplied in a country where the species vary from those of Great Britain. The American "robin" is a large red-breasted thrush; the "haw" is a kind of plum-tree; "daisy" is not the sweet, crimson-tipped flower of home. "Clever" does not indicate mental ability (which is expressed by "able" or "smart"), but means generosity of spirit. The accent and tone of words is sometimes peculiar. Mamma and papa, with accent on the first syllable, are universal, and we give testimōny with long o, not testimǒny, as in Europe. . . . The peculiarities of expression may be traced to various sources. The American Indians have left their mark extensively in geographical names, and also in a few words which persist in the language of the country: as "hominy," for food prepared from Indian corn. Some of their words, as canoe, calumet, wigwam, tomahawk, and pemmican, are becoming classical English terms. "Maize" originated in the West Indies; "cob," expressing its head deprived of the seeds, and "shuck" for its husks, are probably Indian words, as is the widely-known "tobacco." "Guano" is Peruvian for "dung." "Corn" is employed in the United States for Indian corn. "Porridge," made of oatmeal, is called "mush," or "oatmeal mush," or simply "oatmeal" (and is partaken of, sup by sup, along with coffee or beefsteak, as is cheese with apple-tart or other sweets). "Supper" means the English "tea," saving that tea is rarely used at it, coffee being the national beverage. "Cookey" (a Christmas cake), "doughnuts" (balls of sweetened dough, fried), "bush" (land covered with rank shrubbery), and "boss" (employer or overseer), are of Dutch parentage. "Prairie" is French; and quite a large number are Spanish, as mulatto, quadroon, creole, filibuster, savannah, stampede. Germans, negroes, and Chinese have also made their mark in the popular vocabulary. . . . Some of the Americanisms savor of slang; thus to "run" a concern or to run a church, is to manage its finances; and if the affair "comes to grief," as the English say, "Brother Jonathan" remarks that it has "gone up a spout;" if it is only in difficulties, then he says "it is gone up a tree" (like an opossum when hunted). The "hub," or nose of a cart-wheel, means the centre of refinement, and having been applied to Boston by one of its own citizens, the name stuck. Skedaddle is a Scotch (or Greek) term Americanized, and is retained because of its odd sound. "Scallawag" is a very pithy designation for one who is a loafer and scamp combined. The English "chimney-pot" hats are not so known in the United States, but are called "stove-pipe hats." "He's a goner" signifies that he is ruined in fortune and health; and "he's played out" indicates that he is without resource, that his last card had been played and failed. "Nine cheers and a tiger" is a call for the applause to be backed by such a yell as is only heard in American election meetings. Some of the slang as "prospecting," "cantankerous," has been imported to England. "Sundown" and "sun-up" need no explanation nor does the "fall" for autumn. "Varmin" means all sorts of wild animals.




From The Gentleman's Magazine.

BELIEF IN A CREATOR.

Few results of ethnology are more interesting than the wide-spread belief among savages, arrived at purely by their own reasoning faculties, in a Creator of things. The recorded instances of such a belief are, indeed, so numerous as to make it doubtful whether instances to the contrary may not have been based on too scant information. The difficulty of obtaining sound evidence on such subjects is well illustrated by the experience of Dobritzhoffer, the Jesuit missionary, who spent seven years among the Abipones of South America; for when he asked whether the wonderful course of the stars and heavenly bodies had never raised in their minds the thought of an invisible being who had made and guided them, he got for answer that of what happened in heaven, or of the maker or ruler of the stars, the ancestors of the Abipones had never cared to think, having enough to trouble themselves with in providing grass and water for their horses. Yet the Abipones really believed that they had been created by an Indian like themselves, whose name they mentioned with great reverence, and whom they spoke of as their "grandfather," because he had lived so long ago. He is still, they fancy, to be seen in the Pleiades; and when that constellation disappears for some months from the sky, they bewail the illness of