LOST WORDS FROM OUR PAST
This page was created by Hugh Swift and it is a great reminder of the "old days".
Thanks for the memories!
Have you noticed how some words are disappearing? When is the last time you heard the
word "icebox"? I liked the word "emergency brake". It gave you a sense
of adventure as opposed to
"parking brake" which is really pretty dull. Then there
are words you may have never heard, especially if you are
younger than fifty years.
Examples are "singletree", "doubletree", and "tracechain". I know it has very little
connection to genealogy but I find it interesting. Here is a list of the words I no
I'd be interested in seeing a list of your "lost words" so drop me an
email ( link at the bottom of the page) and
I'll add your words to the list!
coaster brake............fender skirts...........................flat-top--------------Fuller Brush
So take 5 minutes and send your lost words to Susan Collard
Then here came Jim, a one time resident of Glasscock County, Texas. I just hate to get blown completely out of the water but he asked what
happened to the word "Pig Trough" in reference to part of an automobile. I don't know and don't have a clue what it was/is so I had to ask.
It seems the 'pig trough' is the area drectly behind the back seat.....you know the small ledge where you throw your hat to keep someone from
sitting on it. Small dogs and little youngsters seem to also favor that location, probably for the same reason. I have a couple of auto related lost
words to add but I'll do it later. I really wanted to get this online so all of you could see what Jim lost! Thanks Jim you really made my day.
(Much Later) My 'auto words' are "Wing Window", "Double Clutch", "Suicide Knob" (looked like a door knob attached to the steering
wheel and permitted the driver to make extremely fast, one-handed turns) , and "Vacuum Tank"(a small half gallon sized tank attached to one of
the vacuum lines. It held a supply of vacuum so when you accelerated, the windshield wipers would keep working). Yep that's right.....we didn't
have electric wipers!
Tony from Caddo Millls, Texas came up with"45 and 78 records" (this was the speed at which they turned on the player), "Swamp Cooler"
(evaporative cooler very efficient in dry climates), "5 and 10 Cent Store" (a low cost, general merchandise store like Woolworths or
Ben Franklin stores) and finally "Tin Type Pictures" (the photographic emulsion was used to coat a piece of tin, placed in a camera and
exposed. This and glass were used prior to the invention of the plastic film we use today). As a boy of 15 my first, full time job was in a
Ben Franklin store in Irving, Texas. As I recall the display counters had glass dividers (horizontal and vertical) with one edge rounded
so customers wouldn't cut their hands. One of the duties was to cut this glass to fit the the many display counters. A never ending job
because as the inventory changed, so did the size of the display area so more glass was always needed.
I have fished in the general area of Caddo Mills and found a couple of fishing terms which are probably now out of general use. We used a
guide and a flat bottom boat. The guide would "Scull" the boat along with one short paddle and would both paddle and guide the boat with
one arm. He would take us to the best spots to catch "White Perch" (actually Crappie) and frequently you would catch a many-toothed monster
they called a "Black Fish" (looked much like a muskie or pike but you could hardly eat the tough, grainy flesh). Then there was the "Gaspergoo"
and it didn't take but one trip to find out they were talking about the fresh water drum. Makes excellent fish soup because the meat
holds together after being cooked. Thanks Tony I enjoyed the memories!
Dorothy suggested "counterpane" has been almost totally replaced by "bedspread". She also mentions "box your jaws" (a good slap in the face) and
"hand signals" being replaced by "turn indicators". You don't 'hear' hand signals very often but the term is still valid and the 'hand signals' are
still in the driver's manual, at least in Texas. She also mentioned "bar ditch" but I think we ran that in the ground in another session. Thanks Dorothy.
Jeani ran across the "Lost Words page" on the Uvalde Texas web site while doing some genealogical research.
She lives in California and well remembers some of the old sayings from her early years. Here is four of the best!
"Crying in a Bucket" (for crying out loud), "Never be Noticed on a Galloping Horse" (looks good enough), "Crookeder
Than a Barrel of Snakes" (winding road or dishonest person) and "Looks Like the South end of a Donkey Going North"
(looks bad). I want to add one my father used to say when something tasted exceptionally good...."Laripin" or "Laripin Good".
I don't have a clue where that originated. Thanks Jeani!
Wayne is a resident of Tennessee (near Nashville) and speaks of items he saw during his youth. While I'm 15 years his senior,
I still never heard of a "Hoosier Cabinet" nor a "Lard Stand". The other lost words he mentioned were "Feather Bed", "Cream
Separator", and he got doctored with "Camphorated Oil" (chest rub for colds), or "Sugar mixed with Turpentine" (for colds and for stomach worms).
A Hoosier Cabinet was a single piece of kitchen funiture for storage of flour, sugar, spices and other items used in cooking.
See this link: http://www.hoosiercabinet.com/ . Kitchens in older rural homes seldom had built in cabinets, only a wood stove and
Hoosier Cabinet. A Lard Stand was nothing more than a container large enough to hold a ham. Most were empty 5 gallon lard buckets as
shown at this link: http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/historyfiction/artifact.aspx?id=tbd .
Thanks Wayne I enjoyed the "new lost words"
Larry is a one time resident of Texico, New Mexico and has somehow gotten himself planted way over yonder in New York State.
Ponder that a bit while we look at the "Lost Words" he has sent. "Wigwag" These were a safety device found at many of the railroad
crossings and I haven't seen one in years. They were one or more of short, pendulum like red lights (sometimes red flags) hanging
below the railroad crossing sign. When the train approached, the light or flag would wag frantically back and forth to get your attention.
While I never knew they had a name and "wigwag" may not be what they are, it is certainly what they do! You can view a picture of one
at http://gsee.sdf-us.org/signals/images/wigwag.jpg . Larry also mentioned "Glove Box" (in the dashboard), "sweet milk" (as oposed to
buttermilk), and "water bag". Well now you folks from the North or Northeast probably never had the opportunity to appreciate the 'water bag'.
It was a canvas bag filled with drinking water and hung on the radiator of the automobile. As you drove down the highway, evaporation cooled
the water and made for a really refreshing drink when you stopped. In the hot/dry climes of the Southwest it also doubled a source of water for
the radiator if the auto overheated . Thanks Larry! You reckon they would let you come home if you asked real nice?
Linda from Alvarado indicates "fixin to" is in danger of being lost! Well Abilene is only about 100 miles to the West and "fixin to" is alive and well here, especially around my house. Of course that might be due to the attitude of "I'll do it later", so a quick "I'm fixin to" will frequently stave off a minor argument. It did get me to thinking of some of the words I remember from my youth. In my first year as a rural student in a one room school house in Northeastern Oklahoma I was the only 6th grader. There were no 7th graders and Clarabelle was the only 8th grader plus was the oldest student in the school. Clarabelle had been "exposed" to some education but still used language like "Youins" (you-ins), "Usins" (us-ins), "Weins" (we-ins), "soda biscuits" and "polk salad". I got poisoned by the polk salad, the soda biscuits were bitter, and the other three words never made sense to me so I'm glad they are gone. The following year I did miss Clarabelle when she started attending the high school in town.
Juanita sent this list of words and I have to admit the first word on her list stumped this old man completely. Her words are. "Fascinator, Churn, Stone Bruise, Rolling Store, Watkins Man, Pone (as in corn pone), and Brake Pole. She also sent "Potato Hole" but I find nothing to identify its meaning. I suspect it is a local term for the common "Root Cellar" or modification of the root cellar for storing all 'root' crops through the winter. Well back to "Fascinator". Google tells me it is a decorative hair piece generally made from feathers but may sometimes include beads, pearls or precious stones. By golly you really don't get too old to learn something new!
Thanks Juanita. You made my day.
Joanne who lives way over there in Ackerman Mississippi furnished these 'furniture' names. Chifforobe, Sideboard, Vanity, Pie Safe, Washstand,
Dry sink and Settee. She also says Divan and Davenport are slowly fading away too.I remember all those terms but certainly can't say how long it
has been since I actually heard someone say the words. Thanks Jo
I just couldn't resist adding this to the Lost Words page. I guess it could be renamed "Lost sayings" but the real name is "Things you don't hear any more." CLICK HERE to see these sayings. You can use your 'back key' to return to thiis page.
Well I just finished the trumatic experience of changing Internet Providers and making the "thousand' email address changes on various websites I manage. What I'm really doing is trying to establish a reason for getting behind with the 'lost words' received from readers. Joyce mentions her father who was a very neat and well dressed person. He bought all of his clothes at the local "haberdashery". She especially misses the elementary school "see-saw". the "tee-totter" and the "maypole". I don't think I've even seen a may pole in the last 50 years! Joyce in Austin, Texas
In reading some of the "lost words" on this page, Kelly down in Austin, Texas recalls an aunt who always referred to any refrigerator as a "Frigidaire." An uncle was a "roll your own" guy with a little bag of tobacco and rolling papers. He just never developed a taste for "ready roll" cigarettes. He also used his "Barlow" (pocket knife) to cut off a bite from the plug of "Bull of the Woods" chewing tobacco. Thanks Kelly.
Deirdre lives way up there in Rochester, New York and she says that up there plain milk is called "Standard Milk". You know, the milk that once was brought early in the morning in a glass bottle with a cardboard stopper and left on the front porch. My grandmother would get really angry if the milk had less cream than she thought it should have. She would save the cream for a whole week and then make butter for the Sunday morning hotcakes. If you recall, you would write a note telling the milkman how many bottles of milk (or cream, half and half, buttermilk) you wanted, put the note and the correct change in an empty milk bottle and set on the front porch the night before. Try that in todays world. Deirdre also came up with something else different. As 'different as black and white' was common where I lived but in Rochester they were apt to say "As different as chalk and cheese". Has a good ring to it. But I have to tell you she has me stumped with her last lost word, "Skiivy"!. It apparently means servant as in your mom saying, "I'm not your skivy" when you failed to clean your room. As to the source, the only thing I can find is the Finnish word skiivy which means an article of clothing. I wonder if it is related to the the WWII word 'skivies' (trademark skivvies) which is still in common use for underclothes? Thank you Deirdre. Your lost words made for an interesting morning.
Donna over in Clyde came up with a phrase I had never heard before, "Pound thePreacher", but after a little research here is what I found. "An early American custom was to "pound" young married couples or new preachers. In this custom, people of the neighborhood showed up in a surprise visit by bringing presents by the pound. The presents were usually food of some sort. It was also supposed to be good luck to 'pound' a preacher". She also mentioned "Dinner off the Ground" and a "Sunday Ice Cream Social". Her parting words were "Keester", "Noggin" and "Puddin n Tane". Well at least I recognize that last from the rhyme, "What's your name? Puddin-in-Tane! Ask me again, I'll tell you the same."
A native of Cross Plains, Texas, R. A. says he likes clabber and considers it better than good fresh buttermilk, which doesn't impress me very much since I am not fond of buttermilk either. But that's ok...I like diet coke and Hershey bars (together) and he may not! R.A. also mentions the words "Raw Milk" (now called whole milk), "Tailor Made" (cigarettes), and an expression his grandmother used to express disbelief or disgust - "Aw Shaw". R. A. didn't know where that originated and I don't either. I checked all the "word" references I have and "shaw" means 'woods' or a 'grove of trees' with a secondary meaning of 'vegatable tops' (greens). Does any one out there know the origin of "Aw Shaw"? R. A. and I would sure like to hear from you!
Donna is a displaced DFW person living in Florida and she has a "whole bunch" ( that is an endangered phrase) of words that are getting really scarce. The words in ( ) are by way of explanation. "Henna" (hair), "Gopper Stopper" (candy), "Grease Jar" (for drippings), "Cream Puff" (easy to handle), "Treadle" (sewing machine), "Oli Oli Ox in Free" (hide and seek), "Sunday Go To Meeting Clothes", Waist Cincher (corset), "Pedal Pushers" (capri pants), "Ink Well", "Round Heels" (street walker), "Sweet Milk", "Light Bread", "Soft Soap", "Poke Bonnet" (sun protection), "Vapor Lock (air in fuel line), "Prime the Carburator" (pour gas in carburator) and "Pop the Clutch" (what you do when you push a car with a manual transmission to get it started). I was tempted to make single a sentence using "Henna". "Pedal Pushers" and "Round Heels". Must be the West Texas sun getting to me. Do y'all have that kind of trouble down there in Florida?
Mark over in Tyler, Texas mentions a word his grandmother would use when someone sneezed, "Scat" was the word and my grandmother also used the same word. As a youngster I once asked her why she used the word and she said, "To scare that old sneeze away".
Toni in San Angelo,Texas sent in a phrase I have never heard, "Laid a Corpse" in reference to the death of a person. In trying to research the phrase, I found several vague possibilities but the most likely comes from the Bible. Mark 6:29 "...and having heard, came and took up his corpse and laid it in the tomb." Toni also mentioned "ear screws" being at one time a common name for ear rings. Prior to the second half of the 20th century few people had pierced ears and earrings had 'screw backs' which could be tightened to hold ear rings in place. Talk about "beauty must suffer pain". Thanks Toni! Perhaps someone else has heard the same phrase and can explain where it orginated?
Sheryl has written to mention the fact that for sometime no one goes to the store to buy sundries. I began ponderiing what "sundries" really are and wonder if it was a 'spin off' word from the phrase various and sundry items. So I clicked on "Answers.com" and asked for a defination. Here is their definition: "Various items too small or numerous to be listed or miscellaneous items." Well we now know what they were we just don't know where they went! While I was doing that I glanced down to the next line she wrote and wouldn't you know, her second word was "dry goods". Good old Answers.com.......it means. "Clothing, textiles and similar items. Also called soft goods". I guess Dry Goods and Sundries left together and with little fanfare. Sheryl's final comment was if we had "Dry Goods" does it follow that we also had "Wet Goods"? Can anyone help me with this?
Hi Toni from Glen Rose, Texas, land of the giant dinosaur footprints! Toni's lost words are 'Window Lights" as in window glass and "Hair Pins". Naw not bobby pins, hair pins and there is a difference. I remember them well 'cause everytime I needed a 4 inch piece of small wire (building crystal radios) you could always count on finding 4 or 5 hairpins in a bathroom drawer. Mom would get a bit "miffed" (another lost word) at me about using the hair pins. Thanks Toni....They both take me back-a-ways.
John from Wylie, Texas (not the one in Abilene) mentions "running board" but it was listed quite a while ago along with "rumble seat" and "turtle". He also mentions "coal oil (kerosene)", "sock hop", "cookstove", and "Mrs. Stewart's Bluing". His last one is a particular favorite, "Sadie Hawkins' Dance" because in high school I went to lots of those. But how many of you remember where the name came from?
Clarissa from up in Mineral Wells has come up with a really good one. Remember the "Monkey Blood" they use to paint on every little cut of scratch? The really neat thing about monkey blood...it didn't burn like methiolate or iodine. Here is what I found out about it. Actually it was Mercurochrome also known as Merbromin. Its antiseptic qualities were discovered by Johns Hopkins' doctor Hugh Young in 1919. The chemical soon became popular among parents and doctors for everyday antiseptic uses. The FDA banned its distribution in the 1990s over fears of mercury poisoning. Good for you Clarissa, I didn't even realize it was 'among the missing'!
Robbye's grannie used to say "Pshaw" and probably "Land -a-Goshen" and "Land's Alive". Can't say I ever heard the last one but Sakes Alive was fairly common in my youth. Robbye went on to mention "Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes", "cracklins", "grip" (for suitcase), "a right fer piece" (distance), "time piece" (watch), "younguns", and a "shower bath" outside with the gadren hose. He further mentioned "slop" which is something you fed pigs or in the form of a verb, "went to slop the pigs". He ended his letter that he could probably think of more lost words but he had to go back to work. Robbye, why didn't you just make my day and say, "I could probably think of more but I have to go slop the hogs!". Thanks Robbye.
While I was reading Robbye's letter (above) I thought of two really great words I haven't heard in ages; "blinky" and "clabbered". For those of you that were raised with an 'icebox' as opposed to a 'refrigerator' you will recognize both of these words. "Blinky" is is an unpleasant taste to milk just a short time before it soured. Both are a result of storing milk at too warm a temperature. If the milk is 'blinky', you don't throw it away. You can use in bread or other cooked food. Now "clabbered" is the other side of soured milk. After it has soured it begins to turn into a solid somewhat less than jello in texture. The taste is foul (I think) and one of the first items that goes straight away into the slop bucket. The slop bucket by the way was a 5 or 10 gallon metal milk can with a tight fitting lid which was kept in the kitchen. Every type foodstuff (except fat and bones) to be thrown away was put in this can---you know clabbered milk, burned biscuits, rotten vegetables, molded jelly and so forth. That's how the slop was generated to feed the hogs.
Jana from "Big D" (that's Dallas for you non-Texans) came up with a word I didn't even know was lost and sure enough "bar ditch" is among the missing. Now many folks in this country won't recognize the word at all because they don't have bar ditches. It's a strange word anyway being the shortened form of the words "borrow ditch". Dirt was 'borrowed' from each side of the road to raise the elevation of the roadbed so water would drain away during heavy rain. Jana also mentioned "kinfolks" as another lost word. I haven't noticed the diminished use of the word but that is likely due to my advanced age, my rural upbringing, and the fact I have kin all over this country. Even where they don't have bar ditches!
Danny tells us he doesn't hear "Oh my aching back" near as much as in years past. He also mentions you seldom hear some being called a "Peckerwood". Says his dad called him and his sister, "House Apes". I don't think house apes is in any danger of going away and will be around along with "Crunb Snatchers" and "Curtain Climbers".
Garland of McKinney, Texas came up with a dilly (another keeper...dilly huh?), Pulleybone as opposed to the Wishbone. Now I've done extensive research concerning this matter and I find 45% of the people think the pulleybone is on the turkey while chickens come equipped with wishbones. Another 45% subscribe for the exact opposite view. The other 10% could really care less saying it is a pulleybone on both birds if you are West of the Mississippi and wishbone if East of that river Garland also mentioned "Black Drought" syrup as being a 'lost word'. Not really. It kinda got pushed to the back of the shelf with the other laxatives like Sal Hepatica, Senna, Carter's Little Liver Pills and probably a dozen more when advertising became such an important factor. On the other hand, he may have heard about my research on the Wishbone/Pulleybone issue and couldn't resist bringing up the Black Draught subject.
Evelyn Crocker came up with a whole "slew" (now there's an old word for you) of words, most of which I will pass on right here.
fatback (salt jowl)----bloomers----------------------scavvies (?)(shorts)---courting
parlor----------------spring house-------------------smoke house--------- skin-the-cat
swing sickle----------paper poke--------------------saddle loafers---------milk can
wheelwright ---------Put-it-on-the-cuff-------------drip gas
Evelyn is of the opinion "Casins" are the wheels on vehicles while I'm inclined to think it refers to the pneumatic tire on the wheel. Comments?
Thanks Evelyn,these are good!
Donna way up there in McKinney, Texas sent a No.10 washtub full of old words. Take a look!
polecat---------------bolster -----------------------Sunday Funnies--------switchboard
corset----------------Put-it-on-the-cuff-------------Watkins man ----------sparkin (petting)
tow sack-------------ear bobs----------------------adding machine--------corset
gridle-----------------hair net -----------------------bobby pins------------rouge
tooth powder---------butch hair wax----------------monkey blood (mercurochrome)
foot tub--------------hair tonic---------------------cream deoderant (Arid in a jar)
ice house-------------bobby socks------------------throw-the-rope--------health tonic
And finally I guess I should tell you. The No#10 washtub she sent the words in was also one of her "lost words". Would you believe it? I actually saw one
a couple weeks ago for sale in a small store in Comanche, Texas. However, they didn't have any lye soap, wash (rub) boards, or the big iron
boiling pots to set on the fire!
Margaret from Arlington, Texas wrote to remind us about "Soda Fountain", "Garter Belt", and "Dial" a number.
It feels like about 104° outside and I sure could use that Soda Fountain about now! Thanks Margaret.
Sandra tells me her grandmother would make "pallets" outside in the shade of a tree for the children's afternoon naps Yes pallets, you know a couple of winter quilts laid out on the floor or grass. I spent half my nights as a child sleeping on a floor pallet when company would visit and 'company' always got the beds. She also said grandmother would caution anyone leaving the house to be sure and "latch the door". You still hear "hold your horses" but most times it's some older person (like me) telling some youngster to 'be patient'! Much obliged, Sandra .
Ashley said she hasn't heard "Coon's Age" in a coon's age.
Alan mentioned the word "shinnery" which you seldom hear and almost never see printed.
The dictionary indicates that it means a dense growth
of small trees such as "scrub oak" or the area of such a growth. Thanks Alan.
"My grandmother was born in 1900 in Bosque Co., later lived in Merkel, and then Lynn Co., TX.
While I was
doing maintenance on her car, she would always tell me to put some air in her "casins"....i.e.
casings, or her car tires."
Thanks Mike, I haven't heard that in 50 years!
Joe and Deb mentioned they can remember driving into a service station and hearing their grand parents say, "Fill it up with Ethel".
It made me remember the gas pump that set over to the side that dispensed "White Gas". It was unleaded, cost less, and was used in lanterns.
If you were 'low on money', you could burn it in your automobile!
Leslee mentions the words "sop" (baby food made from dry bread, milk and cream), "hardtack" (hard biscuits that would last for months or years),
"screen" (such as shut the screen to keep the flies out), "drawers" (underwear), and "eons" (as a measure of time).
William Don came up with "top drawer" (first rate or the best). Nope haven't heard that in a while.
Carolyn mentioned two words her grandmother frequently used that are getting pretty rare. "Soda Pop" as a general term for all bottled/canned
drinks and I don't think I ever heard the words "Poly Pop" when referring to any one of a number of frozen treats on a stick generally called
Jerry wrote and gave us 3 new words; hub caps, rabbit ears (sure you remember the old B&W
and my personal favorite the "tube tester". Hardly a week went by that at least one of the
televisions or radios
would have a tube go bad.
Kelly has written and suggested these words!
"Cut-Rate Store" (I haven't heard that in years)
"Breather is Dirty" (as in the car won't run because the breather is dirty)
"High Cotton" (a person is doing very well if in "High Cotton")
"Loadin-up" (the old carburetors would 'load-up' and flood the engine)
RL asked when was the last time I heard someone say "open the turtle" (trunk on the auto).
That brought to mind "running board" and "rumble seat".
E.D. down Houston way noticed that "typewriter" is one of those words that slipped away.
Additionally "moonshine" and "white lightning" have likewise fallen from general use.
While you don't often hear the phrase "A face that would stop a clock". You can use enough
of that "Bonded Whiskey" so it sure "won't make a hoot". You know with "typewriter" all
but gone, there are associated items that will fall from use....."white out", and "carbon
paper" to name a couple. Hey, how about "Second Sheets" (sheet of thin paper with carbon
bonded to one edge)?
Clela over around Arizona way says there are some close comparisons between things there
and Texas as she remembers it but the differences are very distinct. I was born in Texas
but was in Arizona for a couple years during my youth. Second grade in Ruby Arizona, third in
Phoenix then it was back to Texas. Guess I didn't get enough of the hot weather because
during my first enlistment in the Air Force I was stationed at the Air Base in Chandler,
Arizona I pretty much understand what she means.
She mentions her grandmother using "Shaw" and suggests it may be the shortened form of the
word "Pshaw". The "P" in Pshaw is silent so I doubt we will ever know. Her grandfather
used the word "foot" in place of cuss words and come to think of it my dad would often
exclaim "aw foot" when things didn't go as planned. Her grandad sounds like an interesting
person especially when you consider some of the words he 'manufactured'. For instance "Jeet".
which obviously means "Did you eat yet?"
She also points out the difference between "Slop Bucket" and "Slop Jar", the latter beinig a
'convenience' before the advent indoor bathrooms. You emptied the slop jar (chamber pot)
in the small building (shed) usually located about 100 feet to the rear of the house and
perhaps even called a "two seater"(not a car). She also mentions "party line"; "percolator";
"razor strap"; shaving mug"; and, "wringer washer", "mail order catalog",and "linoleum".
One of the phrases she recalls from her youth was one her mother used while driving, which
was serious business at the time, especially for a woman, "If you don't be quiet I'm going
to mash your mouth all over your face". Shucks Clela you had it pretty easy. Placed in the
same situation (I don't believe I've mentioned it before)my mom would say, "If you don't shut
up I'm going to slap you naked then sell your clothes".
Thanks Clela it was a nice visit!
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