Printer Friendly

Arthur Conan Doyle's Americanisms.

Throughout his career, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about America in his fiction and American literature in his criticism. He could hear American voices and imitate them effectively. His American speech is invented, but, in the interest of authenticity, the invention depends partly on Americanisms borrowed from books he read. An assessment of these borrowings illuminates Conan Doyle's early reading and the degree to which America fired his imagination. Early in his career, he lay American idiom thick on his fictional canvas, as with a painter's knife. Later, he applied Americanisms with the tip and edge of a restrained brush, proving his writerly assurance and incorporating his American material into a more sophisticated style. The results--early and late--dismay some historians of English, who see Conan Doyle's American characters and their speech as 'linguistic stereotypes, about as accurate as stage Irish', and similarly indicating criminal morality. (1)

Americanisms figure in Conan Doyle's fiction from the very beginning. The American's Tale'--Conan Doyle's second published story, now counted among his 'gothic' tales (2)--appeared in the Christmas number of the illustrated monthly magazine, London Society, in 1880. (3) Jefferson Adams is the teller of the tale, an American frontiersman who spins his yarn for a 'British' audience, as precise as one can be on the story's evidence and supported by Adams' frequent reference to 'Britishers' in the tale. Conan Doyle attempts to capture frontier idiom by infusing Adams' narrative with a variety of phonetic, grammatical, and lexical features, among which the lexical items are perhaps most reliably American. (4)

Conan Doyle deploys various words the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) labels as 'orig. and chiefly U.S.; or 'originally N. Amer.' in pursuit of American flavour. His repertoire includes all-fired 'extreme, extremely, in senses A and B, 1819 [right arrow]; almighty 'enormous, intense, in sense 1.3, 1814 [right arrow]; cocktail 'mixed drink, in sense A.3.a, 1803 [right arrow]; darn 'extreme, extremely, in senses A and B,1789 [right arrow]; Derringer 'brand of pistol', 1853 [right arrow]; filibuster 'anti-Hispanic adventurer, 1854 [right arrow]; Greaser 'native Mexican American', in sense 1.2.a, 1848 [right arrow]; gulch 'narrow, deep ravine', s.v. gulch [n.sup.3], 1831 [right arrow]; liquor 'drink, in sense 3.c, 1860 [right arrow]; mustang' small horse, in sense 1.a, 1808 [right arrow]; nohow "whatever you do', in sense A.i.a.(b), 1793 [right arrow]; rowdy 'backwoodsman, in sense A.1, 1814 [right arrow]; six-shooter 'revolver that shoots six rounds without reloading, 1844 [right arrow]; swamp 'marsh, in sense 1.a, 1614 [right arrow]; and you bet 'for sure', s.v. bet v in sense b, 1857 [right arrow]. The OED does not enter freeze 'be keen on, fancy, but Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS) does, as freeze (on) to s.v. freeze [v.sup.1], from 1856 forward to 1911.

One item in the American repertoire of 'The American's Tale' is missing from the dictionary record, however, namely, bowie v 'knife', as in 'I've seen him empty his six-shooter into a crowd as chanced to jostle him agoing into Simpson's bar when there was a dance on; and he bowied Tom Hooper 'cause he spilt his liquor over his weskit by mistake.' (5) One naturally wonders whether--knowing about the legendary Bowie knife--Conan Doyle coined the verb to reinforce Jefferson Adams' Americanness, or encountered the word in print. The latter, it turns out, is entirely possible. I have found the following instances of the verb's use, (6) confined to a narrow chronological band:
'Paul Masterton's Adventures in California', Colburn's New Monthly
Magazine and Humorist 90 (1850), p. 488: 'If you halt a moment, you run
a chance of either being squashed by a drove of enraged novillos
capados, or bowied by the knife of a Yankee trapper.'

H. R. Jackson (American Ambassador to the Court of Vienna) in Executive
Documents Printed by Order of the House of Representatives during the
First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington, D.C.:
Nicholson, 1854), Doc. 100, p. 14: 'Their customary bearing toward
Austrian or H[ungarian] subjects was not learned in the "back-woods";
for there they might be "bowied" or shot, without much hesitation.'

[Anonymous], 'A foot', Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 82 (1857), p.
207: 'We would not bruit it in New York, or whisper it in a steamer on
the Mississippi, without having made up our minds to be tabooed,
lynched or bowied.'

The Liberator (8 March 1861), p. 3: 'Fort Sumter will not be attacked.
Major Anderson will be bowied at a dinner party. That is the way the
chivalry dispose of these questions.'

Frederick Boyle, A Ride Across a Continent: A Personal Narrative of
Wanderings through Nicaragua and Costa Rica (London: Bentley, 1868),
vol. 1., p. 41: 'When some wretch is shot or bowied, and the guilty
party safe-held in the hands of bystanders, he strolls to the spot with
some majesty, and claims the malefactor in the name of the law.'

The Irish Times (24 September 1872), p. 3: 'If it [a newspaper]
calumniated or libelled an individual he had his remedy in law. A
different system found favour in America. The injured individual put
his hand to his belt and sometimes "bowied" the obnoxious editor.'

Brander Matthews and H. C. Bunner, 'The Documents in the Case, The
Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine 18 (1879), p. 764: 'I have to-day
returned from New Centreville, whither I went after Miss Saville. Found
she had just skipped the town with a young Englishman by the name of
Bovoir, who had been paying her polite attentions for some time, having
bowied or otherwise squelched a man for her within a week or two.'

I have been unable to locate an instance of present tense bowie, and the verb does not appear in the Corpus of Historical American English (CORE), though COHA does capture instances of the noun bowie, clipped from Bowie knife, the earliest of which is dated 5840, in plenty of time for verbing by 1850, the year of the first citation listed here. (7) Three of the eight citations occur in magazine fiction, and one wonders, again, whether bowie v isn't a literary term distant from common use, but the citations to the diplomatic dispatch and The Liberator--albeit, in that case, a fanciful remark proved wrong on 12. April 1861--balance literary use and vouch for the word's familiarity across registers. Later, an Irish writer knows bowied but marks it as American by enclosing it in quotation marks. Though the citations here end with that of Matthews' and Bunner's story of 1879, the literary life of bowied lasted a bit longer, as the story was collected in the authors' In Partnership, though at that date too late to have influenced 'The American's Tale.' (8)

Three of the Americanisms Conan Doyle borrowed for 'The American's Tale' are rare, bowied so rare that it has lain unremarked until now, and two others, freeze (on) to 'be keen on, fancy' and liquor 'drink'--as in a liquor, parallel to a coffee--are nearly unattested. GDoS starts the chronology of freeze at 1856, in a book about college slang, followed by another explicitly slang instance in 1870, followed by one from Mark Twain's The Innocents at Home, the title given to the second volume of the English edition of Roughing It. (9) And that exhausts the pre-1880 record of the word, as far as we can tell. OED registers this odd sense of liquor, labeling it "Chiefly U.S." and illustrating it in three quotations, one of which employs liquor-up rather than liquor, dating from 1860 to 1882, only two of them in advance of 'The American's Tale.'

I have yet to find a likely path from America to his reading or other experience of American English liquor, but it seems quite likely that Conan Doyle encountered freeze in The Innocents at Home. We know he had read The Innocents Abroad before writing 'The American's Tale," (10) because he alludes to it in the diary of his own Arctic adventure in 1880. (11) And besides freeze in this slangy American sense, (12) Roughing It as a whole includes many of the other Americanisms that salt 'The American's Tale.' (13) In addition, Jefferson Adams relates a tale about 'Alabama' Joe Hawkins, and Twain tells the story of 'a stalwart ruffian called "Arkansas, who carried two revolvers in his belt and a bowie knife projecting from his boot.' (14)

The citations for bowied listed here also suggest a possible source of the word and other elements of The American's Tale.' Conan Doyle does not, to my knowledge, mention Frederick Boyle or A Ride Across a Continent in any of his writings. (15) Certainly, though, it's a book he'd have enjoyed reading--he read about exploration and adventure, wrote adventure stories, and even went on an adventure to the Arctic himself. Although he could certainly have picked bowied up in most of the sources listed here--for instance, the story in Blackwood's is a plausible candidate (16)--A Ride Across a Continent includes American themes and vocabulary one won't find in the other works cited.

Perhaps most significantly, Jefferson Adams identifies himself as 'one of Walker's filibusters, as they chose to call us.' (17) The Walker in question is William Walker, whose intense animosity towards Spanish authority in North America led him to establish disruptive republics in Spanish territories--between November 1853 and January 1854, he was the self-proclaimed President of the Republic of Lower California, which became the Republic of Sonora--and, from 12 July 1856 to I May 1857, he usurped the presidency of the Republic of Nicaragua. He saw himself as fulfilling the Monroe Doctrine--the American policy from 1823 forward objecting to European colonies in North America--and Manifest Destiny--a belief on many Americans' parts that America would inevitably and justifiably extend its dominion across North America. The filibusters were Walker's private army. (18) Boyle approves of them--at one point noting their 'dashing valour'--and refers to them several times in A Ride Across a Continent. (19)

Like the filibusters, Boyle looks down on 'Greasers, a word always presented in quotation marks in A Ride Across a Continent, as indeed it is in The American's Tale.' Like filibuster, Greaser occurs several times in Boyle's narrative, though notably in Roughing It, as well. A Ride Across a Continent is replete with instances of filibuster and Greaser; cocktail and rowdy also appear, though less frequently; all four items occur in Roughing It. Swamp, absent from Twain's book, is extraordinarily present in Boyle's. (20) Conan Doyle could have encountered all these items and the story of Walker and his filibusters individually and in any number of texts, yet the concentration of them in Boyle's book suggests it as a possible source. It is, after all, the most likely point of Conan Doyle's contact with the relatively rare word bowied, in part because it includes other themes and Americanisms relevant to The American's Tale.'

The same could be said of Roughing It. Conan Doyle may have encountered his Americanisms piecemeal--he may have heard them from American mouths in Edinburgh, rather than from literature--but why assume so when the bulk of those in 'The American's Tale' also occur in Twain's book, a book Conan Doyle almost certainly read? Indeed, we might well take Conan Doyle's American lexicon as proof of the reading. Still, while rare Americanisms point to Roughing It and A Ride Across a Continent as sources, and while other Americanisms are conveniently available therein, and while each book includes yet another feature of Conan Doyle's story--a naming conceit and material about Walker's filibusters, respectively--the two do not contain between them all the Americanisms in The American's Tale.' It remains to be seen whether any single source contains those beyond the likely sources identified here.

Although 'The American's Tale' was Conan Doyle's earliest foray into Americanisms, it was not his last, as all fans of Sherlock Holmes know well. Conan Doyle introduces Holmes in the short novel, A Study in Scarlet, published seven years or so after 'The American's Tale, first in Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887 and as a book in its own right the following year. (21) The story divides into two parts, the first of which takes place in London, the second, titled 'The Country of the Saints', in Utah and Nevada. In the second part, characters talk in a somewhat invented American English, adapted in part, according to Owen Dudley Edwards, from still other works by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which, published in 1876, may also have influenced 'The American's Tale, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which, published in 1884, did not. (22)

Conan Doyle once again deployed Americanisms in The Valley of Fear, published in 1915. (23) Structurally similar to A Study in Scarlet, the first half of The Valley of Fear takes place in London, the second half in America, but in the latter case, in the mining towns of Pennsylvania, rather than in Mormon country. Between the two, there are suggestions of North American speech in 'A Scandal in Bohemia'--first published in the Strand Magazine in 1891 and collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which was published in 1892.--'The Noble Bachelor'--first published in the Strand in 1892. and also in Adventures (24)--and The Hound of the Baskervilles, published serially in the Strand Magazine in 1901 and 1902. and published as a book just before the final installment appeared. (25) 'The Adventure of the Three Garridebs; the last Sherlock Holmes story concerned with Americanisms, appeared in the Strand in 1925 and in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, of 1917. (26) Conan Doyle died in 1930, and Americanisms had seen him through his writing life.

The repertoire of Americanisms in A Study in Scarlet overlaps with that of The American's Tale'--in almighty, mustang, and you bet--but just that slightly, and most are new to Conan Doyle's use. For instance, on the first page of The Country of the Saints, they set an intensively American scene. Readers encounter--besides distinctly American place-names and names for tribes of Native Americans--braves 'Native American warriors', canons (for canyons), chapparal, grizzly bear, hunting-grounds, plains, and prairies, all of them certified Americanisms, according to the DAE, as well as buzzard, which, while in English before 1600, nonetheless developed new senses in the American West. (27)

Soon thereafter follow big-horn 'Rocky mountain sheep', buck-shot, bully 'fine, splendid'--according to the DAE used by Twain in both Innocents Abroad and Roughing It--caution 'admirable or astonishing person or thing, deader 'dead person'--first attested in the OED from an American newspaper in 1853, then in A Study in Scarlet, and then in the magazine Cyclist in 1887, where the OED's record ends, but continued from 1901 to 1961 in GDoS--Indian file, Injun, pard (short for pardner 'associate, friend'), and Redskin. All these words appear in A Study in Scarlet but not in 'The American's Tale.' Together, they show that Conan Doyle's facility with Americanisms continued to grow into the era of Sherlock Holmes and that sources of them must have been more numerous and various later than when he wrote 'The American's Tale.'

Like A Study in Scarlet, The Valley of Fear shares a few Americanisms with The American's Tale, in six-shooters and--also with A Study in Scarlet--you bet, which may have seemed quintessentially American to Conan Doyle, given its ubiquity in his American inflected works. But interestingly, the Valley of Fear repertoire differs markedly from those of the earlier works: boss 'manager of a political or other party' --used as a title in Boss McGinty, name of the arch-villain of the piece--buck-shot, caribou, damn as an adverb (damn soon), fix 'dispose of, punish' ( We'll fix you yet), grip-sack and its clipped formgrip, (28) pinto 'small horse, sawed-of shotgun, shove the queer 'pass counterfeit money, stand pat, sucker 'fool, and wise 'aware, in the know.' Some of these, like buck-shot and damn, are almost as old as American English and easily picked up by an avid reader of American literature, like Conan Doyle. However, the OED first dates other items, like sawed-off shotgun and wise, to 1898 and 1896, respectively, and they demonstrate Conan Doyle's up-to-date interest in American speech--practically, items like these entered his writing almost as soon as he first encountered them.

American flavour and authenticity matter in 'The American's Tale' and the novels, of course. Conan Doyle and his readers appreciate his atmospherics, especially in the Sherlock Holmes stories, and there, too, speech facts become evidence in many a Holmesian deduction. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, Americanisms also figure in Conan Doyle's narratology. Superficially, one notes that The American's Tale' contains the most Americanisms and more importantly the most Americanisms per page, because besides a very light first-person frame representing the British auditors, it's predominantly Jefferson Adams' embedded first-person tale. Surely, the frequency partly reflects a young and technically less proficient author's fascination with American stories, themes, and speech. But the stylistic difference between Jefferson Adams and the auditors is one of authority and power distributed among the narrative voices. When the story ends, Adams has the upper hand, despite the framing narrative's role in evaluation of the embedded one: '"A most extraordinary narrative!" said Dawson [...] "Deuced rum yarn!" said young Sinclair. "Evidently a matter-of-fact truthful man; said the doctor. "Or the most original liar that ever lived;' said I. I wonder which he was.' (29) This chorus of Britishers finds it difficult to assess truth-telling in a foreign, specifically American, idiom.

Representation of Americanisms in the two novels differs with that in 'The American's Tale' and between each other. In A Study in Scarlet, the narrator uses topographical, flora, and fauna terms when introducing the second part of the novel, drawing narrative and dialogue of that part's American speakers speaking in America together and blurring lines between British and American language ideologies. In The Valley of Fear, by contrast, Conan Doyle confines Americanisms to the dialogue of that novel's second part--in terms of Americanisms, narrative, on one hand, and dialogue among the Americans in America, on the other, are distinct. Thus, the stylistic value of Americanisms is neither apolitical nor naively narratological--from 'The American's Tale' through A Study in Scarlet until very close to the end of Conan Doyle's career, in The Valley of Fear, Conan Doyle increasingly restricts the authority of American diegetic speech within the compass of the overarching narrative.

Dialect, then, contributes to a narrative process of cultural containment that observes general narratological principles, like that proposed by David Herman: 'All other things being equal, a reported utterance is evaluated more negatively the more it differs from the degree of formality, type of speech variety, and mode of situational appropriateness of the style in which the report is couched.' (30) No one denies the situational appropriateness of Americanisms in Mormon country or Pennsylvania, but they undoubtedly represent a non-British speech variety and --compared to the narrative's register--marked informality, although, in that respect, dialect intersects with social class, as well as regional identity. Thus, when exposing fakery in 'The Three Garridebs'--an advertisement in which the American villain spells plough as plow in an English situation, where the spelling is not appropriate --Watson characterises the word as 'mis-spelt; and Holmes agrees that 'it was bad English but good American', (31) an evaluation that resonates, not just in that story, but throughout Conan Doyle's work.

The Valley of Fear returns unexpectedly to an earlier form of narrative and an earlier attitude towards Americanisms, roughly that of A Study in Scarlet. In the twenty-seven years between the two books, Conan Doyle mastered the style with which he is most identified, a style that could admit Americanisms but which treated them more or less obliquely, and the cultural argument, therefore, was often implicit, and, when explicit, only in a few token devices. For instance, Irene Adler from 'A Scandal in Bohemia' hails from New Jersey, though she is also a cosmopolitan opera singer. (32) Substituting for the classic criminal, she confounds Holmes, but she does not speak, as far as we can tell, with an American accent. Other tales are slightly less reticent, drawing our attention to Americanism by deploying few Americanisms. (33)

For instance, in 'The Noble Bachelor, the already-married bride of Lord Robert St Simon, Hatty Doran of San Francisco, reunites with her American husband. She reportedly uses jumping a claim 'taking what already belongs to another' to describe St Simon's position. Further on, when explaining the mystery of her post-nuptial flight, she outlines her personal history as a miner's daughter in the Rocky Mountains, and that paragraph is laden with American jargon: her 'Pa was working a claim, and 'struck a rich pocket, after which they moved to 'Frisco and her fiance, Frank, moves on 'to make his pile, too.' (34) Though she continues her embedded narrative for another few paragraphs, once her American bona fides are established, her speech rises to something closer to the framing narrative's British formality.

Similarly, but probably more memorably, Sir Henry Baskerville, long resident in Canada, speaks, Watson tells us, with an American accent, but he utters few Americanisms: smart 'clever, astute, which the OED remarks is 'Now the most common sense in America'; sucker 'fool, and dime-novel are the extent of it, except for Sir Henry's favorite expletive, by thunder. The OED doesn't include expletive thunder, but GDoS does, in considerable detail, with eleven nineteenth-century quotations that support Green's label, '(U.S.): Green defines thunder as 'hell; and focuses on what in thunder, why in thunder, and who in thunder but overlooks by thunder, in which thunder must mean 'god.' Conan Doyle minimises negative evaluation of America and Americanisms by reducing the number of Americanisms in The Hound of the Baskervilles and repeating by thunder to stand for Americanisms iconically. But the maneuver has a corresponding characterological effect, because it heightens Sir Henry's semiotic value while reducing his mimetic value--he stands for America better than he enacts Americanism. (35)

In 'The American's Tale', Americanisms are abundant and Americanism unbridled. Conan Doyle was fascinated by some of the American words he'd discovered in his youthful reading of American literature and unable to resist borrowing them for his own fictive purposes. Yet development of the style we take as typically Conan Doyle's exercised restraint--after A Study in Scarlet, he mostly stopped shoving the queer of imagined American idiom. 'Conan Doyle, the American critic Michael Dirda writes, 'certainly stands unrivaled for crisp narrative economy. He achieves powerful and often highly poetic effects through a first-person prose that is plain, direct, frequently epigrammatic, and mysteriously ingratiating.' (36) As later works demonstrate, while trading on their ideological value and narratological force, Conan Doyle uses just enough Americanisms to 'prove' the American theme, much as Holmes relies on but a handful of clues to pronounce a pithy biography of one or another client. It is, perhaps, not an accidental parallel.

Specific narratologies and styles imply and enact ideologies. Americanisms and their accommodations in Conan Doyle's narratives address without resolving nineteenth and early twentieth century tensions between British and American cultural attitudes, for which language attitudes often served as a proxy. In 'The Noble Bachelor, Holmes insists to Hatty Doran's real husband, 'It is always a joy to me to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a Minister in far gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.' (37) Doyle may not share Holmes' Anglo-American fantasy--British voices occupy the prestige register, and the narratology of his mature work does not suggest comity. (38)

Indeed, in The Dancing Men'--first published in the Strand in 1903 and collected in The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1905 (39) - Americanness and Americanisms are described in sharp distinction to the British narrative voice, and they are, as usual, subdued by it. Elsie Cubitt is an American who speaks as well as an Englishwoman, at least, in the dialogue to which readers have access. Abe Slaney, the American who pursues her and kills her husband, points out when captured, 'She was pledged to me years ago. Who was this Englishman that he could come between us?' In the natural order of things, American cleaves to American. Conan Doyle often entertains the possibility of Anglo-American marriage, but it never works out. Then, Slaney speaks his piece, and, in the same narrative economy as that applied to Hatty Doran, he starts with Americanisms but generally approaches the narrative register.

His Americanisms are few, as expected in Conan Doyle's mature work. Elsie's father is the boss--recall that the term recurs in The Valley of Death--of the Joint 'criminal partnership or organization', also, in this sense, a certified Americanism. When Mr Hilton Cubitt bursts into the study of Ridling Thorpe Manor to find his wife attempting to pay Slaney off, he carries his revolver, and, Slaney later tells Holmes, he, too, was heeled 'armed', another item the OED labels as 'orig. U.S.' and, in this case, illustrates with an 1866 quotation from Mark Twain's Letter from Hawaii. Possibly, allowing Holmes and his colleagues to take him like a jay 'simpleton' is an Americanism, too, but the dictionaries are divided on the matter. (40) This spattering of Americanisms would not seem to indict Americans absolutely, then, and is in keeping with the stylistic convergence that leads to Holmes' vision of Anglo-American unity--except that, once again, 'the American', as he's called, not only commits the crime but is a criminal to the core. And, one remembers, the Americans--when not required to speak to British interlocutors--speak to each other in a childish hieroglyphic code that bears no resemblance to English, British or American.


(1) Richard W. Bailey, 'American English Abroad; in The Cambridge History of the English Language Volume VI: English in North America, ed. by John Algeo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 490.

(2) Arthur Conan Doyle, 'The American's Tale; in Gothic Tales, ed. by Darryl Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 3-9.

(3) Dates and other facts of publication throughout derive from Richard Lancelyn Green and John Michael Gibson, A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle, Soho Bibliographies 23 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983).

(4) Those interested in nineteenth-century Americanisms generally should consult Frederic G. Cassidy and Joan Houston Hall, 'Americanisms', in The Cambridge History of the English Language Volume VI: English in North America, ed. by John Algeo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 184-207.

(5) Ibid., p. 4. The record from which it's absent includes the OED, the Dictionary of American English (DAE), 4 vols., ed. by W. A. Craigie, J. R. Hulbert, et al. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938-1944); Mitford M. Mathews, A Dictionary of Americanisms (DA), 2 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Pres, 1951); Richard H. Thornton, An American Glossary (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1912.); and John Ogilvie's The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language (London: W. G. Blackie and Co., 1847-50). The OED, DAE, and DA rely on literary sources unlikely to capture rare words like bowied, which increases the chance that the dictionaries, in turn, may overlook them. J. L. Lighter's Historical Dictionary of American Slang, 2 vols. so far (New York: Random House, 1994 and 1997), and Jonathon Green's Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS), 3 vols. (London: Chambers, 2010) do not include bowie knife, presumably because it's the standard term, not a slang synonym; thus, they miss both bowie n and bowie v, the latter clearly a slangy alternative for knife v.

(6) The newspaper citations were collected from, last accessed on 22 February 2018. The others were identified on Google Books and then verified in print.

(7) COHA is a 400-million-word corpus covering American English from 1810-2009; it can be consulted at I last visited it to confirm what I report here on 22 March 2018. DAE enters bowie n with quotations dating from a 1846 to 1901. DA drops the a 1846 quotation and antedates it with one from 1842. Thornton quotes yet another instance of bowie from 1849. Thus, while hardly a high-frequency word, the noun bowie persisted and spread throughout the decade before the first attested use of the verb. See also note 17.

(8) Brander Matthews and H. C. Bunner, In Partnership (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1884).

(9) Mark Twain, The Innocents at Home (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1872).

(10) Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (New York: Harper's, 1869). Indeed, in Memories and Adventures (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1914), p.14, Doyle misreports that 'The American's Tale' was published in London Society in 1879; rather, it was likely accepted in that year, and the cheque Conan Doyle remembers paid in that year.

(11) Arthur Conan Doyle, Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure, ed. by Jon Lellenberg and Daniel Stashower (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012), p. 257. In Through the Magic Door (Doubleday, Page & Company, 1913), Conan Doyle registered his deep appreciation of American writing, not so much Hawthorne (p. 113), but Edgar Allen Poe (pp. 117-19 and 119-31), Bret Harte (pp. 116-20), Ambrose Bierce (p. 119), Francis Parkman (pp. 109-14), Herman Melville (pp. 241-42.), Jack London (p. 141), and Oliver Wendell Holmes (pp. 155-57), as well as 'Frank Norris, a man who had in him, I think, the seeds of greatness more than almost any living writer [...] Stephen Crane--a man who had also done most brilliant work, and there was Harold Frederic, another master-craftsman' (46). Twain, however, is not mentioned, and Conan Doyle casts little light on his early reading. While at the University of Edinburgh, for instance, we are told, 'I read much' (Doyle, op. cit., 1914), p. 27.

(12) Mark Twain, Roughing It (New York: Penguin, 1981), p. 341

(13) While perusing one's Penguin Classic copy of the book (Ibid.), one finds them easily enough: cocktail (p. 177), considerable (twice on p. 387), Derringer (pp. 113 and 115), Greaser (pp. 341 and 435), gulch (p. 116), nohow (p. 387), rowdy (p. 454), six-shooter (pp. 179 and 343), and you bet (pp. 55, 56, and 332-33, and identified as slang, p. 337).

(14) Ibid., pp. 235-39.

(15) Frederick Boyle, A Ride Across a Continent: A Personal Narrative of Wanderings through Nicaragua and Costa Rica, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley, 1868).

(16) Conan Doyle read Blackwood's, of course, and he refers to reading "The Metempsychosis;' putatively by Robert Macnish, in its pages (Doyle op. cit., 1913), p. 123, but the story was published in May 1826, and Conan Doyle could have read it early or late in his career, or in between. I know of no evidence that he read Blackwood's before 1880. At any rate, he didn't read it two years before he was born, in 1859.

(17) Doyle op. cit., 2016, p. 4.

(18) Walker told his own story in The Warin Nicaragua (New York: S. H. Goetzel & Co., 1860), but that book wouldn't have impressed Conan Doyle. 'While engaged in these preliminary preparations, Walker received an injury in the foot, which kept him in his chamber until the middle of April' (p. 29) is a typical sentence - even when the events are great adventures, the style stays unadventurous in the extreme. The book includes none of the Americanisms in 'The American's Tale.' Like many virulent racists, Walker camouflages his position by never using epithets like Greaser, at least, not in print.

(19) Boyle op.cit., vol. I, p. 75. The word filibuster and its derivative forms (e.g., filibustering) appear on vol. 1, pp. xxvii, 1, 17, 29, 33, 36, 52, 53, 55, 57. 59, 61, 75-76, 78, 81, 89, 91, 146, 233-34, and 296; vol. 2, pp. 51, 69, 72., 110, 112, 114-16, 120, 126, 129, 167, 185, 209, and 232.

(20) Ibid. Greaser appears on vol. 1, pp. 64, 77, 88, 145, 170, 233, and 137; vol. 2, pp. 57, 139, and 220; cocktail on vol., pp. 17, 24, and 213; rowdies on vol.,, pp. 78 and 188; and swamp and its derivative forms (not slang swamped 'overwhelmed') on vol. I, pp. 5, 7-8, 17-18, 26, 38, 71, 73, 170-71, 190, 205 and 225; on vol. 2, pp. vii, 238, 243, 251-52, and 290. One especially relevant word that appears in A Ride Across a Continent but doesn't appear in 'The American's Tale' is bowie n, on vol. 2, p. 134. See also note 4.

(21) Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet, ed. by Owen Dudley Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. xiii.

(22) Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (London: Chatto & Windus, and Hartford, Connecticut: American Publishing Company, 1876); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (London: Chatto & Windus, 1884, and New York: Charles L. Webster and Company, 1885). In both cases, the British edition preceded the American by six months. Edwards connects A Study in Scarlet to these of Twain's works in Doyle, op cit., Scarlet, pp. 175, 185, and 191.

(23) Arthur Conan Doyle, The Valley of Fear, ed. Owen Dudley Edwards (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

(24) Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, ed. by Richard Lancelyn Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1993), pp. 5-29 and 22.1-43, respectively.

(25) Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles, ed. by W. W. Robson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

(26) Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, ed. W. W. Robson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 89-105.

(27) Doyle, op cit., Scarlet, p. 69.

(28) Edwards' note about grip-sack/grip, Doyle, op cit., Valley, p. 199, notes that English editions preserve the narrator's grip-sack in the American dialogue, whereas the American editions prefer clipped grip, because 'a late 19th-century American would have said "grip,"' but both forms are Americanisms, and Edwards presents no evidence to support his view that one was used more generally by Americans than the other. The perceptions that drove distinctions of formality and register, however, are perhaps more relevant than the facts. Edwards scrupulously indicates the other points at which English and American editions disagree on such lexical details. One might conclude that the editions draw a line between Americanisms and Briticisms, but that's not always the case. For instance, in the note on By Gar (also p. 199), Edwards points out that while some have associated By Gar with American pronunciation of By God, By Gar is also a feature of Hiberno-English. In fact, it was also English, attested first from Shakespeare. It may have seemed a useful alternative to the English editions' preference for By gosh, which, Edwards' wryly observes, 'implied a level of delicacy somewhat unusual among Pennsylvania miners and hoodlums.' Yet the annotation may reiterate a cultural stereotype constructed in Conan Doyle's narratology, as argued below.

(29) Conan Doyle, op cit., 2016, p. 9.

(30) David Herman, Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), p. 201.

(31) Conan Doyle, op cit., Case-Book, p. 100.

(32) Conan Doyle, op cit., Adventures, p. 12.

(33) Some others, however, are similarly devoid of Americanisms: The Yellow Face; in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, ed. by Christopher Roden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993) pp. 53-71, first published in the Strand in 1893, then in the Memoirs in the same year; and 'The Five Orange Pips', op cit., Adventures, pp. 102-22, first published in the Strand in 1891, though this last repeatedly mentions the K.K.K. and Ku Klux Klan.

(34) For jumping a claim, Conan Doyle, op cit., Adventures, p. 230; for Hatty's account, ibid., pp. 238-39.

(35) On this effect and its role in narrative, see Herman, op cit., 2002, 119-20. The same might be said of Steve Dixie's egregious African-Americanisms in the opening scene of 'The Three Gables', first published in the Strand in 1920, and then in Conan Doyle, op cit., Case-Book, pp. 133-50, evidence of Bailey's claim about Conan Doyle's Americanisms and stage-Irish (see note 2).

(36) Michael Dirda, On Conan Doyle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), p. 19.

(37) Conan Doyle, op cit., Adventures, p. 241.

(38) The tension is well-described by the first chapter of H. L. Mencken, The American Language, 4th ed., (New York: Knopf, 1936), pp. 3-89, titled 'The Two Streams of English', relevant not only because of the breadth and accuracy of the argument, but because the first version of it--a bit less than half the length--from the first edition of 1919, belongs to the very era of the Holmes stories.

(39) Conan Doyle, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, ed. by Richard Lancelyn Green (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 73-99.

(40) The OED starts its subentry for the 'simpleton' meaning (s.v. jay, n. in sense 3.d) with a quotation from Skelton, dated 1523, another from Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor, among others, and ending with a quotation from the Dundee Advertiser in 1900. GDoS labels the precise sense as 'orig. US' and has a point when it puts the Skelton quotation under the sense 'cheeky chatterer; and the Merry Wives quotation under 'showy woman, prostitute', but then confuses the issue with a 1915 quotation from Dialect Notes--recording American speech--that reads 'jay, a simple frivolous person. "Isn't she a jay? She doesn't act like a mother at all"' under the 'showy woman' sense. I incline towards Green's analysis.

Indiana University at Bloomington

Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
COPYRIGHT 2019 Association for Scottish Literary Studies
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:MICHAEL ADAMS
Author:Adams, Michael
Publication:Scottish Literary Review
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:Sep 22, 2019
Previous Article:'To Write Down the Whole Particulars': Narrative Competence in R. L. Stevenson's Medical Doctors.
Next Article:The Poem as Labyrinth: An Exploration of Hugh MacDiarmid's 'The Glass of Pure Water'.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters