The Iceman Speaketh, Part Three: Miscellaneous Terms

The Iceman Speaketh, Part Three: Miscellaneous Terms

Posted by: Neena Arndt at 05/15/2012 03:18 PM

By Neena Arndt, dramaturg for The Iceman Cometh

In our first two installments of The Iceman Speaketh, we explored drinking terms and insults. Now for the miscellaneous category: words and phrases that O’Neill uses in Iceman that you don’t hear everyday.

Miscellaneous Interesting Terms


Late nineteenth, early twentieth century slang for “mouth.” Derived from the Dutch word for trumpet, bazuin.


Alteration of “by Jesus”—a mild oath. The term “bejesus” came about in the 1860s. The shortened form, “bejees” (alternately spelled begeez or bejeez), is a variation largely used in Ireland.


Slang for a particularly excellent or astonishing thing, usually referring to an anecdote or performance (“That story was a corker!”). When applied to a person, it suggests a bright, buoyant or lively personality.

Iceman Cast
Photo by Liz Lauren



A travelling salesman, defined by John Bartlett, in his Dictionary of Americanisms (1848) as "a person employed by city houses to solicit the custom of country merchants." Drummer generally referred to a salesman who solicits customers for a wholesale house (as distinct from canvassers, who worked door-to-door selling individual goods). The word was, if not a derogatory term, at least not reflective of the image that merchants wanted to create for their traveling salesmen, as it referred to the energetic and frequently abrasive sales techniques they used to “drum up sales.”


The willies; nervousness. Dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.


An idiom, more popular in the early twentieth century than it is now—it means that something or someone is very, very funny.


A plan, desire or idea that will likely never work or come fruition; a near impossibility. The expression comes from the hallucinatory fantasies experienced when smoking an opium pipe.


A derivative of “shaveling,” an old term for a boy or youth. The term refers to the fact that many boys need to start shaving during adolescence, but are not yet fully-grown men.


  • Posted by: Joe at 05/17/2012 01:11 AM
    Horrible, depressing, waste of a Wednesday evening. Not only did you steal my money, but you also stole my time! Shae on The Goodman Theatre ! Just as bad as Camino Real! Just wasted more of my time!
  • Posted by: Carol Hillman at 05/17/2012 10:29 PM
    Why was the character - Pat McGloin - omitted from the play. It was not a big deal, to be sure, but I really am wondering why this character was left out of Robert Falls' production. Thanks for a response/ (By the way, I most emphatically did not think the production was a waste of my time!)
  • Posted by: Neena Arndt at 05/18/2012 01:25 PM

    Impressive that you caught that there was one missing drunkard! He was cut as part of an overall effort to tighten the script. The goal was to get the curtain down before midnight, with a 7pm start time. Glad you liked the show!
    -Neena Arndt
    Dramaturg for The Iceman Cometh

  • Posted by: Ken at 05/22/2012 05:18 PM
    I thouroughly enjoyed the show. Yes, it's a marathon, just be aware of that going in. As the Goodman states, this could be a once in a lifetime event. Kudos to a fine production. As to anyone cursing the length of the play, think of the actors that are doing it throughout the run.
  • Posted by: Mark at 05/30/2012 05:00 PM
    An amazing performance. It truly is a once in a lifetime event. This is something Chicago theater will remember for generations.
  • Posted by: squarepeg at 06/02/2012 07:46 PM
    A wonderful production with powerful and moving performances. I feel privileged to have experienced it. I do wonder why the audience chose to laugh so much.
  • Posted by: Jonathan Shailor at 06/08/2012 08:45 PM
    As to why (at least one) audience chose to laugh so much... I think that there is some real intentional humor in the play. For the audience, I also think there is something like "the laughter of recognition" (Augusto Boal), as well as the laughter of anxiety, and the laughter of relief. Laughter is also a good way to breathe deeply, which is helpful in any kind of marathon... Looking forward to seeing the show June 16.
  • Posted by: Don at 06/09/2012 09:39 AM
    My wife & I have been going to the Goodman plays for over twenty years, starting when they still used the lower level of the Art Institute. This was the best play, by far, we have ever seen there! All the actors were terrific, with the main players Lane & Dennehy (of course), being outstanding. We liked seeing John Reeger in this production, also doing a great job. We used the valet at Petterino's (along with dinner), and they had the cars parked out front of the theater when the play was over - what a treat!

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