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.
|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.
MAKE A CAT LAUGH
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.