Deadwood: a coffin, 1845. Only one reference for this term. 2) a sure thing, as in a bet–1850 a couple of references to this 3) genuine–1876. Only one reference to this as well. As in “Is that the deadwood truth?” 4) have the deadwood on–to have at once’s mercy or a critical advantage over. This has many reference from 1850′s on, which would lead a writer to believe that the other definitions were used more often, at least in speech. “If you bring a knife to a gunfight, the gunowner has the deadwood over the knife owner.” I used this once or twice in The Wild Half : “Looked to me like Lilah had the deadwood on you”
For the next few weeks, I’m going to go off-alphabet in my slang to introduce the words and phrases we’ve in some of our books. This one was used in both of my western romances, The Wild One and The Wild Half. Susan Macatee used it in Erin’s Rebel.
Funeral: as in “none of your funeral”. from about 1854 on. a person’s business or concerns, often in reference to meddling. “What do you care? It ain’t none of your funeral” In the 19th century it developed into a more dismissive term, often referring to a perceived disaster.: “Hey, do what you want; it’s your funeral”.
This one floored me when I found it, because if feels so contemporary:
Bust a cap: fire a bullet, also bust caps. Engage in battle. There are two references, and both appear to be from the Civil War era, so it probably came from that period, and is something a Civil War soldier is most likely to use. Also, snap a cap.
blue, phrases—1) make a blue fist, screw up royally. 1834. There was only one reference, but it sounds like a very fun piece of slang
2)till all is blue, to the bitter end, 1806
blue— 1) the blues, at it’s earliest, blue devils, sadness, depressed,1807 through the end of the century. “Her leaving gave him the blues.” Sing the blues, however didn’t come around until the 20th century. Also in “when he left I started to feel blue”
2)straight-laced pupil, a prude. 1842, used, understandably, mostly in colleges and universities
3) a police officer, due to a blue uniform, 1844
4) a U.S. soldier, due to a blue uniform, 1848
5) a depressing or discouraging state as in, “The falling stock market made the economic picture look blue indeed
6) counterfeit, generally in terms of bad money, 1813
7) an intensifier, as in “What are you doing with that blue gun?” Personally, I could see it more in “blue blazes.” 1821
2) a business failure or collapse, 182o
3)to ruin or thrash, 1832—only one reference on this
4) to scold or berate, 1833. Many references throughout the century
5) to collapse or fail, particularly in business
blow in—1) spend freely or squander often in celebration or losing in gambling, 1880. Here’s the reference from the dictionary, which is far better than anything I could come up with: “N.O Lantern (Oct 20) When Davis has a dollar he’s dead bent on blowing it all in.” This feels to me like the precursor for blow it.
2) to arrive, 1882. “He blew in off the range”