Interestingly, the subsequent “to check out” was not used until the 20th century.
Cheap-John: 1) 1855–A store that sells cheap wares or a place that offers cheap services.
2) 1866. Cheap wares and or of poor quality “Sam, not knowing good quality, thought he was the height of fashion in his cheap-John suit.”
Cheap Johnny: 1866–Someone who sells or deals in low quality, inexpensive goods or services
Chaw–1)a trick, 1842. Used synonomously with gum. “Don’t pay any attention to all the flattery, his offer is still all a chaw.”
2)a yokel, 1856
3)as a verb, to defeat or trounce, often as to chaw up and spit out. 1835 and on, with many references. “After listening to a litany of curses from Jeremiah, Sam was fit to chaw him up and spit him out.”
Naturally, it came to be used as
4)chawed–to have been entirely defeated
5)to scold–1858. Generally chaw out. When I was growing up we used “chewed out” in the same way.
chatterbox–a person who talks incessantly. As early as 1774 but appears more regularly after 1814. I don’t see many references to this one either in Victorian times or in the 20th century, but given that it is now standard English, I expect it was used more often than proven by references.
chain lightning–It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about slang for alcohol, if we’ve talked about it at all. This is for cheap or potent whisky or rum. I imagine it’d work for all alcohol, as long as it’s cheap and strong. 1837 and throughout the century.
century–a hundred dollar bill. This is interesting. I remember trying to find “grand” for the gambler hero in The Wild One, but that term wasn’t used in reference to 1,000 until the 20th century. However, I could have used century. No worries, I will use it in the future! From 1859. “Feeling lucky, I threw half a century into the pot.” The term “century note” however, was not used until 1908.
cave–I think most people have heard of this, but it’s worth noting that it started in Victorian American. 1) To surrender, yield, often as “cave in”. I’ve actually used this often in my books. It’s from 1844 on and there are a bunch of references, which means it was probably used frequently. From my book The Wild Half, “He pretty much figured that if Jim would take it easy and not press Melinda too hard, she’d cave in no time.” 2)to collapse. 1861 and on. 3)to die. 1863, used as “cave in” but there is only one reference for this specific definition.
catch–to understand the meaning of something. I was kind of surprised that this only goes back to 1881. “You catch what I’m saying, right?” Frustratingly for me, I see no references to “catching my drift” which doesn’t feel like a modern phrase to me, but it isn’t in the dictionary at all. There is, however, to “catch on” which is similar. Again, it’s not used until 1882. There are several references at that point, so I believe it might have been used verbally (as opposed to the written word) several years, perhaps even a decade, earlier.
On the other hand we do have:
catch-it–to punished or get into trouble. This goes back as far as 1821, and was used through the century. There are no references to “catch hell” at all, but I imagine it would have been used. Kind of blows my mind because that does seem modern to me. Just goes to show how wrong we can be, I guess.
A second meaning, is to be killed, 1821. The next reference for this definition isn’t until 1883, so I’m not quite sure if it would have been used in the Civil War time period, or even out West.