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It’s Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day, Dadburn It!

January 24, 2017

Today is one of those silly holidays we all love. Sort of like how September 19 is “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” make sure to talk like an old timey prospector each January 24. Here’s a primer.
Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day

Dadburn

An all-purpose curse word.

Consarn

It meant both the entirety of something, as well as an all-purpose curse word.

Hornswoggled

Got embarrassed.

Dumfungled

If a claim is dumfungled, it’s been all used up—no gold to be found.

Bonanza

A productive mine that gave lots of gold.

Borrasca

A mine that was a total dud—no gold to be found.

Underground savages

Underground gold mines.

Grubstake

A claim could only be, well, claimed, if somebody was working it. That meant a lot of wealthy investors from the East Coast would buy a claim out in California and hire a laborer to dig for gold on it. Workers were paid for their efforts in food (grub) and a share (stake) of any gold they discovered.

Baby Buggy

A wheelbarrow.

Groundhog

A hand-truck used to move ore out of mines.

Tick Hole

A promising cavity in a rock formation—a half-dug hole, in other words.

Muck

To dig with a shovel.

Powder Monkey

No mucking for these guys—this phrase describes a miner who made holes quickly with the use of dynamite.

Cackler

A lazy gold miner.

Johnny Newcome

A miner new to the camp.

Old Pills

A mining camp doctor.

Sizzler

The mining camp cook.

Blackjack and Sow Bosom

These two slang terms refer to breakfast foods: coffee and bacon, respectively.

Strawberries

Beans.

Nosebag

A lunch break. (What was on the menu? Probably strawberries.)

Red

Gold.
There are a bunch of other gold mining terms that are a lot more familiar, because they’re still in use today. For example:

  • Paydirt. As in “hitting paydirt.” Today it means “to be successful,” but in the Gold Rush it meant land that was rich in gold.
  • Panned out. Miners would sift through dirt to find bits of gold with a mining pan. If they found any, then things had “panned out.”
  • Flash in the pan. If during that panning period, a miner spotted something shiny that ultimately turned out to be nothing, or just a small bit of gold, it was a “flash in the pan.”
  • Stake a claim. A claim was a section of land you claimed as your own or purchased in which to look for gold. They were marked with wooden stakes, and when you got there, you had to stake your claim.
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