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Early American Fiction Collection


Early American Fiction and the Oxford English Dictionary


Early American fiction tends to be underrepresented in the Oxford English Dictionary, which makes frequent use of literary quotations. In particular, the OED includes the first known usage of a word in each entry; however, a comparison search of both the OED and EAF databases reveals that EAF contains earlier uses of certain words. The following illustrates a sample of word searches across both databases. Not only does the EAF collection document earlier usage of these words, but it also provides a picture of the influence authors had upon each other in the early American literary community.


Early American Fiction

Oxford English Dictionary

"A-plenty" James Fenimore Cooper James Fenimore Cooper
The Spy (1821) The Water-Witch (1830)
The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

"Blood-relatives" James Fenimore Cooper Nathaniel Hawthorne
Afloat and Ashore (1844) Our Home (1863)

"Criss-cross" Catharine Maria Sedgwick Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Le Bossu" from Tales of the Glauber-Spa (1832) Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
William Gilmore Simms
Beauchampe (1842)

"Down country" Catharine Maria Sedgwick James Fenimore Cooper
A New-England Tale (1822) The Pioneers (1823)

"Eddying" James Fenimore Cooper Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Pioneers (1823) Twice-told Tale (1851)
Lydia Maria Child
Hobomok (1824)
James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans (1826)

"Point-blanker" James Fenimore Cooper James Fenimore Cooper
The Pilot (1823) The Water-Witch (1831)

"Shodden" James Fenimore Cooper James Fenimore Cooper
The Last of the Mohicans (1826) The Borderers: a Tale (1829)

"Spotlessly" James Fenimore Cooper Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Water-Witch (1831) The Blithedale Romance (1852)

"Unbenignant" Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter (1850) English Notebooks (1856)

"Unreckonable" Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mosses from an Old Manse (1850) House of Seven Gables (1851)

Early American Fiction

Oxford English Dictionary

A-plenty "Well," said Betty, "it's but little I drame, any way -- jist keep an asy conscience and a plenty of the stuff in yee, and yee'l sleep like an infant." James Fenimore Cooper, The Spy (1821) "A sailor's blessing on you-fair winds and a plenty." James Fenimore Cooper, The Water-Witch (1830)
"You have commenced the business of a warrior early, my brave boy, and are likely to bear a plenty of honourable scars to your grave." James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
Blood-relatives "Alone you are not, Miles, and never can be while I and my dear father live. We are certainly nearer to you than any that now remain among your blood relatives! " James Fenimore Cooper, Afloat and Ashore (1844) "They..announced themselves as blood-relatives of Queen Victoria." Nathaniel Hawthorne, Our Home I. 26 (1863)
Criss-cross "Well, he scrawled and scribbled, and spoiled parchment enough for one of my lady's heartfull criss-crossed letters to you, my lord." Catharine Maria Sedgwick, "Le Bossu" from Tales of the Glauber-Spa (1832) "His puckered forehead unravels its entanglement of criss-cross wrinkles." Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses (1846)
"When I asked you to stop, and hear me play 'cross-possum,' and 'criss-cross,' off you went without giving me a civil answer." William Gilmore Simms, Beauchampe (1842)
Down Country "The father only seemed insensible, and contented himself with remarking, with his usual happy nonchalance, that he "guessed it was easier getting money down country, than it was up on the hills." Catharine Maria Sedgwick, A New-England Tale (1822) "To them the road that made the most rapid approaches to the condition of the old, or, as they expressed it, the down countries, was the most pleasant." James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers (1823)
Eddying " ...but, unfortunately, there was a collection of the tops of trees, old and dried, which lay directly across their course; and, at the very moment when both had thought their safety insured, an eddying of the warm currents of the air swept a forked tongue of flame across the pile... " James Fenimore Cooper, The Pioneers (1823) "The eddying wind has kept them [the roofs] bare at the bleak corners." Nathaniel Hawthorne, Twice-Told Tale (1837)
"But to them who are yet given to the pride of prelacy, and the abomination of common prayer, and likewise to them who are weather-waft up and down with every eddying wind of every new doctrine... " Lydia Maria Child, Hobomok (1824)
"In the mean time, the scout drew a canoe of bark from its place of concealment beneath some low bushes, whose branches were waving with the eddyings of the current... "James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
Point-blanker " ...such a point-blanker would have torn off a streak of our wales, outboard, and not even left the marines time to say a prayer! tend bow there!" James Fenimore Cooper, The Pilot (1823) "Run in the quoin, and..give her a point-blanker!' said the gruff old seaman... 'None of your geometry calculations for me!'" James Fenimore Cooper, The Water-Witch (1830)
Shodden "Put a shodden hoof on the moccasin of a red-skin, and if his rifle be once emptied, he will never stop to load it again." James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans (1826) "His beast hath had a shodden hoof." James Fenimore Cooper, The Borderers: a Tale (1829)
Spotlessly "He wore a short pea-jacket, cut tight and tastefully; a little, low, and rakish cap, and full bell-mouthed trowsers, all in a spotlessly white duck;" James Fenimore Cooper, The Water-Witch (1831) "Toadstools,..some spotlessly white." Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance (1852)
Unbenignant "Thus, the Puritan elders, in their black cloaks, starched bands, and steeple-crowned hats, smiled not unbenignantly at the clamor and rude deportment of these jolly seafaring men;" Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter (1850) "A thoughtful..and not unbenignant face." Nathaniel Hawthorne, English Notebooks (1856)
Unreckonable "The most ordinary wish, that was written down with wearisome recurrence, was, of course, for wealth, wealth, wealth, in sums from a few shillings up to unreckonable thousands." Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse (1850) "An uncle..might..make her the ultimate heiress of his unreckonable riches." Nathaniel Hawthorne, House of Seven Gables (1851)