I'm not a native English speaker and cannot get the full meaning of this part of Artemus Ward's work named "On Forts". I have highlighted difficult words:

It is rarely seldum that I seek consolation in the Flowin Bole. But in a certain town in Injianny in the Faul of 18—, my orgin grinder got sick with the fever & died. I never felt so ashamed in my life, & I thowt I’d hist in a few swallers of suthin strengthnin. Konsequents was I histid in so much I dident zackly know whare bowts I was. I turned my livin wild beasts of Pray loose into the streets and spilt all my wax wurks. I then bet I cood play hoss. So I hitched myself to a Kanawl bote, there bein two other hosses hicht on also, one behind and anuther ahead of me. The driver hollerd for us to git up, and we did. But the hosses bein onused to sich a arrangemunt begun to kick & squeal and rair up. Konsequents was I was kickt vilently in the stummuck & back, and presuntly I fownd myself in the Kanawl with the other hosses, kickin & yellin like a tribe of Cusscaroorus savvijis. I was rescood, & as I was bein carrid to the tavern on a hemlock Bored I sed in a feeble voise, “Boys, playin hoss isn’t my Fort.”

I will be pleased if someone translates the difficult informal words into formal English.

1 Answer 1


'Flowin bole'
Literally 'Flowing bowl', but figuratively 'alcohol', as in the traditional folksong 'Come Landlord Fill the Flowing Bowl'.

Come landlord fill the flowing bowl
Until it doth run over.
Come landlord fill the flowing bowl
Until it doth run over.
For tonight we'll merry merry be
For tonight we'll merry merry be
For tonight we'll merry merry be
Tomorrow we'll be sober.

The meaning of the phrase 'seek consolation in the Flowin Bole' is therefore 'take comfort in alcohol'.

'a certain town in Injianny'
'Injianny' is the State of 'Indiana'. In 'Walden West' by August Derlleth we read:

He had come to Sac Prairie from Indiana, and he never ceased to sing the praises of "Injianny, where I come from."

'my orgin grinder got sick with the fever & died'
'Orgin grinder' is 'Organ Grinder', an operator of a 'barrel' or 'Street' organ. Per wikipedia:

In many towns in Europe the barrel street organ was not just a solo performer, but used by a group of musicians as part of a story-telling street act, together with brightly coloured posters and sing-along sessions. In New York City, the massive influx of Italian immigrants led to a situation where, by 1880, nearly one in 20 Italian men in certain areas were organ grinders.

As a quote I include further down shows, the narrator's character runs a Traveling Show, so presumably the barrel organ and its grinder had a role in drumming up trade to the show.

I struggled a little with this one, but believe it to be an 'eye-dialect' spelling of 'hoisted', which Merriam-Webster confirms as a synonym for 'drunk', which is the meaning suggested by the context.

"Wax wurks"
Simply "wax works", ie wax models of famous people which, in his drunkenness he damaged. I think 'spilt' here is eye-dialect for 'spoiled' rather than standard English 'spilt' meaning 'spilled'.
In the book From Traveling Show to Vaudeville:Theatrical Spectacle in America, 1830–1910 we read:

Artemus Ward assumed the showman’s persona for his stage “lectures” and his humorous essays on “the show bizness” in Vanity Fair. “I’m travelin with a tent, which is better nor [than] hirin hauls,” Ward announced to his readers in 1857. “ my show konsists of a serious of waxworks, snakes and a paneramy kalled a Grand Movin Diarea of the War in the Crymear, komic songs and the Cangeroo.”

Hoss- Horse

hicht- Hitched

hemlock Bored
'Hemlock board' ie a plank of wood from the 'Tsuga' family of trees, most likely Tsuga canadensis, (Eastern Hemlock) or Tsuga heterophylla (Western Hemlock).

  • 2
    Great answer! Nice and comprehensive.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 10, 2020 at 14:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.