1940’s slang

bubblingspringAlthough I’m still carefully opening the letters, scanning and filing and recording the letter data, I read snippets while I’m waiting for a page to scan, and I came across an interesting passage the other day about Doris, Walt’s younger sister. It’s especially meaningful, coming just after her recent death, and I wish I had read it before the funeral and could have relayed it to her daughter, Becky.

There was no particular context, except that he was talking to Ruth about dealing with his family and how she did not need to feel obligated to see them all the time. He said this about Doris, and it was certainly true, if i understand the entire meaning:

That Doris is a little “smoker” isn’t she?–Life bubbles out of her like a spring.

What in the world does he mean by smoker, clearly a slang metaphor in quotation marks? I mean, they all smoked cigarettes and I know he doesn’t mean that. In combination with the next sentence, with its more understandable simile, I’m sure smoker must be a kind of slang for an energetic or fun person, but I don’t know for sure. A cursory Google search does not bring up any good slang resources, or at least one that references smoker, so slang could turn out to be one of the puzzles I run into.

Doris definitely gave off a happy and energetic personality. I did not get those genes; I got the contemplative, introvert, contrarian ones, but it takes all kinds to make a family.


One thought on “1940’s slang

  1. Barbara

    I found one meaning of “smoker” in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) dating to 1812 and meaning someone who teases or “jests at” others. Maybe Walt did mean that she liked playing jokes on people.

    There is another slang reference dating to 1866 meaning “one who blushes,” which doesn’t seem quite right in the context, but I wonder how the first reference might have morphed into this later one.


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