In Reply to: Blue devils posted by Victoria S Dennis on February 07, 2010 at 08:25:
: : Thought this might be of interest. I am transcribing a 1870 letter from a Kentucky native writing from Iowa to the folks back home. The term "blue devils" was used.
: : Previous discussion:
: : http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/28/messages/371.html
: That's not surprising. "Blue devil" meaning "despondency, depression of spirits, hypochondriac melancholy" has been used in English at least since the 1780s, and in the sense "the apparitions seen in delirium tremens" since the 1820s. In which sense was it used in your letter? (VSD)
Melancholy. Lizzie Bundy, a young wife and mother living in Ames, Iowa, is writing to her uncle Robert Hitch and his family. The weather is depressing in Iowa. Mrs. Bundy wants to come home to Kentucky for a visit. "I know Uncle Bob will dispel the 'blue devils' with his overflowing stock of fun and wit that he keeps constantly on hand." I have several old letters that I am scanning and putting online -- both original images and a transcript. Now I am working on one written in 1877. The writer -- William B. Vickers -- is in Colorado, writing "home" to Mr. Hitch in Kentucky. Mr. Vickers talks about family members who have moved to California. He uses the word "suburb" to refer to an area close to San Jose and Santa Clara. I thought that was a modern word. But Merriam-Webster says it dates to the 14th century. Interesting, I thought. http://wva.homestead.com/Kentucky-In-Laws.html