The American West had tons of amazing slang and terminology. I was (and still am) searching for the meaning of the phrase “copper the ace” that Mark Twain used when describing Sacramento, “the city of saloons.” I haven’t found and explanation for that exact turn of phrase anywhere yet, but “to copper” seems to mean “to gamble,” so I think it means to play poker.
And as I was searching, I inevitably came across some great resources, and there is a very helpful alphabetical guide to slang of the American West available for the 1860s-1880s.
This is what the author had to say:
Part of the charm and character of the Old West, as viewed through our modern eyes, has always been the colorful speech of those days. Books have borrowed it, movies have parodied it, and children gallop around on stick horses mimicking it. Yet what DID those people really have to say? If we could listen to Great-great Grandpa, what might come out of his mouth? Of course, Grandma might have gone after him with a broom, for some of it, but for those who write, or those who simply possess inquiring minds, it seems a gathering of a few words or phrases would not be amiss…
Featured image is Rob Hutch
UPDATE: Within a few hours of posting this, someone came through with a definition for “copper the ace.” She says: It comes from 5 card stud where they lay the one card face up and the rest face down. If you think you have a good hand and don’t want any cards you would put the coins, “copper”, on the face up card.