The Acquisitions Table: “U.C., or, How to Keep Sharp in Dull Times”

As we celebrate the holiday season it’s also good to be mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves.  2009 has no monopoly on hard times, as Curator of Books David Whitesell’s account of a recently acquired 1873 pamphlet shows.  This very curious little item also carries a mystery in its title, U.C. There is nothing in the pamphlet to suggest what “U.C” stands for.  We welcome your suggestions.

Hyde, Walter. U. C., or How to keep sharp in dull times. New York: Yorkville Monitor, 158 86th Street, 1873.

Stock market crashes and bank failures? Yes, 1873 was a very bad year for the American economy. After serious but unspecified business reversals, Walter Hyde tried to make ends meet as a knife sharpener on New York’s Upper East Side. He also produced this unrecorded example of mendicant literature: a small pamphlet of his verse reflections on the times, with frequent references to sharpening and grinding:

For I have been rich;–UC

Am now in the ditch,

And trying to keep my poise.

And as I go

I sharpen so,

That the angry hardened steel,

Becomes sharp as wit,

By the flying grit,

And illustrates how I feel.

(Purchased from Ian Brabner at the RBMS Preconference Book Fair, Charlottesville, VA.)

2 thoughts on “The Acquisitions Table: “U.C., or, How to Keep Sharp in Dull Times”

  1. Tim

    Wonderful. Might “U.C.” be an initialism for “you see,” part of the 19th-century fad of using abbreviations in this way, of which “O.K.” is the only modern survivor? See Allen Walker Read, “The First Stage in the History of ‘O.K.’,” American Speech 38:1 (Feb. 1963), pp. 5-27, and his other articles about “O.K.” Read tracked down several dozen examples of this including d.l.e.c. (do let ’em come), n.g. (no go), and d.u. (done up). 1873 is a bit late for this though.

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  2. Mr_ Punch

    My thought is the same as Tim’s initial point: U.C. = “you see.” But that’s not quite the same as his other examples, which are initials — this is more “2nice2B4got” than “SWALCAKWS.”

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