Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Prose

For the New-York Magazine.

THE people of the United States are almost generally descended from Englishmen: he that proves therefore that the language of Englishmen (like the old fashioned Hebrew) was once that used by all the world, will add a considerable bolster to occidental vanity.

The venerable empire of China got its name from the following circumstance, if the memoirs of Fo-hung-fo are to be credited. Some thousand moons ago, one of its monarchs happened to be as great an epicure as any modern monarch need to be: he used to summon up his cook every morning after sipping his gin-feng beverage, and demand the bill of fare of the day. Among other viands, the cook once mentioned a chine of pork -- it happened not to be the king's favourite morsel, and in a voice of thunder he reiterated Chine-ha! -- China-ha was echoed from every nook of the palace -- from palace to the city -- from the city to the provinces -- and, finally ended in giving name to the greatest empire the sun ever illumined.

In the capital of this very country, a bevy of young girls took it in their heads to wear their conical bonnets uncommonly peaking - the reader at a blush sees whence came the name of Peking. Some authors, however, and they too of tolerable reputation, say, that one of the emperors of the dynasty of Chung-tchi, was so immoderately fond of pease, that he got the name of Pea-king, and gave it to the royal residence.

The city of Nan-kin, it is well known, took its name from one Nancy Keene, a trollop, who kept a gin-shop in Liverpool. Her business there growing dull, she tramped over to China, and set up the trade of brewing tea-toddy, in the town which now bears her name without having suffered the least corruption. -- How fickle is fortune! This vagabond slut has stamped her name upon one of the first cities of the world; while the great Columbia, with much ado, communicated his to the paltry mud heap of St. Kitts!

Two thousand three hundred and seventy years ago, there lived upon the east bank of the Irtish, a chubbed, fiery, high-mettled khan, of the name of Harry. His red-pepper temper procured him the nick-name of Tart-Harry. The appellation spread to his neighborhood -- to his dominions -- and, finally to one half of all Asia.

King James the first in a fit of titleing conferred the honour of knighthood upon a loin of beef; and succeeding monarchs have frequently dignified in a similar manner, masses of animated humanity not more respectable/ One of the ancient monarchs on the Malabar coast, in a frolic knighted an overgrown rat that rioted in his rice plantations: the whiskered gentleman got the name of Sir-rat! and the city of Surat perpetuates the ludicrous transaction.

One of the queens of Tunis was a mighty mincing, fastidious, prinky body, and thereby disgusted all her courtiers; who could not refrain frequently exclaiming that she was too-nice! -- and in that epithet gave name to a soverign state.

It is registered in the splendid history of Monotocambulus, that Hercules once undertook to rear a line of stone-fence at the foot of Mount Abyla. He had half a dozen picked cyclops from the summit of Etna to attend him. A fellow of his brawn scorned to piddle with pebbles. Nothing but the hugest fragments could suffice; and his brawling every minute, more-rock-ho! has given name to the important kingdom of Morocco. Few names have tramped down thro' thirty centuries so unmutilated as this.

That the aborigines of this western world once spoke only English is indubitable. The enormous father of rivers which bounds the Anglo-American empire, had its name from a certain fat landlady, who lived at the sign of the pot-lid and oven, at Batton-rouge. Her undeviating treat for every guest was a sea-pye, whether composed of the fillets of a roaring buffaloe, or the giblets of a tittering wren. She at length acquired the name of Mrs. Sea-pye. Shew me the etymologist, who will dare deny that Mississippi is not legitimately descended from this same fat landlady?

The renowned Pondiac's celebrated, biographical, critical, and historical seraps, mention that, near the river Miami, lived a pretty girl of the name of Amy, and the idol of every swain in her vicinity. These inamoratos never met but -- My Amy! -- My own Amy! -- My charming Amy! was in every mouth. The first exclamation predonimated, and Mi-a-mi will forever continue the name of this western stream.

It is well known that the Indians called the island of New-York Manhatten -- now, this is a palpable corruption of Man-hating; a nick-name given to a sterile old damsel, that scolded out her existence in a cabin which stood on the very ground now occupied by the City-hall.

New York Magazine or Literary Repository
Antiquity and Universality of the English Language
Vol. II No. IX; Sep 1791; p.515; by R


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