Postcards And Slang – I’m Out Of The Swim.

Even though most messages sent via postcard are fairly standard updates about the weather and/or places of interest, it often feels a bit voyeuristic to be transcribing these messages from the more or less distant past.  Every once in a while I come across a card that has to be shared because it presents some pretty funny content.

Grady, the sender of the card below, offset his slang phrases in quotations which made it easy for me to notice them more than 95 years after the card was mailed.  He writes, “Howdy! Why didn’t you come to Charlotte today? There’s “some time” going on here and I’m “in the swim.” May I write to you tomorrow? Grady.

When I showed some co-workers my find, we immediately began looking for definitions and references to the phrase “in the swim.”

Like any good librarian, my boss checked the OED.  Sure enough, “in the swim” has been in use since 1869, meaning, “the current of affairs or events, esp. the popular current in business, fashion, or opinion; chiefly in phr. in (out of) the swim.”

And as for “some time?”  That could mean any number of things, and we’ll leave that to your own imagination of what the movers and shakers of 1910s Charlotte were doing.

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