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battle hams

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Note: This entry was previously battle-hammed adj.
battle hams n pl [Etym unknown; attested also in 18th-cent Engl sources, one of which speaks of “cat or battle-hams” in ref to horses] Also battle-ham hips now chiefly among Black speakers; relic
Legs deformed in some way; hence adjs battle-hammed, battle-kneed having such legs. Note: In the early quots the meaning is most likely “cow-hocks” (in ref to horses) and “knock-knees” (in reference to people); in the later ones the ref may be to a combination of broad hips and knock-knees.
1727 N. Engl. Wkly Journal 11 Sept (DA), Ran-away from his Master. . . a young Negro Man-Servant, . . speaks pretty good English, has thick Lips, battle-ham’d, and goes something waddling. 1743 PA Gaz. (Philadelphia) 2 June [3]/3, [Advt:] Run away from Andrew Jolley, of Wilmington, an Apprentice Lad, . . about 16 Years old, of fair Complexion, and battle-knee’d. 1766 Ibid 15 May [4]/3 MD, [Advt:] Run away from his Bale, . . James Smith . . ; he is a short well set Fellow, somewhat battle kneed, down Look, and black Hair. Ibid 29 May [4]/2, [Advt:] A large black Gelding, . . Battle hammed, but low in Flesh, branded on the near Shoulder W. 1773 in 1983 Windley Runaway Slave 2.97 MD, [Advt:] Ran away from the Subscriber . . living in Calvert County, Two Country born Negro Men, . . one named Jacob, about Six Feet high, strait limbed, . . ; the other named Marlborough, about Five Feet Ten Inches high, knock kneed or battle hammed. 1804 W. Star (Stockbridge MA) 7 Jan 1/3, [Advt:] Taken up by the subscriber a light bay Mare, . . hump back, battle hams, grayish legs, and shod all round. 1928 in 2009 Calt Barrelhouse Words 14 [Black], She got a great big nose, she got crooked toes / I love my Tillie Lee / She got big thick lips, she got battle-ham hips / Nice as she can be—William Moore, “Tillie Lee,” 1928. 1942 Hurston Dust Tracks 143 FL, It is an everyday affair to hear somebody called a mullet-headed, mule-eared, wall-eyed, . . butt-sprung, battle-hammed, knock-kneed, . . unmated so-and-so! 1942 Hurston in Amer. Mercury 55.94 NYC [Glossary of Harlem slang], Battle-hammed—badly formed about the hips. 1968 DARE (Qu. X38, Joking names for unusually big or clumsy feet) Inf NC49, Battle-hammed [hæmdᵻd]—knocks ankles.
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