A Golden Arm by Mark Twain

chobalsim

Banned
India-Hindi
This is a question that could be answered after reading one short (funny) story by Mark Twain that I linked below. If you don't have time nor want to read it, you can skip this question. But if you like Mark Twain to read it or already know the story you could be my lifesaver!

On the platform I used to tell a negro ghost story that had a pause in front of the snapper on the end, and that pause was the most important thing in the whole story.

Here is the whole story.

The paragraph comes from Twain's comment right before "The Golden Arm" in "How to Tell a Story." I wonder why "The Golden Arm" is a negro ghost story pausing in front of the snapper?" Why negro ghost and why snapper(a kind of fish) although there's nothing about them in the story? BTW, negro could be sometimes offensive and sometimes not? How about here? (I hope this question is not offensive.)
 
  • JamesM

    Senior Member
    First, keep in mind that Mark Twain was writing 150 years ago when Negro was still a common term. The story is written in a dialect associated with blacks at the time; thus, a "negro" ghost story. The "snapper" is the punchline, the denouement, the final scary moment of the story designed to frighten the wits out of people.
     

    chobalsim

    Banned
    India-Hindi
    Thank you so much, JamesM.
    Then "snapper" is nothing to do with fish! But I wonder why in so many dictionaries (except only one) I can't find out the meaning "punchline" for(?) the word "snapper???"
     

    . 1

    Banned
    Australian Australia
    The snapper has been drawn even tighter as the tension grew then there was a slight pause giving the impression that danger would be averted and then snap the jaws of disaster slammed shut.

    There may be an allusion to an elastic band drawn as tight as it possibly could be before being allowed to snap and hurt the holder of the other end of the band.

    .,,
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Thank you so much, JamesM.
    Then "snapper" is nothing to do with fish! But I wonder why in so many dictionaries (except only one) I can't find out the meaning "punchline" for(?) the word "snapper???"
    I expect that's because, like chromo for chromolithograph, it's a word of Mark Twain's era that is simply no longer used. It looks like an extended sense of the following, from The Century Dictionary of 1895:

    snapper...n....

    (c) The cracker on the end of a whip-lash ; figuratively, a smart or caustic saying to wind up a speech or discourse.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sorry, chobalsim, I should have said the use of snapper was illustrated by MT, not defined. Here is the relevant OED definition:
    f. U.S. A word, sentence, verse, etc., used as a finishing touch or wind-up.
     
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