I smokes 'em all out


Senior Member
Hi folks, this is cited from Redburn by Hermann Melville (1849)*
Question: “Does I smokes 'em all out” mean that I kill them or only keep them away?

"He, he, my boy," then said he--"I don't never have any bugs here, I tell ye: I smokes 'em all out every night before going to bed."
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    I think 'smoking out' bugs generally makes them run away because, if they don't escape in time, it will kill them.


    Senior Member
    USA English
    The expression is in our dictionary:
    smoke out:
    • to drive from a place of hiding by the use of smoke:[~ + out + object]to smoke out the raccoons.[~ + object + out]to smoke the animals out.
    • to force into public knowledge;
      expose:[~ + out + object]to smoke out the traitors.[~ + object + out]to smoke the traitors out with a clever trick.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    I think it's meant partly as a joke. Does the speaker smoke a lot of tobacco, either with a pipe or as cigarettes or cigars? "Smoking out" bugs is definitely a way to get rid of them, but you would normally use woodsmoke. The speaker, though, seems to be a heavy smoker and he jokes that this is his way of keeping bugs out of his dwelling.

    By the way, "I smokes 'em all out" is a dialect way of saying "I smoke them all out."
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