they'll put me on the county


Senior Member
English - England
I came accross term in "Of Mice and Men" that I am not familiar with.
Candy, the aged cripple, says something along the lines of "Just as soon as I can't swamp out no more bunk houses they'll put me on the county". What is putting someone on the county? Seeing as the book is set in the middle of the Great Depression I am presuming that there was no social security (perhaps provided by the county), so what does this mean?
Thanks in advance for your answers.
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    Hello Smithy73,

    I haven't read that book in decades, so I'll just make a guess: it was a reference to some local public welfare, possibly including residence in a country run home for the poor. Social Security in the U.S. came a bit later (1935), but there were local providers of aid to the poor since pre-revolutionary days. I once glanced at the town meeting minutes for my tiny village from the late 1700s, and was pleasantly surprised to see a small sum set aside from taxes for "aid to the poor".


    Senior Member
    That would be a fair assumption. They were of the same level of luxury as the work houses in England.

    This one, in Southwell, was pretty grim. I expect the U.S. versions were no merrier.

    Here is a description of one in Virginia.

    The Washtenaw County Poor House, on Washtenaw near Platt, housed a variety of unfortunates, from the insane, handicapped, retarded, and injured, to the just plain down on their luck. An 1830 Michigan law required each county to have a poor house.

    Read more in The County Poor House by Grace Shackman.
    Last edited:


    New Member
    I agree with the previous participants about "on the county" but what does "swamp out "mean in this context? Is it something like keeping the bunkhouse in order ?


    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Cleaning the floor by dumping a bucket of water on it, turning the bunkhouse into a figurative swamp.

    A previous thread:
    Hello there, please, from Of Mice and Men:

    The swamper watched him until he was settled. "I wasn't listenin'. I was jus' standin' in the shade a minute scratchin' my dog. I jus' now finished swampin' out the wash house."

    What does that mean?

    Thanks a lot!
    He probably meant he had just finished cleaning out the wash house. It's probably derived from this meaning of swamp (WR dictionary): to flood or drench, esp. with water.
    < Previous | Next >