In Chapter 35, we read this exchange between Tom and Huck:

"All right, Huck, it's a whiz! Come along, old chap, and I'll ask the widow to let up on you a little, Huck."

"Will you, Tom--now will you? That's good. If she'll let up on some of the roughest things, I'll smoke private and cuss private, and crowd through or bust. When you going to start the gang and turn robbers?"

I would like to know the meaning of the phrase, "crowd through or bust."

  • 2
    Hello and welcome to EL&U. We like questions to be self-contained. Please edit to include the paragraph containing the phrase you're asking about, and include a link to it (if available). Also, each 'question post' should only contain one question. Keep whichever of the two that you're more puzzled by, and include notes about what you've found so far, as well as point to what exactly still remains puzzling. This helps the community to craft more helpful answers.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 22, 2018 at 10:59
  • I've tried to help you out by adding a link and some surrounding text for your primary question. As for the secondary, I think you are confusing released with deceased. Deceased means dead, but released means set free (as from incarceration or slavery). If you are still not sure, please do as Lawrence suggests, delete the last part of this question, and create a new one just for that.
    – cobaltduck
    Aug 22, 2018 at 11:13
  • @cobaltduck No, it was actually understood correctly in context—as seen in the follow-up question. ;) Aug 22, 2018 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


In this exchange, Tom and Huck are speaking to each other using youth slang of the 1860s, so it is understandable that when reading it 150 years later, some things don't translate. That said, I believe Huck has combined two idioms that are still in some use today.

For the first part, crowd through, I find in Idioms by Free Dictionary:

To push or force one's way through a certain thing or area.

This is most commonly used in a sense of concrete, physical obstacles, i.e. to crowd through the long lines at the shopping center during the holidays. Here, Huck seems to be thinking of more abstract obstacles, i.e. suppressing his urges to cuss and smoke whenever and wherever.

For the second part, or bust, I turn to Merriam-Webster:

informal —used to say that one will do everything possible to get somewhere

This idiom was familiar in America just a few decades ago, in the form of vacationers painting their destination on the back window of the car, for example, "Grand Canyon or Bust." This let all other cars passing by know where the occupants were going, and that they were not going to let anything stop them.

Putting it together, I might paraphrase Huck's portion of the dialog like so:

Ok, Tom, if you keep your promise to prevent the widow from harassing me about every little thing I do wrong, then I will in turn promise to not do quite as many things wrong (as least not in public). Further, I will make every possible effort, forcing myself to as necessary, to stay out of trouble. Now, about this gang idea of yours...


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