I had the pleasure of sharing a beer and a chat with Bill Bryson when I introduced him at a function in Brisbane late last year, and have his address, so I'm going to forward a query posted in Word for Word Forum by Mike Gibb .
Mike wrote: "In Bill Bryson's excellent book Mother Tongue, he talks about shifts in meaning in various words. As he discusses words which were very rude and which are no longer understood, or no longer rude, he mentions zooterkins. I cannot find this in the full Oxford, or a large Websters. I think he's pulling our legs... Can anyone confirm the existence of this word?"
Zooterkins doesn't get a mention either in Geoffrey Hughes's wonderful book Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English, which lists hundreds of obsolete words. But it could be in the same mould as zounds (originally God's wounds) or gadzooks (originally God's hooks).
Forsooth, I will keep looking, but will also pass this to Bill because I have to write to him on another matter anyway.
UPDATE, from Edward Luhn : "I read the bit about zooterkins on your Word for Word Web site. I think the elusive word is sooterkin. Webster's defines it as "a kind of false birth reputed to be produced by Dutch women from sitting over their stoves," then with a little more sanity, goes on to say "hence, any abortive project," i.e., anything haphazardly started and quickly abandoned.
"I first heard the word applied to the rubber cement (or whatever that stuff is) that holds the top edge of a notepad together, and that you pick off as you use up the leaves of the notepad. I have never found any written usage of the word in that sense. (In fact, I've never seen the word other than in an unabridged dictionary.)"
Word for Word articles