Friday, November 16, 2007

Such Language!

One of the things I love about nineteenth century England is the language. A young gentleman might be spatter his speech with “cant,” words patterned after those used by coachmen. Servants might talk with accents that remind you of the streets of Liverpool or Dublin. But even the more proper words spoken by young ladies were interesting. Here are a few tidbits:

Reticule: sounds like something the doctor might take out to examine you, doesn’t it? It’s a handbag closed with a draw string. There’s some speculation that the name itself derived from the word ridicule, as in “How can you possibly stuff so much into that little thing?”

Morone: a fancy pasta? No, a peony red color popular in fabric around 1811.

Nonpareil: A kind of sugar-free candy? Sort of — it was a gentlemen who was without equal (you know, really yummy!)

Curricle: a copper-colored seashell? No, a two-wheeled, open carriage, just right for two passengers.

Tool: something your dad has to go buy because he can never find the right one for the job? Perhaps, but also what you did in that lovely curricle built for two, by driving about.

Spencer: Princess Di’s maiden name? Well, yes, but also a short jacket (sort of like a shrug today). Legend has it that an ancestor of Princess Di, Earl Spencer, was standing before the fire and singed off his coat tails. He liked the short coat so well he brought it into style, first for men and later for the ladies.

Maggot: Ew, those squiggly little worms. In the nineteenth century, it also meant a whim, a sudden idea, as in “What maggot’s gotten into your brain that you’re staring at that handsome fellow so fixedly?”

Now, if you would be so good as to pardon me, I’ve gotten a maggot in my head to go fetch my reticule and morone Spencer and tool through the park in my curricle with my favorite nonpareil. Ta!

Oh, and if you get a moment on Sunday, November 18, stop by Risky Regencies and visit us! Marissa and I will be guest blogging.


Diane Gaston said...

Regina! I loved your definitions!

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Diane!