Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Toad-eaters and Chicken Nabobs: More Slang!

All right, it's official--BETRAYING SEASON will be following up Bewitching Season next spring. Thank you so much to all of you who wrote in with your suggestions and votes for the perfect title. And the winner of a Betraying Season ARC next fall? Tia Nevitt! Tia, drop me a note via my website with your address.

In the meanwhile, I've found you some more marvelous 19th century slang...with some particularly amusing terms. Have fun!

History of the Four Kings: A deck of playing cards. (“My cousin Freddy is up at Oxford, but Uncle says that considering the money he constantly asks for, all he seems to be studying is the History of the Four Kings.”)

Chicken Nabob: One returned from India with only a moderate fortune, as opposed to the enormous wealth some came back to England with. (“Anne’s Papa won't let Mr. Algernon pay his addresses to her, but really, being a chicken nabob's wife is better than being a toad eater any day!")

Toad eater: A poor female relation or impoverished gentlewoman hired as a paid companion, frequently the butt of unpleasant humor and practical jokes by less charitable members of the household.

Watery-headed: Apt to frequently cry. ("And of course, now Anne is pining for her chicken nabob and is completely watery-headed, especially when boiled fowl is served at luncheon.")

Whipt syllabub: Flimsy conversation or argument, with little sense or meaning. (“I find it impossible to believe Georgiana’s old governess called her brilliant in the schoolroom—now that she’s out in society, all she can speak is whipt syllabub. Perhaps the young men find it less intimidating than Greek epigrams.”)

Beau Trap: I love this one from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: “A loose stone in a pavement, under which water lodges, and on being trod upon, squirts it up, to the great damage of white stockings.” Who'd have thought there was a name for this?

And I've saved the best for last:

Scandal Broth: Tea. Also called Cat Lap.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Help Me Name My Next Book!

We're doing something a little different from our usual exploration of history today...instead of talking about bad boys and 19th century slang, we're going to talk about book titles. More specifically, we're going to talk about what to name my next book, due out next spring from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Book titles are important. They can make people browsing in bookstores stop and pick up a book, or make them ignore it completely. They have to stand for the story and give an idea of what goes on in the book without giving everything away. And you know what else? They can be dreadfully difficult to come up with.

So I'm going to give you a brief "jacket copy" type description of my next book, and then a list of possible titles. Does one of them seem perfect to you? Or can you think of something completely different that isn't on the list? Let me know in the comments section...all commenters will be entered in a drawing to receive an advance reading copy of the new book some time late this fall (don't worry, I won't forget!)...and of course I'll post here as soon as the final name is decided on.

And so...


Penelope Leland has come to Ireland to study magic and prove to herself that she's as good a witch as her twin sister Persy. But when Niall Keating begins to pay her court, she can’t help being distracted from her studies. Especially when she learns that the handsome young nobleman is reputedly an illegitimate cousin of the new young Queen Victoria, her friend and idol, whom her sister saved from an ambitious wizard’s control spell the year before.

Niall Keating has strict orders from his sorceress mother Lady Keating: to make young Miss Leland fall in love with him so that she can be convinced to use her magical powers to help reconcile him to his true father, the Duke of Cumberland, Queen Victoria’s uncle. Niall is delighted to comply until he discovers his mother’s true aim: to assassinate Queen Victoria by magic and put Niall’s father on the throne of England.

Penelope is thrilled when Lady Keating reveals her powers and offers to tutor her in magic. But Niall has fallen deeply in love with the lovely young woman. Even if he halts his mother’s evil plans, will Penelope be able to forgive him for trying to seduce her into a plot against her beloved queen? And what will Pen discover about Irish magic and the mysterious Triple Goddess whom Lady Keating serves?

THE (Possible) TITLES, in alphabetical order:

Betraying Season


Maiden Voyage


The Queen's Maiden

Twice Bewitched

Good luck! I'll take comments through next Monday night (July 28). And have fun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nineteenth Century Bad Boys Part III: The King of Bad Boys

The nineteenth century had some pretty memorable bad boys. Appropriately enough, the king of them all was, in fact, a king--Albert Edward (called Bertie by his family), who reigned in the United Kingdom from 1901 to 1911 as Edward VII. I mean, when a recent biography of his earlier years is titled Edward the Caresser (subtitled “The Playboy Prince Who Became Edward VII”, by Stanley Weintraub, The Free Press, 2001) you KNOW he must have been one very Bad Boy indeed.

It seems at first glance ironic that the uber-bad boy of the century should have been the eldest son of Queen Victoria, who remains such a symbol of prudishness to this day. But don’t forget what we discussed in some of the earlier posts here--that in her first two years as queen, Victoria was a total party princess like many of her Hanoverian forebears, dancing at balls till sunrise every chance she could. It wasn't until she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, who hated staying up much later than 9:30 pm, that she changed her ways.

Bad Boy Bertie was born November 9, 1841, eleven months after his sister Vicky and not even two years after his parents married. Of course the country went wild at the thought of having a male heir (there were still sinister rumors circulating that the Duke of Cumberland, Victoria’s uncle, was plotting against her to seize the throne if she had no heirs). As befitted the heir to the most powerful nation in the world, little Bertie’s upbringing and education were planned down to microscopic levels by his parents, who were determined to make a paragon of the future king.

Unfortunately, Bertie had other ideas. He was probably dyslexic and had other learning disabilities which made sitting down and learning for hours each day totally hellish…and which earned him punishments and stern lectures from mom and dad. He was also rather homely--weak-chinned, short, and with over-prominent eyes--taking after his mother rather than his handsome father (much to Victoria’s dismay). Had he been born the son of a country squire, none of this would have much mattered…but his parents’ extreme expectations of him meant that poor Bertie was never good enough.

So Bertie was crammed with everything from mathematics to military and legal history, showing proficiency (and then not much) only in foreign languages and dancing and deportment. As his father wrote of him, "Bertie has a remarkable social talent.... But usually his intellect is of no more use than a pistol packed in the bottom of a trunk if one were attacked in the robber-infested Apennines." Nevertheless, he was sent on trips around Europe and then to be lectured at at Oxford University. A tour of America was shoehorned in, where he was mobbed in an eerily modern media frenzy, as well as a stint in the Grenadier Guards training camp where over the course of 10 weeks he was to learn the duties of every position and end up by theoreticlly having the competence to command a battalion and manoeuvre a brigade in the field.

Pretty crazy expectations, huh? And of course Bertie failed miserably...but during his weeks in the army he discovered the delights of female companionship in the form of a prostitute named Nellie Clifden. Nellie was to be the first of a long (very long!) line of the Prince's "special friends", which would include the famous actress Sarah Berhardt and dozens of other actresses and opera singers as well as members of the nobility and the wives of his friends.

Unfortunately for Bertie, the discovery of his liaison with Nellie sent his father into a depression and, already plagued by poor health and overwork, Prince Albert died at age 42. Victoria blamed Bertie for Albert's death and decided that the best thing to do was marry him off and remove temptation (she thought) Bertie was duly married at age 21 to the beautiful but vacant Alexandra of Denmark. They became the center of the "Marlborough House set", a hard-partying group of aristocrats named after Bertie's London home.

I could go on at length about the scandals Bertie went on to be embroiled in, including being named as co-respondent in a few divorce trials and more...but honestly, it really does take a book to describe them all. Despite his weaknesses, though, Bertie remained a fundamentally decent person who was notably free of social prejudice (his friendship with several prominent Jewish families and with non-aristocrats helped break down several social barriers in late 19th and early 20th British society). It's interesting to speculate how he might have turned out if his early education and upbringing had been different.

Friday, July 11, 2008

We Have a Winnah!

Thanks to all those who guessed where I was standing so proudly in London. The correct answer was the gentlemen's club, Boodles, on St. James's. I actually thought it was White's at the time, but then I saw White's.

And the winner of the autographed copy of La Petite Four is Gillian Layne! Gillian, e-mail me at and let me know where I should send the book.

Have fun with Marissa for the rest of the month. I'll pop in when I can and be back at the helm in August. And speaking of helm, here's one of the reasons I wasn't blogging last week. The tall ships were in my hometown of Tacoma. Watching them come sailing into harbor was a swoon-worthy sight indeed! This is the Lady Washington, which was featured in all three Pirates of the Carribean movies, setting out into Commencement Bay with the Merrie Ellen and a replica of the Nina in the foreground. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Even More Such Language!

I had so much fun finding these that I'm doing more!

Caper Merchant: A dancing teacher (also hop merchant). (“Did you hear that Araminta Smithers ran away with her dancing teacher? Papa says that’s what happens when you let a caper merchant into the house.”)

Detrimental: A non-socially eligible young man--someone who would give your parents a stroke if he asked for your hand in marriage. (“Were you at the McGillicuddy’s ball last night? My dear, it was simply crawling with detrimentals…I barely found anyone at all worthwhile to dance with!”)

Kickshaws: French food, usually of a dainty or fussy nature…from the French “quelque chose” (“Oh, Lady Hart’s dinner last night was divine! She told us she had just hired a French cook and I was so embarrassed when Papa loudly grumbled something about kickshaws kicking up his indigestion that I simply wanted to melt into the table.”)

Squash: A party one attends because one must, not because one wants to. (“Dearest Petunia, I’d love to come to your party but I must attend my Aunt Agatha’s squash…can you believe she’s hired someone to sing the songs in ancient Greek that Uncle Mortimer composed on the death of his pet parrot?”)

On Saint Geoffrey’s Day: A facetious way of saying “never”, as there was no St. Geoffrey and therefore no day observed in his honor. (“I’ll give a waltz to that ghastly Sir Hugh on Saint Geoffrey’s Day and not a minute before!”)

Mrs. Princum Prancum: A fussy, fastidious woman. (“Lady Obadiah is such a Mrs. Princum Prancum--why, she insisted upon precisely one and three-eighths teaspoons of sugar in her tea this afternoon when she called on Mama!”)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Where in London is Regina Scott?

Oh, I only wish I really was in London. I'm actually off visiting family with limited e-mail capabilities, so Marissa is posting this for me. But we have a new contest for you. Yes, you can win an autographed copy of La Petite Four, just in time for its original release date of July 3 (before it was moved up, you know).

All you have to do is guess where I am in this picture. Specifically, what was that building behind me in the nineteenth century, that it got my wonderful critique partner Kristin and me so excited we shot the place three times with her camera and twice with mine? I'm looking for the name of the place, not the actual address. If a number of you guess correctly, your names will go in the Regency hat box on my desk and the winner's name will be drawn at random.

And if you discover the name of the building somewhere online, please don't tell others where you learned the information. Let them have the fun of winkling it out. (Yes, winkle. I watched the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility again last weekend. What a lovely word, winkle, meaning to coerce information out of another person, usually by gentle means. Though I don't think I'd like someone to try to winkle out all my secrets, mind you!)

Winkle away, my dears. I'll check back the week of the 7th and see who won.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

More Such Language!

Summer’s here! After this week, Nineteenteen will be appearing on a slightly reduced schedule for the months of July and August: Regina will take most of July off, and I’ll be taking most of August off--so posts will appear once a week rather than twice. We’ll be back to our regular twice weekly posting schedule on September 1…and in the meanwhile, have a lovely summer!

Speaking of September…last fall Regina did a wonderfully entertaining post on nineteenth century slang, and I thought you might like to learn more from time to time. Have fun with these!

Mushroom: No, not something you sauté to put on top of a burger…a mushroom was a person or family suddenly raised to wealth and prominence from humble origins--just as a mushroom can spring up overnight. (“That Lady Smallbeer may be a mushroom--no one knew her at all last season before her husband was knighted--but she has the loveliest smile.”)

Cut: To publicly snub someone--a term that seems to have originated at Cambridge University. I’ll quote here from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue because the definition is so wonderful:
“(Cambridge.) To renounce acquaintance with any one is to cut him. There are several species of the CUT. Such as the cut direct, the cut indirect, the cut sublime, the cut infernal, &c. The cut direct, is to start across the street, at the approach of the obnoxious person in order to avoid him. The cut indirect, is to look another way, and pass without appearing to observe him. The cut sublime, is to admire the top of King’s College Chapel, or the beauty of the passing clouds, till he is out of sight. The cut infernal, is to examine the arrangement of your shoe-strings, for the same purpose.”

Sing Small: To be humbled or abashed. (“That mean Miss Hornby! Did you see how she cut Lady Smallbeer? I expect she’ll sing small when it comes out that her Papa used to be in trade himself.”)

Roaratorios and Uproars: Slang for oratorios and operas. (“Darling Primrose, thank you so much for inviting me to hear Dame Rigatoni sing…Papa simply can’t be convinced to take us to Covent Garden and refuses to be dragged to listen to roaratorios and uproars.”)

Cap Acquaintance: People who know each other only slightly, enough to acknowledge each other in passing with a tip or touch to their hats. (“Did you see that handsome Mr. Roberts riding in Hyde Park this morning? I must convince Papa to call on him so that he can be more than just a cap acquaintance.”)