Regularly Regency

To be honest, I am not the best researcher out there (I know! Color you all surprised).

What I am is a good mimic. I cut my teeth on Regency-era romance, and spent a lot of my formative years alone, so a lot of my language and vernacular was formed by what I read. For example, I use “disguised” to mean drunk, as Heyer did. I always say a lady is “mutton-y” (as in mutton dressed like lamb) when she is wearing clothing too young for her age, think (in my head, at least) that they’re mushrooms if they’re aspiring above their station in an aspirational way, and also use phrases like ‘cut my teeth’ (see above).

I also love language, and vernacular, and how idioms come about. We all know what we mean when we say something has “jumped the shark,” but the first time someone used it, they were likely met with puzzled stares (as I recall, it is the example of Happy Days when Fonzie was out waterskiing and literally jumped a shark, which was the precipitous downfall of the show’s quality). I think my love of language has made it possible for me to write in the Regency period, even though I might not know what exactly happened during certain years (not to mention the whole title thing–oy! I stink at that!)

Do you have any favorite phrases? What Regency-era terms delight you?


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Elena Greene
10 years ago

I like “watering-pot” for someone who cries a lot, “midsummer moon” for crazy in love, “in the family way” for pregnant.

Some expressions I won’t use in my own work, though, like “cattle” for horses.

Beth Elliott
10 years ago

I like ‘disguised’ and ‘castaway’ for drunk,’you’re in the basket’ for being in trouble, ‘smelling of April and May’ for being obviously in love. My editor at first queried my use of ‘females’ for girls / ladies but now accepts it – I also grew up reading Regency romance… and, Elena, to me, ‘cattle’ seems fine to indicate a team of horses.

Megan Frampton
10 years ago

Ooh, I forgot I use watering pot, too! And castaway, and casting up your accounts. Thanks!

Diane Gaston
10 years ago

I am rather fond of “roundaboutation” and “it is the outside of enough”

Janet Mullany
10 years ago

I own a copy of the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue and it’s amazing how many slang terms there are for hanging and drunkenness, and also how many derive from military terms. For a long time I’ve wanted to write a character who converses entirely in unintelligible (invented) cant. The time will come.

Jane George
10 years ago

Can’t wait for the invented cant, Janet! And I must say I find Fonzi’s legs quite agreeable. Quite agreeable indeed. Too bad there’s a shark ahead.

Barbara Monajem
10 years ago

Recently I read Murder in Grub Street, one of Bruce Alexander’s mysteries about Sir John Fielding, the blind magistrate of Bow Street. There’s a street boy in the story who speaks the most marvelous cant — almost a different language. I don’t know if Mr. Alexander made it up or found it during his research, but it was such fun to read.

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