This week’s release of Compromising Willa, my third Regency romance, got me thinking about language and how we use it.
Working on edits for Compromising Willa probably triggered my current preoccupation with words because I was also writing my first contemporary romance at the same time. This meant I had to jump back and forth between historical and modern-day dialogue, making sure my 19th Century duke hero didn’t end up saying things like “dude” and “cool.”
Compromising Willa was the first book I ever wrote and I certainly made mistakes regarding historical accuracy along the way. In a critical scene where the hero meets the heroine for the first time, I had him strike a match to light his cheroot. It was a great scene except that the story takes place during the Regency period, well before matches were invented. Oops.
Since then, I have done my best to get the research right. Sometimes an author takes a little license to move the story forward, but in general I’ve tried to be as historically accurate as possible. These days, when researching the proper language for historicals, I often turn to the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
Some of the crass terms crack me up, so I thought I’d share a few:
ALTITUDES A man who is in his altitudes is drunk.
ANKLE A woman who is pregnant is said to have sprained her ankle.
APPLE DUMPLIN SHOP, CAT-HEADS A woman’s breasts.
BAT A low whore: the term comes from moving out like bats in the dusk of the evening.
BEARD SPLITTER A man much given to wenching.
BITCH BOOBY A country wench. Military term.
BITER A lascivious wench.
BLANKET HORNPIPE The amorous congress.
TO SPORT BLUBBER Said of a large coarse woman, who exposes her bosom.
BUTTOCKING SHOP A brothel.
TO CASCADE To vomit.
CHEESER A strong smelling fart.
FANCY MAN A man kept by a lady for secret services.
FIRE SHIP A wench who has the venereal disease.
FRENCHIFIED Infected with the venereal disease.
FUBSEY Plump. a plump, healthy wench.
GIBLETS To join giblets; said of a man and woman who cohabit as husband and wife, without being married; also to copulate.
BITE, DUMB GLUTTON, GIGG, HAT, MONOSYLLABLE A woman’s privates.
MUTTON In her mutton, i.e. having carnal knowledge of a woman.
NUTMEGS, TWIDDLE-DIDDLES, WHIRLYGIGS Testicles.
OCCUPY To occupy a woman; to have carnal knowledge of her.
PUFF GUTS A fat man.
RELISH Carnal connection with a woman.
TO SHOOT THE CAT To vomit from excess of liquor
GAYING INSTRUMENT, GINGAMBOBS, SUGAR STICK, SILENT FLUTE A man’s privates.
Naturally, you might find some of these terms in Compromising Willa because really, they’re too much fun not to use!
Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is ruined and everyone knows it. Back in Town for the first season since her downfall, Willa plans to remain firmly on the shelf, assuming only fortune hunters will want her now. Instead she focuses on her unique tea blends, secretly supporting a coffee house which employs poor women and children. If her clandestine involvement in trade is discovered, she’ll be ruined. Again.No one is more shocked by Willa’s lack of quality suitors than the newly minted Duke of Hartwell. Having just returned from India, the dark duke is instantly attracted to the mysterious wallflower. His pursuit is hampered by the ruthless Earl of Bellingham, who once jilted Willa and is now determined to reclaim her.Caught between the clash of two powerful men, a furious Willa refuses to concede her independence to save her reputation. But will she compromise her heart?
Willa did not appear surprised to find herself sitting next to Hartwell at supper. Nor did she seem to mind.
“I find I have the best seat at the table,” he said as they took their places.
“Are you certain the air won’t be too brisk for you?”
He grinned. “Why Lady Wilhelmina, in your own Arctic way, I do believe you are flirting with me.”
“You are our guest,” she answered in smooth tones. “Pray don’t mistake polite discourse for something that it is not.”
“Ouch.” He touched his heart in dramatic fashion. Sitting next to her, he’d have no need of dessert. She was like a Gunter’s lemon ice—tangy, tart, and delectably frosty.
She curved those pillowed lips into a smile, a reluctant one, but he still counted that a victory. “Surely you are not so easily wounded, Your Grace.”
“Actually, as a second son, I have heard far worse. One is not as popular when he is not in line to inherit a dukedom, or at least a vast fortune. As fate would have it, I am now in possession of both.”
“Clearly modesty is not something you are in possession of.”
Hart gave a mischievous smile. “Usually a title and deep pockets are sufficient to attract the attention of a lovely creature such as yourself.” He sipped his wine. “Otherwise, I shall have to win you over with my equally deep reservoirs of charm and good looks.”
Her closed mouth wobbled with laughter until she managed to wrangle it into submission. “I should like to know when you decide to begin employing those qualities.”
Hart shot her a surprised look. She was teasing him again. Promising. He softened his tone. “Oh, believe me, my lady, I intend to make you well aware of my charms.”
Leave a comment sharing some of your favorite words for a chance to win a digital copy of Tempting Bella, book #2 in my Accidental Peers series, which also contains historically accurate references to sugar sticks and blanket hornpipes.
***A winner will be chosen this Sunday, Dec. 15. ***