Justine: Fun Regency Expressions

"Two Strings to Her Bow" by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

“Two Strings to Her Bow” by John Pettie, 1882. From Wikimedia Commons.

I’m on a personal deadline to finish my book, so I went light on my blog post this week. While not necessarily informative, I hope it’s at least a little fun.

These past several weeks, I’ve been listening (yeah, listening — I spend 2 hours a day shuttling the kids to/from school and it’s about the only way I read books anymore) to several Heyer books and thoroughly enjoying each one of them.

In the process of listening (and when I’m at a red light or in traffic), I’ve taken to jotting down some of my favorite expressions. Here’s a handful, with some helpful “how to use them” expressions (when I could figure out how to use them) and layman’s definitions:

  • Inculcated — to implant by repeated statement or admonition (followed by “upon” or “in”); to cause or influence someone to accept an idea (followed by “with”). “I have inculcated upon her the importance of two glasses of wine a night.”
  • Most provoking creature — a pest; a nuisance; someone who ticks you off. “My daughter-in-law is the most provoking creature!”
  • Equanimity — mental/emotional stability, particularly under stress. “I could tolerate the run on the market with perfect equanimity.”
  • Gratification — pleasure. “With gratification, I accepted a fifth helping of chocolate cake.”
  • Obliged to — to place under a debt of gratitude. “I’m most obliged to you for furnishing me with the direction to the nearest bar.”
  • Monsterously in the wind — in debt. “After losing all my blunt at the faro bank, I’m monsterously in the wind.”
  • Spanish coin — false compliments. “I know I look a fright, so don’t give me any of your spanish coin.”
  • Flummery — bullshit; complete nonsense or foolish humbug. “Sarah Palin is president?!? What complete and total flummery!”
  • All the crack — all the rage; what everyone is doing. “Just because taking snuff is all the crack doesn’t mean Lady Alastair should do it.”
  • Spinney — a small wood or thicket. “Lady Eloise hit the croquet ball into the spinney and it hasn’t been seen since.”
  • First stare — most fashionable. “Beau Brummell was a fashionista of the first stare.”
  • Doesn’t signify — not important. “That Lady Jessica was found alone in another man’s bed doesn’t signify! Now if he’d been found in bed with her…well!”
  • Loose fish — troublemaker. “Any boy who sneaks a peek at a lady’s drawers is bound to end up a loose fish.”
  • Put to the blush — embarrassed. “Miss Eva’s gown ripped completely in two. She was positively put to the blush.”

What wonderful, funny, or illuminating expressions have you read in books that have stuck with you?

4 thoughts on “Justine: Fun Regency Expressions

  1. I once read an article that discussed (I think among other things) Georgette Heyer’s use of the word “puce,” which is, of course, a color. The article author had done some research on the words of color that Heyer used, and it turned out that “puce” was used the most often, and almost always in a derogatory context. Just this second I googled “Georgette Heyer’s use of the word puce,” and it turns out that there are a million articles on this topic. Two good resources are:

    The Puce Page (Georgette Heyer fan club)
    Give puce a chance! (Goodreads discussion)

    In general, that first Georgette Heyer fan club link, besides The Puce Page, has a ton of fun and interesting information.

  2. Normally repetitions really niggle me, but I never noticed ‘puce’, Kay. Of course, it’s going to leap off the page every time I re-read a Heyer now.

    There are so many fabulous turns of phrase, and she uses them so well, it’s hard to know where to start. Miss-ish for overly refined and affected young ladies (Heyer’s heroines are never Miss-ish). Soiled dove for a young lady who’s been caught out behaving scandalously. And so many terms for a woman of easy virtue – Bird of Paradise, Barque of Frailty, Paphian, bit of muslin, light-skirt …

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