Writers are always trying to find just the right word or phrase to convey a specific mood or emotion. As a writer of historical fiction, I also have to make sure the word or phrase was used in that context during the era where I set my books. I’ll do this after I’ve written my first draft and at times, I’ve had to stop three or four times per page to check a word for historical accuracy. (Imagine my surprise to learn that ‘codswollop’ didn’t come into common use until 1958!)
Fortunately, there are several tools to help me do just that. There are several online dictionaries that include etymology. Sometimes I can simply Google a word to find its origin. And by far, my favorite place to go is the Phrase Finder. This may sound like work, but it’s actually one of my favorite writing diversions.
Victorians had some of the best slang. Has your character been drinking too much? He might be half-shot, sozzled, squizzed, or boryeyed. The phrase ‘three sheets to the wind’ came from the Victorian era, as did this lovely; ‘He has been measuring sidewalks upside down.’ If he’s in love, he might be crushed or spoony.
Here are just a few of my favorite Victorian slang words:
Gigglemug – always smiling
Afternoonified – smart, fashionable
Bags o’ mystery – sausages
Rain napper – umbrella
Suggestionize – to prompt someone
The only downside of this diversion is most of my characters are very proper aristocrats who would never use slang. But once I find a character who does, I’m ready!
Do you know any vintage words you wish would come back into use?
News! The paperback version of A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is now available at your favorite bookstore or online retailer! And it’s now less than a month until A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is released! I recently received some copies of the new paperback. As you can see, I was very excited!