Doublespeak: Favorite Euphemisms or How I Learned Something of “Poppycock”

Free Presentations in PowerPoint format for Euphemisms PK-12

Free Presentations in PowerPoint format for Euphemisms PK-12

Euphemisms? We learn them in the most peculiar ways. I recall as a child that my mother was very upset with me when I used the word “poppycock.” You see, I thought myself quite sophisticated to learn a new word from “Peter Pan.” 

GEORGE DARLING: Pan! Pirate! Poppycock!

WENDY: Oh, no, Father.

MICHAEL: Father, have you…

GEORGE DARLING: Oh, you don’t understand. Absolute poppycock! And let me tell you, this ridiculous.

It was much later when I learned the word meant more than “nonsense,” which is what I assumed from the context in which I learned it. The word comes to us from the Dutch pappekak, which translates to “soft dung.”

One of my favorite euphemisms when I am writing a story is the situation where I must describe a male’s or a female’s undergarments. “Unmentionables” is generally the word of choice. It was an early 19th Century word for breeches or trousers. In our current times, the word can be used equally as well for women and children. A woman may wear “upper unmentionables” or “lower unmentionables” or both or none. Children might get their “unmentionables” wet when playing in the sprinkler. Such garments can also be inexpressibles (ca.1790), unexplicables, innominables, indescribables, nether garments, netherlings (trousers), small clothes (breeches), sit-upons (trousers), unthinkables, indispensables, ineffables, unspeakables, unutterables, unwhisperables, and subtrousers (underdrawers).

I also often speak of the characters using a chamber pot or a chamber utensil. In Jonathan Swift’s “Strephon and Chloe” (1731) we find…

The nymph/Steals out her hand, by nature led/And brings a vessel into bed;/Fair utensil, as smooth and white/As Chloe’s skin, almost as bright. 

Learn British English: English euphemisms visual » Learn British ...

Learn British English: English euphemisms visual » Learn British …

Recently, I was attempting to describe a book that a gentlewoman found in a library. The book was what we might call pornographic in nature. It took me awhile to come up with facetiae. Although the word originally meant a witty, facetious sayings, in the 19th Century it came to mean erotica. I may still need to change it because it was the mid 1800s before the word appeared in print to indicate sexual matter.  

Likewise, from the 16th to the 19th Century, the word congress would indicate sexual intercourse. I have even seen it presented as sexual congress (so more readers understand the usage) or amorous congress

I often find my writing is peppered with euphemisms such as character line instead of wrinkle, caught out for becoming pregnant, deuce for Devil, enceinte for pregnancy, libation for a fancy drink, nether parts for the area below the waistmonthlies for menstrual cycle, greens for sexual intercourse, and incursion for invasion. [Is it not ironic that many of these terms have something to do with “sex”? I find that very telling of the Regency period.}

As I have turned seventy [a definite senior citizen], I recently purchase grave sites and soon I will contract for a grave marker. I hope not to use either for some time to come, but I am of a practical nature. What struck me in the brochures from the cemetery was the phrase “perpetual care.” Essentially this is impossible. According to the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, “The term “perpetual care” in cemeteries has come to mean the providing of funds, to be held in perpetual trust, the income of which is to be expended in keeping up forever the necessary care of the individual lots and graves, and the maintenance, repair and future renewal of the borders, drives, water and sewer systems, enclosures and necessary buildings.” In the film The Next Best Thing, the quote reads, “Doesn’t perpetual care include a sprinkler service,” while the TV comedy “Lou Grant” says, “Perpetual care, in the cemetery business, means they mow the lawn.” 

Do you have favorites? Add them to the comments below. 

Posted in writing, word play, euphemisms, word origins | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Anatomy of a Janeite

Anatomy of a Janeite
Do You Fit the Bill?


















In 2008, JASNA put together a survey of the “typical” Janeite. I was wondering how many items match with my viewers/readers.

Part 1: Participant Demographics. The first half of the survey focused on the survey participant. What portrait emerges from these responses?

• Gender: 96% Female; 4 % Male
• Age: 33% age 1-29; 35% age 30-49; 32% age 50+ (with a median age of 40) There were 335 teenagers and 215 respondents aged 70 or over.
• Nationality: 90% from English-speaking countries
• 67% U.S.; 6% Canada; 16% U.K, Australia, New Zealand & Ireland (combined)
• Occupation: 75% of Janeites are typically working women/men. The top ten career fields are education, business administration (manager/HR/secretary, etc.), business services/worker/retail, library/archivist, finance, science/engineering, writing/publishing, medical, arts, law and IT. (More than one-third are been teachers or librarians.)
• Education: 81% over the age of 20 have a 4-year (or higher) college degree; almost half have achieved a master’s (33%) or a doctorate (12%). Surprisingly, 71% did not major in English/Literature.
Religious: 41% said they were religious; 38% not religious.
• Politics: Janeites are more likely to view themselves as liberal (55%) than conservative (25%), and on the topic of feminism, to have a favorable (67%) rather than unfavorable (11%) opinion.
• Hobbies: More than 50% involved in reading (98%); watching movies (80%); listening to music (72%); attending theater/concerts (61%); walking/yoga/other exercise (60%); visiting museums (60%); and traveling (56% to other countries; 54% within own country).
• Traveling: 47% of all respondents have visited Austen sites in England, including 40% of U.S. respondents and 53% of Canadians. More than half the respondents have visited Western Europe (69%), England/Wales/Scotland (68%) or traveled extensively in the U.S. (65%) and Canada (52%). Many have also been to Mexico and the Caribbean. The least-visited area from the survey list was India (4%), followed by Russia (7%), and China (8%).
• Favorite Afternoon Drink: 63% tea; 46 % coffee
Pets: tabbies rule – 58% of respondents have pets, with cats at 36% and dogs at 30%
Reading: 86% read at least 2 books per month; 33% read five or more per month
Preferred Genre (non-Austen, of course): 29% mystery; 15% historical fiction
Favorite Authors (not Jane Austen): Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, Mrs. Gaskell, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, William Shakespeare, Anthony Trollope, Georgette Heyer, and Agatha Christie.
• Tech Savvy: 57% described themselves as tech smart; 1% as clueless

Part 2: Janeite Land. The second half of the survey looked into the participant’s relationship to Jane Austen and her work.

• Age When You Discovered Jane Austen: over 50% before age 17; 13% younger than age 12
• How Often Do You Read Austen Novels? 33% read 3+ per year; 11% read all six every year
Favorite Austen Book: 53% Pride and Prejudice; 28 % Persuasion; 7% Emma; 5% Sense and Sensibility; 4% Mansfield Park; 4% Northanger Abbey.
• Favorite Heroine: 58% Elizabeth Bennet; 24% Anne Elliot; 7% Elinor Dashwood; 5% Emma Woodhouse; 3% Fanny Price; 2% Catherine Moreland; 1% Marianne Dashwood
Favorite Hero: 51% Fitzwilliam Darcy; 17% Frederick Wentworth; 14% Mr. Knightley; 10% Henry Tilney; 5% Colonel Brandon; 1% Edward Ferrars; 1% Edmund Bertram [Interestingly, males are a good bit less likely to choose Darcy as their favorite hero. The least-liked hero by some measure is Edmund Bertram (40%).]
• Favorite Bad Boy: 33% Wickham; 28% Willoughby; 16% Henry Crawford; 10% Frank Churchill; 7% William Elliot; 6% General Tilney
• Worst Parents: 54% Sir Walter Elliot; 16% Mr. & Mrs. Price; 15% Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram
• Four Comic Characters Who Delight Us: 74% Mrs. Bennet; 70% Mr. Collins; 56% Admiral Croft; 50% Mrs. Bates

For the complete results and analysis, please go to JASNA Persuasion On-Line sources.

Posted in Austen Authors, England, film adaptations, Georgian England, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Persuasion, Pop Culture, Pride and Prejudice, reading habits | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pies and Prejudice, A Victorian Baking Musical, a Guest Post from Elaine Owen

Elaine Owen featured this post on Austen Authors in November. I wished to share it with you here. Enjoy! 

19894545_1346036445491829_4353143358481686290_n.jpgCould you ever have guessed that a Pride and Prejudice variation could be set in a modern day bakery, that it could be a musical, and that it could be so . . . tasty? That was the pleasant surprise I found when I attended an original production by the Misfit Theater Company in Greenville, South Carolina in October: Pies, prejudice, music, and frequent appearances from Napoleon. Yes, that Napoleon. Trust me, it only got more entertaining from there!

Pies and Prejudice: A Victorian Baking Musical, written by Micah Thompson, opens with Jane, Elizabeth, and Lydia managing a modern-day Mansfield Park Bakery. Jane and Elizabeth get little help from the greedy Lydia, who literally eats her way through the store (and set!), or from their mother, the hilariously hypochondriac Mrs. Bennet. Charles Bingley of Bingley Bakeries arrives at Mansfield Park Bakery with his friend Darcy and before you know it, Darcy and Elizabeth are trading insults as fast as you can say overdone apple fritters. Jane and Bingley, meanwhile, sing about the joy of seeing life through (literal) rose-colored glasses, Caroline Bingley gets in a few digs, and in the middle of all this, several famous historical figures (can you say we had a “Dickens” of a time?) begin to pop up with their own contributions to the story line.

This was a fun, imaginative, and completely unpredictable variation on our favorite story! Rather than give away the whole plot for those of you who might be lucky enough to see it one day, I thought you might like to hear from the author of this organized chaos, Micah Thompson.

You obviously have a love for Jane Austen yourself. Where and when did that start?
 Mine, I fear, is not a super original story in terms of Jane Austen. I was exposed early on in my teen years to the Pride and Prejudice mini-series made by PBS.(editor’s note: BBC) . . . It was all downhill from there. When I was a kid I spent every spare penny I or my parents had on books and reading through Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. The whole Jane Austen series are still memories I hold close. As a young teenage boy they were one of the few novels I read that weren’t sci-fi or fantasy but maybe that’s why they stick out to me so clearly, it was a book that was important because of the characters that were in it more so than the action that those characters were involved in.
Pies and Prejudice is a rather unconventional retelling of everyone’s favorite Austen story. What made you think of including characters like Napoleon and Shakespeare? 
My mind as a writer is nothing if not an incalculably illogical roller coaster being attacked by a T-rex, but other than my standard answer to questions like this which is sleep deprivation, I will say that all of these characters just seemed to fit in my head. Napoleon especially was in the play from page 1 to me. He was the perfect counterpoint to the Bennet sisters, and a character who just seemed to gel seamlessly with the world I had created. Don’t ask me how he did that, I was as surprised as anyone.
Why did you decide to make it a musical?
Pies and Prejudice was just a play begging to be a musical. The beauty of a musical is that it lets you interact with an audience in a whole different way. A character would never turn to an audience in a play and say, “I’m an optimist and I think you’re an optimist so now we’re in love,” but in a musical, if you’re careful, you can define an entire character in one three minute space. Musicals give characters a chance to grow and change and interact with an audience in a way that a regular play can’t unless you’re willing to take a looooooong time doing it. One of my favorite moments in the whole play is in the final song when Darcy and Elizabeth are acknowledging that they do actually love each other. In a non musical, a scene like that is so hard to make realistic and so hard to get the audience to understand what the characters are feeling but in a musical (if you’ve got the right cast) that all can happen in the space of a few bars of music in a way that’s so moving and tangible to an audience.
Why do you think people love Jane Austen so much?
I think people love Jane Austen because, a lot like Shakespeare, Austen’s characters transcend their own time period and speak to who we are as people. Her characters and ideas and emotions make us realize things about ourselves and sympathize with the characters in the story in such a real way that it doesn’t matter how long ago the story was written or what stage of our lives we’re in. People love Jane Austen because Austen’s stories are about all of us, and the people we want to be.
Is there any chance of you licensing Pies and Prejudice to other theater groups? I’m sure people in other parts of the country would love to see this too!
Now that I fear is a question for minds more business savvy than myself. Pies and Prejudice was written for The Misfit Theater Company, which is still a very young company so a lot of questions like that one are things that we’re just now starting to deal with. I would certainly love for more people to get to share in this experience though, and the idea of giving Jane Austen fans another new way to enjoy Pride and Prejudice is definitely something I would be proud to be a part of!
Posted in Austen Authors, food and drink, Guest Blog, Guest Post, Jane Austen, playwrights, Pride and Prejudice, theatre, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Closer Look at “A Touch of Honor: Book 7 in the Realm Series”

iStock_000003550914_Large.jpgWhat can I say about this book? I never planned it, but it has become one of my favorites in the Realm series. Originally, I planned three books featuring the heroes of what is now Book  1, 2 and 4 of the series. The other four gentlemen of the Realm would possibly have their own novellas. However, as I added more depth to those minor characters, soon I had a full-fledge series.

The hero of A Touch of Honor is Lord Swenton (John Swenton), a baron living in Yorkshire. He joined the Realm after his father’s passing, under circumtances that become clearer as the novel progresses. He is the strong, quiet type that rarely smiles, so if one engenders the turning up of his lips, one has received a great gift. His mother deserted him and the previous baron. The former Lady Swenton lives on the Continent, where she is well known for her flamboyant ways and her love of art and artists. Swenton manages to reconnect with her when he became part of the Realm, but he never speaks of this woman he visits often as being his mother. Many think she could be his lover.

The book opens with Swenton planning to bring his mother’s body home to the family estate. He uses the opportunity to visit with Miss Satiné Aldridge, who has assisted in the past. Swenton was among those who recovered the Misses Satiné and Cashémere Aldridge from a collapsed glass cone in book 3 of the series. Satiné had been kidnapped by a spurned courter of Cashémere. As the women are identical twins, the man did not realize that he had taken the wrong girl. When he learns of his mistake, he attempts to rape Satiné as revenge on Cashémere. Satiné’s reputation is ruined, and so her uncle, Baron Ashton, escorts her to the Continent. He travels with her and sees Satiné settled in Italy before returning to England. We learn from Ashton that Satiné considers herself a “fallen” woman, so she acts as such. 

During the recovery mission, Swenton takes a liking to the girl. In reality, he is fooling himself, for all his former comrades have chosen to marry and find happiness, and he thinks it will be easy to give his heart to the the emotionally wounded Satiné, for he himself has known great sorrow in his life. He assumes that she will accept his overtures and all will be well. [For those of you who have followed the series, you will recall that I originally planned for Satiné to marry Aidan Kimbolt, Viscount Lexford, back in book 4. However, I found I did not much care for her character and did not feel she deserved one of my heroes.] 

In Italy, Swenton calls upon Satiné’s residence, where he encounters Miss Isolde Neville. This is the woman his solicitor has hired as Miss Satiné’s companion. John has made it his business to know something of Satiné’s life and to keep a connection to the woman he admires. Although they do not know each other personally, Miss Neville regularly corresponds with him regarding Satiné’s household. He thinks of offering Miss Aldridge his hand, but Satiné’s does not immediately receive him upon his arrival. She claims to be ill, but, in truth, she is recovering from a pregnancy. She fell in love with a prince, who wooed her, seduced her, and left her. John agrees to assist her. He says he will claim the child as his, but he arrived too late for the child to be his legitimate heir. They will marry, and he will provide for Satiné and the child. 

Satiné reluctantly agrees, but she is not satisfied with what appears to be her only choice in life. Her sisters have married a duke and an earl. Being a baroness would place her below them. Being a princess would establish her superiority. Secretly, she contacts the prince with news of the boy’s birth while setting sail with John for England. She arranges a “fake” wedding before they leave, and she postpones the consummation of their vows, over and over again.  Obsessed with her beauty and her figure, Satiné starves herself to remain thin. She consumes more laudanum than she should to ease the pain of her starvation. 

Meanwhile, John’s true attraction to Miss Neville grows. Isolde Neville is the only daughter of an Irish baron, who is part of the men attempting to bring the Elgin Marbles to England, Her father’s ship went down in a storm, and Lucinda is on the Continent in hopes of finding leads to his survival of the disaster. She has taken the position as Miss Aldridge’s companion for enough money to continue her search.

Like John, Isolde proves true and loyal and honorable—a woman with scruples. She teaches John how to care for and how to tend the ailing Satiné. They become quite a force together until she learns of her father’s presence in a hospital in an English port. Only the need to see her father well can force this pair apart. [Just as a side note, I adored John and Isolde so much that they make a return visit in my latest book, The Earl Claims His Comfort, as Comfort Neville, the heroine of the tale, is Isolde’s cousin.]

Although his feelings for Isolde grow stronger each day, John is above all things, a man of honor. Even after learning something of Satiné’s treachery, he remains by Miss Aldridge’s side, for the world thinks them married. When the prince arrives on John’s doorstep to claim his child, the charade he has played begins to crumble. There are more twists and turns in this story than any of the others, and you will not be disappointed. 

And do not forget the Realm’s enemies. Murhad Jamoot is determined to find the emerald he believes one of the Realm has stolen. He has been thwarted at each turn, but as Swenton is the only member of the group left, Jamoot’s attempts become more desperate and more devious. 

ATOH eBook Cover Concept.jpgA Touch of Honor: Book 7 of the Realm Series

[historical fiction; Regenecy romance; romantic suspense]

For two years, BARON JOHN SWENTON has thought of little else other than making Satiné Aldridge his wife; so when he discovers her reputation in tatters, Swenton acts honorably: He puts forward a marriage of convenience that will save her from ruination and provide him the one woman he believes will bring joy to his life. However, the moment he utters his proposal, Swentons instincts scream he has made a mistake: Unfortunately, a man of honor makes the best of even the most terrible of situations.

MISS SATINE ALDRIDGE has fallen for a man she can never possess and has accepted a man she finds only mildly tolerable. What will she do to extricate herself from Baron Swentons life and claim the elusive Prince Henrí? Obviously, more than anyone would ever expect.

MISS ISOLDE NEVILLE has been hired to serve as Satiné Aldridges companion, but her loyalty rests purely with the ladys husband. With regret, she watches the baron struggle against the impossible situation in which Miss Aldridge has placed him, while her heart desires to claim the man as her own. Yet, Isolde is as honorable as the baron. She means to see him happy, even if that requires her to aid him in his quest to earn Miss Satiné’s affections.

The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. Publishers Weekly

Sacrifice and honor, betrayal and redemption, all make for an exceptionally satisfying romance. A Touch of Honor is a mesmerizing story of extraordinary love realized against impossible odds. Collette Cameron, Award-Winning Author

Enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter 16…

The sound of a ruckus below interrupted her thoughts. Isolde rushed from her rooms to encounter the man over whom she had spent too many hours in daydreams. Lord Swenton carried his wife toward the lady’s quarters. Lady Swenton’s limp form announced the baroness had discovered a new supply of laudanum.

“My Goodness!” she rasped and then raced ahead of the baron to open the connecting doors. She jerked the counterpane free of the bed to permit him to deposit Lady Swenton upon the mattress. “What happened?” Isolde asked as she undressed her mistress.

“Did you know?” the baron asked in accusatory tones. He stood beside his wife’s bed, his hands fisting and unfisting, arms akimbo.

Isolde’s fingers released the clasp of the baroness’s necklace and turned her mistress to her stomach so she could unlace Lady Swenton’s gown. Out of breath, she asked testily, “Did I know what?”

Lord Swenton’s voice had turned cold. “When you convinced me to escort my mother’s remains to York, did you know Lady Swenton meant to remain in London to meet her lover? Or was it your purpose for me to encounter Prince Henrí tonight? You did say this evening would be a monumental event.”

Isolde’s fingers froze in their task. “Have you taken leave of your senses?” Her hands wildly brushed away his allegations. “I have been nothing but loyal to you. Other than Lord Morse, I am ignorant of a potential lover, and I have never heard of Prince Henrí.”

“What of a heated spat between your mistress and Lady Fiona?” he accused.

“Nothing!” Isolde said defiantly. “When I came to Miss Aldridge’s service, the baroness was some four months with child. She withdrew from her social engagements shortly after my taking the position. I never held the pleasure of an acquaintance with the former baroness.” With a huff of exasperation, Isolde returned to Lady Swenton’s unconscious state. “If you will pardon me, I must attend to your wife.” Despite her best efforts, a soft sob escaped. He had never spoken to her harshly.

Within a heartbeat, the baron had circled the bed and had caught her to him. He drove Isolde backward until her spine was pressed against the interior door and his hard body plastered her front. “Forgive me,” he whispered roughly against her temple. “I never meant to harm you. Please Isolde, I have acted a fool.”

Some dark, inexplicable passion rushed through her, and Isolde instinctively pressed her center to his manhood. The white fire of need ripped the breath from her chest, and she buried her face into the crook of his neck. “We should not…”

“Should not what?” His voice sounded as breathy as did hers. “Should not claim one moment of happiness?”

Isolde could not dismiss how aware she was of this man’s masculinity. “One moment would never be enough.” She could taste the salt upon his skin, and Isolde ran her tongue along the crease of his neck. A groan of desire rewarded her efforts.

A rush of silence followed before Lord Swenton placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head and lifted his body from hers. Immediately, she experienced the bleakness of his withdrawal. “Some way,” he rasped as he gently cuffed her cheek. “I mean to finish this. For now, please assist me with Lady Swenton. I cannot fathom what the future holds, but please know somehow my soul will find its way to you.”

After they had undressed Satiné, they tucked his baroness into her bed to sleep away the effects of the medicinal. Then by silent consent, he escorted Miss Neville into his sitting room to discuss what had happened earlier.

“Evidently, my wife has discovered someone within my household to keep her confidences,” he disclosed when he had seated Miss Neville across from him and had poured her a small sherry for her and for him a well-deserved brandy.


No doubt Sally,” she asserted. “The girl has ambitions, but has not yet learned subtlety.”

Deep in thought, John nodded his agreement. “I will return the girl to Thornhill tomorrow. The duke has sent Mrs. Tailor and the boy ahead to Marwood Manor. I will see Sally returned to him.”

Miss Neville sat straighter. “Might you inform me of what occurred this evening?”

John closed his eyes to the shame racing to his heart. He dealt better with chaos when he could keep busy; this “rush” to wait endlessly vexed him greatly. “Lady Swenton could barely speak or move. If not for Lady Worthing’s assistance, the prince and much of the ton would have learned of Satiné’s dependency on laudanum. The only saving grace was my wife will likely not recall the appearance of Prince Henrí.”

“Is this prince Rupert’s father?” she asked quietly.

“In appearance, it would seem so. The boy has the countenance of the Prince of Rintoul. However, Prince Henrí claimed no previous knowledge of Rupert until he received an anonymous note announcing the child’s birth. He accused Lady Swenton of keeping secrets.” John recalled the familiar way the prince had spoken to Satiné, and fury rushed to his mind again.

“What does the prince mean to do?”

John attempted to place the tumult of his soul aside. “I have convinced Prince Henrí to call upon my household in a week. I did not think it wise for him to be seen entering Swenton Hall, but the prince made it clear he means to claim Rupert.”

“What will you do?” she whispered into the familiar silence that rested between them. John required these moments or he would run mad into the streets. The lady held no idea how important she had become to his sanity.

“What will I do?” he repeated. Every emotion within John rushed into the dark void of helplessness. “The question is what will my baroness do when her former lover and the father of her child makes an appearance on my threshold?”


A Closer Look at the Other Books in the Series…

A Touch of Scandal: Book 1 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Velvet: Book 2 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Cashémere: Book 3 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Grace: Book 4 of the Realm Series 

A Touch of Mercy: Book 5 of the Realm Series

A Touch of Love: Book 6 of the Realm Series 

Posted in book excerpts, British history, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Ireland, Living in the Regency, marriage, mystery, publishing, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Experiment with Regency-Era “Shampoo,” a Guest Post from Rebecca H. Jamison

One of my fellow Austen Authors conducted an experiment with the methods of shampooing one’s hair during the Regency era and reported on it during her November post. I hope you enjoy her tongue-in-cheek remarks as much as I did. 

I once watched a reality show about a family who chose to live like Victorians for six months. One of the most memorable segments for me was when the mom and daughters snuck out to a drugstore to buy modern shampoo. They simply couldn’t stand to wash their hair the way Victorians did.

This made me wonder how people washed their hair during the Regency era, so I did a little research. I discovered that it was during the Regency Era that “shampooing” became available to people in England. Sake Dean Mahomed opened a shampooing bath in Brighton, England in 1814. He claimed that shampoo was “a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when every thing fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints”. His “shampoos” were not what we think of today as shampoos, though. They were more like massages with aromatic oils.

People generally used harsh lye soaps dissolved in water to wash their hair. Hair powders had gone out of style by the Regency Era, but women still used pomades made from lard and grease. It’s likely many people also used egg washes to clean their hair. The Jane Austen Centre published a recipe on their blog, entitled “Wash for the Hair” that was originally published in The Mirror of Graces by a Lady of Distinction in 1811. It reads as follows:

This is a cleanser and brightener of the head and hair, and should be applied in the morning.
Beat up the whites of six eggs into a froth, and with that annoint the head close to the roots of the hair. Leave it to dry on; then wash the head and hair thoroughly with a mixture of rum and rose-water in equal quantities.

The blog notes that “it’s worth a try . . .”, so I thought I’d try it. Here are my before pictures:

As you can see, my hair is on the wavy side, and in true Regency style, I am not wearing any makeup.

The recipe calls for six egg whites. I didn’t think I needed that many, so I used only four. (It turns out, I could have used only one or two.)

My mom taught me how to separate eggs when I was a teenager, and trying to keep the yolks out of the whites was probably one of the most frustrating things I ever experienced in the kitchen. I did finally master the technique, but I don’t think you need to be too much of a perfectionist when you’re making an egg wash for your hair.

The recipe says to beat the eggs into a froth, so I whipped them around for a minute with a wire whisk, which made me wonder whether people had wire whisks during Regency times. I looked it up, and it turns out the wire whisk was a Victorian inventions. During the Regency Era, people probably improvised wood brushes to beat egg whites.

Annointing my roots with whipped egg whites was quite an experience. It felt like a stiff hair gel, and you can probably tell from the picture below that instead of making my hair look wet and flat, my hair stuck out more and more as I massaged it in. I flattened it down a bit for this picture.

I followed the instructions, leaving the egg white on to dry, which, frankly, I was dreading. However, it wasn’t that terrible. It felt much like the curl cream I use and didn’t have any scent. It also dried into a nice, clear shine.

The recipe says to rinse thoroughly with equal parts rum and rose water. Since I don’t have either of those items in my house, I looked up the prices–both items run around fifteen dollars. I wasn’t about to spend thirty dollars on my experimental shampoo treatment, so I improvised with a vinegar, water, and lavender essential oil rinse.

It took a lot more rinsing than I anticipated to get the egg white out of my hair. Had I been actually using rum for that task, I would have used up an entire pirate’s boatload, but since I live in modern times, I simply stood under the shower after I used up all my vinegar solution.

My hair still felt rough and tangled after the rinse, and I was tempted to apply some conditioner. I was glad I didn’t, however, because once I combed it out, it felt perfectly conditioned. Also, my hair had a pleasant lavender scent.

Surprisingly, my hair turned out pretty well. Here are the after pictures:

My son thought that my hair looked better with the egg treatment than with my normal shampoo regimen. He may be right, but the egg treatment certainly took longer, especially since I had to let the egg whites dry on my hair before rinsing them out. From start to finish, it probably took me about five hours to wash, dry, rinse, and dry my hair. No wonder the recipe says to start in the morning!

This coming week when we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I will add shampoo to the long list of modern conveniences for which I am grateful. What about you? Have you ever tried an old-fashioned beauty treatment? How did it turn out? What modern conveniences are you most grateful for?

61WHmYqnJ-L._UX250_.jpg Meet Rebecca H. Jamison 

Rebecca H. Jamison has lived on a live volcano, excavated the bones of a prehistoric mammal, and won first prize at a rigged chili cook-off. She wrote novels just for fun until she made a New Year’s resolution in 2011 to submit a manuscript to publishers. 

Rebecca grew up in Virginia. She attended Brigham Young University, where she earned a BA and MA in English. Her job titles have included special education teacher’s aide, technical writer, English teacher, and stay-at-home mom.

You can learn more about Rebecca at


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The Obsession with Money and Society in Austen’s Novels

tumblr_niksgt9n0l1tafu2co2_r3_500.gif Austen’s novels speak loudly with society’s obsession with money and connections. Money and status was obtained through marriage. What we soon come to accept as a reader of Jane Austen’s novels is that her heroines marry for love (and a bit money). It is not ironic that Austen’s heroines marry within their class. It was expected that a woman do so. Harriet Smith in Emma is criticized for she aspires to wed into the landed gentry. The hero gentlemen in Austen’s books have money, which they generally earn by being a the owner of an estate and collecting rents, as in Fitzwilliam Darcy’s case in Pride and Prejudice or Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, or from a living bestowed upon the man by a land owner, as in the case of Edward Ferrars in Sense and Sensibility or Henry Tilney, in Northanger Abbey, who is comfortably placed as a beneficed clergyman on his father’s estate.

When we learn of Sir Walter Elliot’s nod of acceptance to Captain Wentworth in Persuasion or of Darcy’s acceptance of the Gardiners’s and Mr. Bingley’s connections to trade, we “praise” the men. These actions are examples of Jane Austen’s values. The fact they more rightly fit the values of the current century is pure happenstance. 

743eeb7d-934a-48df-aeb8-d8930c27e9c1.jpgAusten’s feelings as applied to silly girls such as Lydia Bennet and Harriet Smith are obvious. She also disapproves of snobs and women who pursue rich men, as in the case of Caroline Bingley in Pride and Prejudice, Lucy Steele in Sense and Sensibility, Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion, Mrs. Elton in Emma, and Maria Bertram in Mansfield Park. Rakes are often found upon Austen’s page. Mr. George Wickham in Pride and Prejudice woos half of Meryton with his lies. He has no intention of marrying Lydia Bennet until his hand is forced by Mr. Darcy. Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility is equally as vile. Frank Church plays Emma against Jane Fairfax. Tom Bertram in Mansfield Park has both his good points and his bad ones. He starts off the novel as Mary Crawford’s love interest, and he’s instrumental in getting the “Mansfield theatricals” off the ground. Tom is also responsible for a lot of the major plot points that dominate the start of the novel. His gambling debts are part of the reason why Sir Thomas has to go to Antigua to take care of his financial problems. Tom’s debts also mean that Edmund won’t be able to move into the Parsonage at Mansfield Park when he’s ordained, which of course results in the Grants and the Crawfords moving in. And Tom introduces Mr. Yates, Julia’s future husband, to the Bertrams. Mr. Elliot in Persuasion not only attempts to seduce Anne, but we discover he has much to do with the poor conditions in which Mrs. Smith must live. 

Austen’s pages are also full of the ridiculous: Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet, and Sir William Lucas in Pride and Prejudice; Lady Bertram in Mansfield Park; Mary Musgrove and Mrs. Musgrove in Persuasion; Mr. and Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey; and Mrs. Jennings in Sense and Sensibility

511-JhUYa+L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg 200px-Vindication1b.jpg Austen’s heroines are intelligent females, as was she. Her family permitted Austen much latitude. She discussed politics and religion and society’s issues with her brothers and her father. One can easily imagine Austen arguing with her brothers over important issues in the same manner as her heroines do with the heroes of her books. The difference in Austen and her heroines is that she never married. Many take these “liberties” that she presents her characters as being a “women’s liberation” sort of thing. I beg to differ on that opinion. Although Austen may have hoped for more freedoms for women, she is accepting of what many thought could not be changed. She is no Mary Wollstonecraft writing A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Austen was writing fiction based on what she knew of society.  In John Wiltshire’s essay (found in The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, edited by Edward Copeland and Juliet McMaster, Cambridge University, 14 February 2011), Wiltshire suggests that Emma and Knightley are the most compatible couple in Austen’s works, for the pair are comparable in intelligence, wit, empathy, and confidence. Darcy and Elizabeth trail in Wiltshire’s estimation, especially because of a lack of confidence in their relationship found in both Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. 


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, estates, family, Georgian Era, historical fiction, Jane Austen, literature, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, Pride and Prejudice, reading, reading habits, Regency personalities, Regency romance, romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Quest of the Officers, a Guest Post from Diana J. Oaks

Below you will find another of the fabulous posts one might find on any given day on Austen Authors. Diana J. Oaks explores the “appeal” of a man (or woman) in uniform. 

Lydia Bennet. She’s naughty, she’s loud, she’s determined to expose herself as ridiculous and bring disgrace to her family in the process. In spite of these things, I relate to her in one intrinsic way. She’s drawn by the compelling figure of a man in uniform, especially a military uniform.

Lydia Flirts with the Officers

She, of course, was particularly fond of the militia officer in his regimentals; the goal of encountering exactly that sort of person was the impetus for an excursion to Meryton.

“Their eyes were immediately wandering up in the street in quest of the officers, and nothing less than a very smart bonnet indeed, or a really new muslin in a shop window, could recall them.”

Lydia spots her prey, an officer with whom she is already acquainted, accompanied by a man who in Elizabeth’s view is rather good looking. It is through her eyes that we understand that his appearance was greatly in his favour; he had all the best part of beauty—a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address.” In today’s terms, where such opinions are relayed via text messaging as succinctly as possible, he was “hot.” The introduction of this man carried happy news:

Rupert-Friend as Mr Wickham

“Mr. Denny addressed them directly, and entreated permission to introduce his friend, Mr. Wickham, who had returned with him the day before from town, and he was happy to say, had accepted a commission in their corps. This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming.”

It took me a few readings of Pride and Prejudice before I caught the subtle nuance here. Perhaps swayed by the adapted versions that emphasized that Lydia and Kitty were the officer-crazed sisters, I totally missed the hint that Elizabeth, whose point of view carries the majority of the book, is also a bit enamored of men in uniform.

It’s evident that Jane Austen was aware of the place military officers held in society. Closely tied to nobility and aristocracy, the upper-level officers were drawn from the elite strata of society. Even the lower officers were supposed to be landowners, and therefore, one could construe them to be eligible matches for the gentry. Things are not always what they appear, however, particularly in militia regiments.

Members of the militia were not bound for foreign soil; they were the local peacekeepers.  The commanding officers were typically titled and among the largest landowners in the county from which the regiment was drawn. They were given a quota to fill, with the station of officers fully reflective of the social and financial status of the members. Captain Carter was a much better marital prospect than Mr. Denny.

As with almost anything, appearances can be deceiving. Those with the resources to do so could hire a proxy to serve in their place, and when the quota wasn’t matched by those who met the minimum standards, the powers that be allowed the standards slide a bit. Mr. Wickham, though not a landowner, was educated, gentlemanlike and attractive—all characteristics which would lend distinction to the regiment, so he was let in. What is less clear is how he paid for his uniform, which is an expensive proposition. When the fact that he isn’t a landowner, nor an heir to land becomes apparent, Austen lets her readers use their imaginations as to how he qualified.

mr-wickham-pride-and-prejudice-1995 militia

Militia regiments, though populated from a common region, never served in their home county. This was partly to prevent abuses of power and partly to prevent its members from being distracted by temptations of their familiar turf. The fact that Wickham has joined the regiment stationed in Meryton strongly implies that it is the Derbyshire militia stationed there. His connection to Pemberley would be known and respected, and one could surmise that this is how he got around the landowner requirement to be an officer.

Aside from all the social associations, there is a psychological reason that persons dressed as military officers impress. Recall Caroline Bingley’s claims of what makes an accomplished woman, and there is a piece of it that could as easily be applied to officers. I changed the pronouns for emphasis of the point. “…he must possess a certain something in his air and manner of walking, the tone of his voice, his address and expressions…”

Military training, particularly for officers, does reinforce a commanding bearing, confident air, purposeful stride and disciplined behavior. These things, accompanied by a finely tailored uniform, brass buttons, gold braid and other embellishments of design combine to create the perfect storm for a young girl’s fantasies. Is it any wonder that when I first laid eyes on my husband and he was dressed in a work uniform that was military-esque, I found him completely charming?

undress-uniform Captain Wentworth
…something in his air and manner of walking, the tone of his voice, his address and expressions…

What say you? Do you love a man (or woman) in uniform?

41i7+3KAdcL._UX250_.jpg Meet Diana J. Oaks: Diana Oaks is the third of eight children. She grew up in a large and loving home inclusive of the hi-jinx one would expect with six brothers in the house. She has been known to bemoan the lack of any serious childhood angst to draw upon when writing. She graduated in 1981 from Ricks College in Rexburg Idaho. Diana has been married to her husband Adam since 1982. She is the mother of three adult children and several grandchildren.

Her debut novel, “One Thread Pulled: The Dance with Mr. Darcy,” was released in August 2012.
The sequel, “Constant as the Sun: The Courtship of Mr. Darcy” which chronicles the events of the engagement was released on October 31, 2016. A third book focusing on the early months of their marriage is planned.

Diana currently resides with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, British Navy, George Wickham, Guest Post, historical fiction, history, Living in the Regency, manuscript evaluation, military, Pride and Prejudice | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment