Do You Speak Jane Austen? Part 1

Welcome to the Austenesque Reviews Touring Thursday visitors. My name is Regina Jeffers, and I write Jane Austen sequels and adaptations, as well as Regency romance. My newest book, Christmas at Pemberley is scheduled for release in late October, and I am currently working on a new Pride and Prejudice mystery, tentatively entitled The Murder Hole. (Trust me; the title will change several times before publication. It is the way of the publishing business.) Today, I am beginning a three-part examination of the differences in Regency era words and what we hear in contemporary usage. Take a look at some of my choices to determine whether you “speak Jane Austen.”

If you like what you see, please check out my website at There you will find news on my latest releases, excerpts from each of my books, my personal appearances/book signings, etc. Please leave a comment below for the chance to win the fabulous prizes that Meredith is offering this month on the Austenesque Extravaganza. My publisher, Ulysses Press, has donated several of my novels to the mix.

Part I: Do You Speak Jane Austen?

When my son was about three years of age, he shocked several onlookers at the mall by saying, “I have a splendid idea, if you would acquiesce.” You see, his mother is an avid Jane Austen fan, and he had heard me use such words in every day conversation. Of course, his “splendid” idea was to visit Kaybee Toys, but that is not the point. At that time, he “spoke Jane Austen.” Unfortunately, over the years, he has unlearned those phrases that were once so common. Now, he says “you know” to the point where his often-irrational mother has considered strangling him. (He is a coach, and athletes use the phrase to distraction. Yet, never fear. His mother is on the prowl, and I have banned the phrase “you know” from his speak while he is in my presence.)

So, I ask dear Readers, do you speak Jane Austen?

abhorrence – hatred and disgust

The sight of Miss Lucas was odious to her. As her successor in that house, she regarded her with jealous abhorrence. (Chapter 23)

acquiesce – to comply passively; to consent

Elizabeth was exceedingly pleased with this proposal, and felt persuaded of her sister’s ready acquiescence. (Chapter 25)

barouche-box – a luggage compartment at the front of a mid-sized carriage

“And if you will stay another month complete, it will be in my power to take one of you as far as London, for I am going there early in June, for a week; and as Dawson does not object to the barouche-box, there will be very good room for one of you—and indeed, if the weather should happen to be cool, I should not object to taking you both, as you are neither of you large.” (Chapter 37)

brooking – tolerating

I have not been used to submit to any person’s whims. I have not been in the habit of brooking disappointment.” (Chapter 56)

caprice – an inclination to change one’s mind impulsively; a whim

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. (Chapter 1)

condescension – a superior behavior and attitude

The subject elevated him to more than usual solemnity of manner, and with a most important aspect he protested that “he had never in his life witnessed such behaviour in a person of rank—such affability and condescension, as he had himself experienced from Lady Catherine. (Chapter 14)

dilatory – slow; tending to delay

His family knew him to be, on all common occasions, a most negligent and dilatory correspondent; but at such a time they had hoped for exertion. (Chapter 48)

exigence – a circumstance; a dilemma; a pressing situation

“In such an exigence, my uncle’s advice and assistance would be everything in the world; he will immediately comprehend what I must feel, and I rely upon his goodness.” (Chapter 46)

effusions – outpourings of emotion in writing or speech

“Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travelers.” (Chapter 27)

Fordyce’s Sermons – a popular manual of instruction for young women, which was written by James Fordye in 1766

Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons. (Chapter 14)

felicity – great happiness

After a week spent in professions of love and schemes of felicity, Mr. Collins was called from his amiable Charlotte by the arrival of Saturday. (Chapter 25)

Gretna Green – a Scottish village on the English border; a famous place for runaways to get married; reportedly by the local blacksmith (over the anvil)

I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with whom, I shall think you a simpleton, for there is but one man in the world I love, and he is an angel. (Chapter 47)

genteel – refined; cultured; well-bred

So much the man of fashion! So genteel and easy! (Chapter 9)

hauteur – arrogance; overbearing pride

A deeper shade of hauteur overspread his features, but he said not a word, and Elizabeth, though blaming herself for her own weakness, could not go on. (Chapter 18)

heinous – shockingly wicked; abominable

Let me then advise you, dear sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offense. (Chapter 48)

invectives – abusive expressions

Mrs. Bennet, to whose apartment they all repaired, after a few minutes’ conversation together, received them exactly as might be expected; with tears and lamentations of regret, invectives against the villainous conduct of Wickham, and complaints of her own sufferings and ill-usage; blaming everybody but the person to whose ill-judging indulgence the errors of her daughter must principally be owing. (Chapter 47)

intercourse – conversation

Lady Catherine was extremely indignant on the marriage of her nephew; and as she gave way to all the genuine frankness of her character in her reply to the letter which announced its arrangement, she sent him language so very abusive, especially of Elizabeth, that for some time all intercourse was at an end. (Chapter 61)

(Over the next few days, the alphabetical list will continue. Part 2 is scheduled for tomorrow. These choices are a few of my preferences. What are some of your favorite Regency words?)


About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and contemporary novels.
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70 Responses to Do You Speak Jane Austen? Part 1

  1. Nancy says:

    This is a great list so far, Regina. I’ll have to consider what my favorite Jane word might be–I’m afraid I’m drawing a blank at the moment!

  2. blodeuedd says:

    Yes I am 5 and think it’s so funny when they use intercourse

  3. Joanna Yeoh says:

    Yes, I speak Jane Austen! My favourite words are: brooking, effusions, felicity, genteel, hauteur and invectives. I love this post. Thanks!

  4. How proud you must of been of your son! That is adorable! I’m afraid I don’t speak Jane Austen as well as I wish I did. Sometimes I’ll use a word and everyone will give me a look, but from your list the only words I occassionally use are: abhorrence, condenscension, and felicity. I must try and use acquiesce more. What a fun word! Thanks for participating in Austenesque Extravaganza, Regina!

    • I enjoy tossing in “exultation” when I can use it properly. As in,
      “On their being joined by Mr. Bingley himself, Elizabeth withdrew to Miss Lucas; to whose inquiry after the pleasantness of her last partner she had scarcely replied, before Mr. Collins came up to them, and told her with great exultation that he had just been so fortunate as to make a most important discovery.”

  5. I’m still trying to imagine what I shall do when I reach the end of the alphabet with the letters “x” and “z.”

    • Gayle Mills says:

      Zounds, Regina! “Z” shouldn’t be difficult for you.

      Reading your comments pertaining to your precocious son reminded me of an incident with my daughter when she was 4. Her 5-year-old brother was aggravating her as we made our way to school. She turned to him and told him to stop his “despicable” behavior. Of course, I was very impressed with her mastery of the English language, and I told her teacher what she had said. I also told the secretary, and my sister, and when we got home, I told her dad. My son looked at me with this puzzled look and said, “What’s the big deal with ‘despicable’? Daffy Duck says it all the time.”

  6. Kaydee says:

    Regina, what a fantastic list. I love wordplay. Jane Austen was a master at using words to advantage.

    • Thanks, Kaydee. I, too, love word play. When I was still teaching, I used to keep a running list on the side board in my room to which the students could refer when we read certain passages. Young people do not have the same vocabulary “interests” as we of an older generation do.

  7. Maria Grazia says:

    Since disguise of every sort is my abhorrence , I must confess that I’d love to speak Jane Austen instead I’m still an absolute beginner. I ‘m amazed at how skillful Jane was with words. Thanks, Regina, for this very interesting post!

    • Maria, I love “expostulation.”
      Mr. Darcy smiled; but Elizabeth thought she could perceive that he was rather offended, and therefore checked her laugh. Miss Bingley warmly resented the indignity he had received, in an expostulation with her brother for talking such nonsense.

  8. Maria Grazia says:

    Since disguise of every sort is my abhorrence , I must confess that I’d love to speak Jane Austen instead I’m still an absolute beginner. I ‘m amazed at how skillful Jane was with words. Thanks, Regina, for this very interesting post!

  9. Bonnie Carlson says:

    I love this, Regina. My students get the biggest kick out of the way I automatically fall into Austenesque speech patterns whenever we do P&P. And I love that many of them find phrases and words they like so much they begin using them.
    Loved the story about your son!

    • Bonnie, thanks for stopping by today. Are you back in school? My son’s teacher work days began today. I miss the interactions with the students, but I do not miss the administrative mandates. I wish you the best.

  10. Even though I don’t speak Jane Austen in my everyday conversation, at least I know what the words mean! Great post!

  11. Margay says:

    That is a fantastic list! Can’t wait for the next one!

  12. Sandy says:

    I am guilty!! I tend to do the “indeed”, “lovely” and “do you not?” more than any other, but I am often accused of throwing out funny words or phases. I have always been a word girl and Jane Austen speak words just sound better. My funny speak has to be easier on the ears than the “like” “you know” that seems to be every other word in todays language!

    • Sandy, I am so glad to know there are a few others who love to toss in the occasional word demon just to vex others. Even words such as “imprudence” or “duplicity” add to the mix. I used “diminution” at an alumni gathering on Sunday and was met with looks of disbelief, as well as perplexity.

  13. Regina: Both my sons had a very large vocabulary very early. Every now and then, one of them would say something unusual, and my husband & I would just look at each other and grin.

    I love the work you put into this. It’s delightful! Thanks for sharing it.

    • Heather, thank you for stopping by.
      I love how you and your husband encouraged your sons to develop their language skills. As a former teacher, I can attest to the correlation between academic success and a more sophisticated vocabulary.

  14. Laghalttle says:

    I just was describing to a friend yesterday about a guy and called him a ‘rake’! The girl was a little confused and didn’t quite get my meaning.

    • It is funny that you used the word “guy” in this sentence. When I used it, my editor questioned the appropriateness of the word for the Regency period. I researched the word choice and found that “guy” was used for troublemakers (with its source being the infamous Guy Fawkes).

  15. Thank you for the glossary. I quote Jane Austen all the time. Maybe my grandchildren will speak in Georgian English. That would be fun.

    P.S. Thanks for visiting my blog. 🙂

  16. Amanda Mauldin says:

    “Marianne came hastily out of the parlour apparently in violent affliction”
    Such an interesting way to use “violent” and not at all in the way we’d use it today most likely.

  17. I like “attached,” as in “… and how Lydia could ever have attached him had appeared
    incomprehensible.” P&P Chapter 46

  18. Good grief, you son sounds like mine! When he was about 10 and we were going into school for something and he didn’t want to walk in with his Mom he said “Mom, I’m going to be casually indifferent.” I managed not to ROFLOL, and we each went out separate ways.

    Great post, Regina and a great glossary for Austen fans- hope you put it all into one when you are finished with the series and post it on a permanent page!

  19. I’ve been known to accidentally slip into regency-speak in business correspondence, but fortunately I have yet to use the term ‘intercourse’ there!

  20. Regina, I love this and look forward to the next posts you write! I wish I spoke more of Jane’s words in my everyday vocabulary. However, I do love abhorrence and effusions! Also, what a proud mom you should be with having your son speak so well. Unfortunately, all my 4 year old currently talks about is “tooting” and the body part that goes along with that action. Ugh! 😉

  21. Regina, what a wonderful post! Fun and educational. My 13-year old son loves learning new words, and we make it “cool” by pretending it’s all for the sake of the SAT tests. I’m going to say to my two children that they have been quite dilatory at cleaning up their rooms of late! I’ll be back to learn more tomorrow!

  22. Susan Kaye says:

    I guess I’m inured to “Intercourse” when used in Regency works. It’s when I get hold of an older work in which “‘Thus and so,’ he ejaculated’ is used. Then the 5 yo comes out and giggles.

    • I have rarely seen the word used as such, but I know it’s out there. I am just thank you, Susan, that I did not have a piece of literature in one of my classes that contained the word “ejaculate.” High school boys are so immature.

  23. Janet says:

    Every now and then I catch myself saying something that sounds a little ‘Jane Austen’! I believe the more I read, the easier it becomes. I have been reading much as of late so it has been more often! Thanks for your list. It is great!

  24. Kim Withey says:

    I love it. Anyone hearing a little man speak as such should have automatically fallen in love with him. I would have hugged him to death at that statement. As for the words, I confess to using a few of these words frequently. My Austen often slips out and people comment that I have a strange accent. It may be because I often slip the accent in with the word. When you mix that with my normal Boston Southie its is a very strange and often funny result.

  25. Margaret says:

    My favorites here are abominable, barouche, genteel and acquiesce. Look forward to more thank you!

  26. Trez says:

    My kids are big on vocabulary. Four syllable words have been thrown at them since the day they were born. What we get a kick out of in this household is when the dear husband and father start speaking Jane Austen 🙂

  27. Monica P says:

    Yes, it’s fun to slip into Regency-speak! I love to say “insufferable!” when someone annoys me, and I also like to say I am “violently in love” with things. The word “countenance” took some getting used to when I first started reading Regency stories. I am proud of myself for being familiar with all the words on your list today! I’m looking forward to the rest if it.

    • Monica, I may have to adopt the word “insufferable” into my daily speech. I certainly meet quite a few insufferable people. Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come back again.

  28. Rebecca says:

    mmhmm, I do speak Jane Austen, actually! 🙂 And it pays off handsomely at times too, hehe…Plus it’s fun to see who knows what I’m talking about – or to throw off someone who I really don’t want to encourage 😉

  29. BeckyC says:

    I do let a work or two slip in every now and then. How can it not when Jane Austen is such a huge part of my life!! I love it!

  30. lawoof says:

    Sometimes I use a word or phrase that I would not have used pre-Austen. “Seriously displeased” slips out regularly. “Condescension” fascinates me in P&P. It seems so foolish of Collins to use that word–we wonder if he knows what he is saying (using it as a compliment) when we put our modern perspectives to it. I have two annotated versions of P&P that attempt to define condescension from the period. One says the OED defines it as “affability to one’s inferiors…courteous disregard of difference of rank….” That implies that Collins is complimenting Lady Catherine’s graciousness. We all know how she is, though! Differences in rank were more acceptable then, though. Someone could probably write a thesis on this word alone!

    • “Condescension” is one of those words my students always stumbled over. They know “condescending” and its contemporary meaning. They could never see Collins’s attempts at praise as making sense.

  31. Luthien84 says:

    Nope, sorry. I don’t normally use JA words in my daily conversations nor in writing except for ‘genteel’ but I will try to add in these words next time. Thank you for compiling a list of these words.

  32. Suzan says:

    It was great Regina. I love the language. And yes I have several favorites and a few I use in everyday speech tho’ most wouldn’t connect them to Austen. I do like the way the terms “making love” was used in the past. Funny.. I know you aren’t up to that part yet. Or maybe because it’s two words you won’t be. I liked the ones you chose. anything that would link compassion and nerves would be good….but here again not much different today from then and too many words. I’m already preparing for the children tomorrow….ha

  33. araminta18 says:

    so cute! I do love JA’s language–and probably use it more than I am aware!

  34. Syrie James says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful list. I love speaking Jane Austen. When I wrote “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen,” I read nothing but Austen, every day, all the time, to keep her voice in my head. I’m currently writing a new Jane Austen-themed novel, and I’m doing the same thing again. Your words are very timely and much appreciated….

    My favorite Regency word for the day is… felicity!

    • Syrie, thank you for taking time to read this post. It is amazing how much research and background goes into writing a convincing novel. Currently, I’m reading Mansfield Park. I haven’t read it in a decade so I must revisit this one. Of course, I’m also writing a new novel, doing the final proofs of the October release, and trying to squeeze in some “me” time along the way.
      Of late, I’ve become quite fond of the word “coxcomb.” I find it fits so many in modern society.

  35. Kelli says:

    I love speaking Jane Austen whenever I can. I find I say ‘make haste’ quite a bit, since I have two little ones at home! I need to try some of these other words on your list!

  36. V alerie R. says:

    Loved your story about your son using “Jane speak”!! How CUTE! I have to admit that my favorite word is “acquiesce”, and I’ve used that word quite frequently 😉 Others that I like to use are: felicity/felicitous, disdain, and odious.

  37. Chelsea B. says:

    This was a fun and interesting post to read!!

  38. your reference to ‘intercourse – conversation’ reminded me of a memento we picked up on a trip to pennsylvania – “The Intercourse News” !! the local newspaper being from intercourse, pa ”)
    thx for the fun Regina!
    from an austenesque fan who has happy memories of gretna green…

  39. Theresa M says:

    I love this list! I may sneak these words into conversations with my high schooler as SAT vocabulary prep! Thanks!

  40. Pingback: Touring Thursday – #3 » Austenesque Reviews

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