Are You Familiar with These Words and Phrases?

The words and phrases below are ones I can across in a “more traditional” Regency romance I was reading leisurely, and thought I would share some of the less common ones. Enjoy!

Here and Thereian is one who has no settled place of residence. (Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.)

nevvy(colloquial, Britain, dialectal) A nephew ~ (Britain dialectal) A grandson; From  Middle English neve, nevi, from Old English nefa ‎(nephew, grandson), and  Old Norse nefi ‎(nephew, kinsman); both from Proto-Germanic *nefô ‎(nephew), from  Proto-Indo-European *nepoter-, &nepo- ‎(grandchild, sister’s son). Meanwhile neve  means ‎(plural neves) 1. (rare or obsolete) Nephew [as in, 1920’s, Wilhelm Robert Richard Pinger, Laurence Sterne and Goethe: Iwein considers it his right and duty to avenge his neve, and is much exercised when Artûs proposes to go to the well with his full strength, for he apprehends that the king will give the distinction of the combat to his sister’s son Gâwein. 2. (rare or obsolete) A male cousin. As in, 1988’s , Michael Tepper, New World immigrants: Still another passenger on the same ship was Gysbert Philips from Velthuysen, 24 years old, a “neve” ( nephew or cousin) of Cornelia Wynkoop. 3. (rare or obsolete) A grandson.  4. (rare) A  spendthrift. (Wikitonary)

quinquereme ~ Pronunciation: /ˈkwɪŋkwɪˌriːm/ An ancient Roman or Greek galley of a kind believed to have had three banks of oars, the oars in the top two banks being rowed by pairs of oarsmen and the oars in the bottom bank being rowed by a single oarsmen. (Origin: Mid 16th century: from Latin quinqueremis, fromquinque ‘five’ + remus ‘oar’) {Entry from British & World English Dictionary}

Adam Fireplace_0

Adam Fireplace rebated including Slips and Hearth | Haddonstone

Adam Fireplace ~ The Adam style (or Adamesque and “Style of the Brothers Adam“) is an 18th-century neoclassical style of  interior design  and architecture, as practised by three Scottish brothers, of whom Robert Adam  (1728–1792) and James Adam (1732–1794) were the most widely known. The Adam brothers were the first to advocate an integrated style for architecture and interiors; with walls, ceilings, fireplaces, furniture, fixtures, fittings and carpets all being designed by the Adams as a single uniform scheme. Commonly and mistakenly known as “Adams Style,” the proper term for this style of architecture and furniture is the “Style of the Adam Brothers.” The Adam style found its niche from the late 1760s in upper-class and middle-class residences in 18th-century England, Scotland, Russia (where it was introduced by Scottish architect Charles Cameron), and post- Revolutionary War in the United States (where it became known as Federal style and took on a variation of its own). The style was superseded from around 1795 onwards by the Regency style and the French Empire style. (Wikipedia)

Smithfield Bargain ~ 1. A bargain whereby the purchaser is taken in. This is likewise frequently used to express matches or marriages contracted solely on the score of interest, on one or both sides, where the fair sex are bought and sold like cattle in Smithfield.(Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.) 2. a marriage of convenience in which the size of the marriage settlement is the determining factor (Origin and Etymology of smithfield bargain from Smithfield, area in London, England where fairs were formerly held (Merriam-Webster)

A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue provides us with a breakdown of crew, which is a knot or gang; also a boat or ship’s company. The canting crew are thus divided into twenty-three orders, which under the different words:

MEN. 1 Rufflers 2 Upright Men 3 Hookers or Anglers 4 Rogues 5 Wild Rogues 6 Priggers of Prancers 7 Palliardes 8 Fraters 9 Jarkmen, or Patricoes 10 Fresh Water Mariners, or Whip Jackets 11 Drummerers 12 Drunken Tinkers 13 Swadders, or Pedlars 14 Abrams.

WOMEN. 1 Demanders for Glimmer or Fire 2 Bawdy Baskets 3 Morts 4 Autem Morts 5 Walking Morts 6 Doxies 7 Delles 8 Kinching Morts 9 Kinching Coes

(Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.)

Kinching Morts & Coes: refers to child pickpockets, beggars or other criminal/mendicant professions. Ca. 1800. (Urban Dictionary)

300px-Image_depicitng_a_gudgeon_with_a_pintleA gudgeon is a socket-like, cylindrical (i.e., female) fitting attached to one component to enable a pivoting or hinging connection to a second component. The second component carries a pintle fitting, the male counterpart to the gudgeon, enabling an interpivoting connection that can be easily separated. Designs that may use gudgeon and pintle connections include hinges, shutters and boat rudders. The gudgeon derives from the Middle English gojoun, which originated from the Middle French goujon. Its first known use was in the 15th century. (Wikipedia)

Bibelot – a small household ornament or decorative object, often referred to as a trinket; sometimes called gewgaw and gimcrack. But bibelot, which English speakers borrowed from French in the late 1800s, has uses beyond wordplay. In addition to its general use as a synonym of trinket, it can refer specifically to a miniature book of elegant design (such as those made by Tiffany and Faberge). It also appears regularly in the names of things as diverse as restaurants and show dogs. (Merriam Webster)

Trumpery ~ 1. worthless nonsense; 2.  trivial or useless articles, i.e.,  junk <a wagon loaded with household trumpery — Washington Irving> 3. archaic:  tawdry finery. Trumpery derives from the Middle English trompery and ultimately from the Middle French tromper, meaning “to deceive.” (You can see the meaning of this root reflected in the French phrase trompe-l’oeil-literally, “deceives the eye”- which in English refers to a style of painting with photographically realistic detail.) Trumpery first appeared in English in the mid-15th century with the meanings “deceit or fraud” (a sense that is now obsolete) and “worthless nonsense.” Less than 100 years later, it was being applied to material objects of little or no value. The verb phrase trump up means “to concoct with the intent to deceive,” but there is most likely no etymological connection between this phrase and trumpery. (Merriam Webster) 

Lickpennyarchaic: something that uses up money <law is a lickpenny — Sir Walter Scott> (OriginMiddle English lickpeny, from licken to lick + peny penny); from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License n. A devourer or absorber of money; from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English n. A devourer or absorber of money; from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia n. A greedy or covetous person; a grasper. (Wordnik)

London Lickpenny is the tale of a poor Kentish husbandman’s trip to the courts at Westminster to present his case.  Though his claim apparently has merit, he cannot obtain action or justice without bribing the various lawyers, judges and clerks.  A mixture of complaint, parody and pathos, the poem also takes the reader on a lively tour of Westminster and London.  It is an engaging piece written in a relatively easy dialect and published often in anthologies, so it might be a good starting point for those tempted to read some Middle English texts in the original. [Skeat cites the explanation that “Lickpenny” is an epithet for London, since it “licks up the pence that comes near it.”  Walter W. Skeat, ed.,  Specimens of  English Literature from the ‘Ploughmans Crede’ to the ‘Shepheardes Calendar’ A.D. 1394-A.D. 1579  (London:  Clarendon Press, 1892) 373.] Read the full text of “London Lickpenny” at Medieval Forum.

O. Henry also wrote a short story called “A Lickpenny Lover.” O.Henry`s short story, ‘A Lickpenny Lover’,  follows the O. Henry-esque style. Most of O.Henry`s creations contain a surprise ending or plot twist. When reading ‘A LickPenny Lover,’ you would expect Masie to say ‘yes’ once Irving proposes, and they would get married and live ‘happily ever after’. However, this is not the case in O.Henry`s short story. Masie is accustomed to guys not being rich enough to take her to places she really wanted to go and thought Irving was the same as the other guys. “Nit; he’s too cheap a guy for that. He me to marry him and go down to Coney Island a wedding tour!” Her misinterpretation caused her to leave Irving, a young man who could have given her the things she really wanted. Read O. Henry’s story HERE. 

Enervation ~ lacking physical, mental, or moral vigor (first known use 1603); Enervate is a word that some people use without really knowing what it means. They seem to believe that because “enervate” looks a little bit like “energize” and “invigorate” it must share their meaning – but it is actually their antonym. “Enervate” comes from the Latin word enervare, which was formed from the prefix e-, meaning “out of,” and “-nervare” (from nervus, meaning “sinew or nerve”). So, etymologically at least, someone who is enervated is “out of nerve.”  Synonyms: unnerve, enervate, unman, emasculate mean to deprive of strength or vigor and the capacity for effective action.  unnerve implies marked often temporary loss of courage, self-control, or power to act <unnerved by the near collision>enerate suggests a gradual physical or moral weakening (as through luxury or indolence) until one is too feeble to make an effort <a nation’s youth enervated by affluence and leisure>. unman implies a loss of manly vigor, fortitude, or spirit <a soldier unmanned by the terrors of battle>.  emasculate stresses a depriving of characteristic force by removing something essential <an amendment that emasculates existing safeguards>. (Merriam Webster)

098d96620f081cb1474ecec6ecf0cac1Pomatum ~ pomade (Origin: 1555-65; New Latin, Latinization of pomade; neuter(for feminine) to agree with Latin pōmum fruit); from pome, which is the characteristic fruit of the apple family, as an apple, pear, or quince, in which the edible flesh arises from the greatly swollen receptacle and not from the carpels.    Historical Examples:

  • Go in with us; don’t potter with pomatum and perfumes,—rubbish! from Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau by  Honore de Balzac

  • A footman and a groom came next, leaving trails of pomatum in the air. from The Country House by John Galsworthy. (

From “Georgian Hair” from Unique Histories of the 18th and 19th Centuries, we find, “By the late Georgian era, gone were the towering headdresses. In its place was a woman’s natural hair, considered her crowning glory. With a more natural look and styles taken from the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, women attempted to achieve a gorgeous head of hair. Hair color was one of the most important aspects, and, fortunately, if a women did not like the color of her hair, she could change it. Once a woman had the right hair color numerous tips existed for washing it. One writer advised it should be “occasionally well washed with soap-and-water,” although there were also critics who opposed hair washing all together. To keep the hair glossy and shiny, combing and brushing came next, and, according to one nineteenth century writer, “the oftener the comb and brush are subsequently used in the day, the better it will be for the luxuriance, smoothness, and set of the hair.” But brushing was not the only prerequisite to luxurious hair. Sometimes oil or pomade was added, and, if the hair was styled, there were curling tongs, crisping irons, or papillotes, small pieces of paper that curled the hair and were humorously called paper shackles by one writer. To preserve the hairstyle and ensure it lasted for more than a day, women often wore nightcaps.”



About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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2 Responses to Are You Familiar with These Words and Phrases?

  1. Regarding the “Smithfield bargain,” I just ran across a reference from around 1800 in which the “Times” apologized for not having the current prices for wives being sold at Smithfield, but noted that the price of wives had increased of late from half a guinea to three guineas and a half.

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