Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

Inexpressibles ~ Etymology Compare to unmentionables ‎(“underwear”). Geri Walton at her Unique Histories from the 18th and 19th Centuries tells us “That part of the dress which it is now unlawful to name, seems of old to have had the singular virtue of discomfiting witches and demons. Every one may have heard how the bare vision of St. Francis’ inexpressibles put the devil to flight.” This was one nineteenth century description of men’s trousers, known as inexpressibles, and they likely acquired the name because they were extremely erotic and fit so tightly they showed every nook and cranny of a man’s sexual organs, posterior, and muscular legs. In fact, they would have accentuated a man’s sexual organs even more if extra room had not been allowed in one thigh, which created a pocket where a man could position them.

“Even with the pocket, inexpressibles left nothing to the imagination. Wearers created the image of a naked Greek God, as inexpressibles were usually pale in color. At least one person noted inexpressibles were a natural evolution:

“‘[They emanated from] small clothes to tights, from tights to inexpressibles, from inexpressibles to unspeakables, and from unspeakables to unmentionables, from unmentionables to shorts, from shorts to etceteras, from etceteras to continuations, and so on through antifeminines, remainders, masculines, and nether integuments down to the Quaker periphrase lower garments!'”


broadcast-television-collection-of-old-television-sets-of-the-50s-cpnawe.jpgThe Free  Dictionary tells us that Mingle-Mangle is a motley assortment of things (other closely related words include farrago, gallimaufry, hodgepodge, hotchpotch, melange, mishmash, oddments, odds and ends, omnium-gatherum, ragbag assortment, miscellanea, miscellany, mixed bag, motley, potpourri, salmagundi, smorgasbord, etc.).


A Mare’s Nest is a much vaunted discovery, which later turns out to be illusory or worthless.

The Phrase Finder tells us, “There are two unrelated meanings of ‘mare’s nest’ in circulation, and there’s little to connect them. The first, and ‘proper’ meaning, has it that finding a mare’s nest is imagining that one has found something remarkable when in fact one has found nothing of the sort. The second meaning, which is more widespread today, is that a mare’s nest is a confused mess – more on that later. The earlier ‘misconception’ meaning has been in use since at least the 16th century, when Robert Peterson published a version of the Italian John Della Casa’s Galateo. This was ‘done into English’, that is, translated, by Peterson in 1576:

Nor Stare in a mans face, as if he had spied a mares nest.

“Animals are often alluded to in phrases of this sort, for example, lion’s share, dog’s breakfast, bird’s-eye view etc. Of course, this one is different, in that mares don’t make nests – the allusion was meant to be comically ironic. That humour is reflected in several of the early citations of ‘mare’s nest’ (or horse’s nest, as some early references have it), which refer directly to laughter, for example, John Fletcher’s Jacobean tragedy Bonduca, circa. 1613

Why dost thou laugh? What Mares nest hast thou found?

The joke was pushed further by Dr. [Jonathan] Swift, in the play Miscellanies, 1751:

What! Have you found a mare’s nest, and laugh at the eggs?

“Back to the second, ‘muddle’ meaning, which didn’t begin to be used until the mid-19th century. It appears to have come into being as the result of a simple misunderstanding. To someone who was unfamiliar with the original meaning, and that meaning is hardly intuitive, ‘a mare’s nest’ would seem very much like the earlier 19th century phrase ‘a rat’s nest’. In reality, rats make rather neat nests, but the phrase was certainly meant to mean a disordered tangle (see also haywire) and the currently widespread meaning of ‘mare’s nest’ was copied from that.

“The transition from the earlier meaning to the later one was gradual and appears to have been well underway by the 1920s, when Agatha Christie wrote The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Christie managed there to use both meanings in the same story:

a misunderstanding… “In my opinion the whole thing is a mare’s nest of Bauerstein’s! … Bauerstein’s got a bee in his bonnet. Poisons are his hobby, so of course he sees them everywhere.”

and, a muddle… “A pretty mare’s nest arresting him would have been.”


Fly into a Pelter was more difficult to define. Wordnik provides these definitions and sources:

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who pelts.
  • n. A pinchpenny; a mean, sordid person; a miser; a skinflint.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who or that which pelts.
  • n. A shower of missiles; a storm, as of falling rain, hailstones, etc.
  • n. A passion; a fit of anger.
  • n. A dealer in skins or hides; a skinner.
  • n. A mean, sordid person; a pinchpenny.
  • n. A fool.
  • n. In poker, a hand which has no card higher than a nine and no chance for a flush or straight: sometimes called Chicago pelter. Also, kilter.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a heavy rain
  • n. a thrower of missiles

Some examples provided were 

  • Mary Jane and I have been wet through once already to-day; we set off in the donkey-carriage for Farringdon, as I wanted to see the improvements Mr. Woolls is making, but we were obliged to turn back before we got there, but not soon enough to avoid a pelter all the way home. (Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters: A Family Record)

  • Colonel Boone had but to hear him out and bare his shoulders for such other blows which Judge Wright sought to pelter him, and we will hear with what blow he was driven from his post as Indian Agent. (The Second William Penn: A True Account of Incidents That Happened Along the Old Santa Fe Trail)

  • A tremendous storm brewing to windward, cut short our intended drive; and, putting the nags to their best pace, we barely succeeded in obtaining shelter ere it burst upon us; and such a pelter as it came down, who ever saw? (Lands of the Slave and the Free Cuba, the United States, and Canada)


Merriam Webster tells us Diablerie is black magic or sorcery; a representation in words or pictures of black magic or of dealings with the devil or demon lore; or mischievous conduct or manner

The Unofficial White Wolf Fandom Page gives a definition in vampiric terms.
“The aggressor, dubbed the diablerist, automatically loses some of its humanity and is branded by black streaks in their aura that may persist for several years. Still, the practice holds a great deal of allure, for it is said to bestow the greatest pleasure imaginable to the diablerist, greater than the Kiss, and can also grant him or her greater power. Diablerie involves the consumption of another Indred’s vitae to the point of Final Death, but as the “heart’s blood” is consumed, the aggressor might devour it’s victims very soul. Most vampires consider it a heinous act, akin to cannibalism.

“Diablerizing the soul of a Cainite of significant age is one of the few ways of lowering one’s Generation, for if the victim possessed more potent blood then the diablerist’s, the diablerist’s Generation drops by one, possibly more if the victim was of notably lower Generation. However, there is the risk of some portion of the victim’s soul living on within the diablerist. Rumors abound of diablerists taking on the mannerisms of their victims, and even stranger tales speak of the victims consuming their assailants from within and taking over their bodies. Some Antediluvians and Methuselahs are believed to have survived their death  in this manner.”

Fury: The Reference Desk adds this to the vampiric discussion: “There is one thing that elder Kindred dread even more than fire or the light of the sun. This is the sin known as diablerie, or the Amaranth. Among Camarilla society, diablerie is the ultimate crime; those who practice it are subject to the harshest punishments imaginable. It is as loathed and feared as cannibalism is among mortal society. The vampires of the Sabbat, as well as the warriors of Clan Assamite, are said to indulge in diablerie freely, which is yet another reason why the elders hate them so.

“Quite simply, diablerie is the act of feeding on a vampire in the way that a vampire feeds on a mortal. In so doing, not only does the murderer consume the victim’s blood (and vampire blood is far, far sweeter than even the tastiest mortal’s), but the victim’s power as well. By stealing the life of a vampire closer to Caine, the vampire can permanently enrich his own vitae. In this manner can even the youngest vampire gain the power of the elders, should he have the strength and daring to wrest it from them.”


Purlieus, according to the Free Dictionary is environs or neighborhoods; a place where one may range at large; confines or bounds; a person’s haunt or resort; an outlying district or region, as of a town or city; or a piece of land on the edge of a forest, originally land that, after having been included in a royal forest, was restored to private ownership, though still subject, in some respects, to the operation of the forest laws.

Wikipedia tells us “Purlieu is a term used of the outlying parts of a place or district. It was a term of the old Forest Las, and meant, as defined by John Manwood,  Treatise of the Lawes of the Forest (1598, 4th ed. 1717),

a certain territory of ground adjoining unto the forest [which] was once forest-land and afterwards disafforested by the perambulations made for the severing of the new forests from the old


Shops in Beaulieu Road, Dibden Purlieu

“The owner of freelands in the purlieu to the yearly value of forty shillings was known as a purlieu-man or purley-man. The benefits of disafforestation accrued only to the owner of the lands. There seems no doubt that purlieu or purley represents the Anglo- French pourallé lieu (old French pouraler, puraler, to go through Latin perambulare), a legal term meaning properly a perambulation to determne the boundaries of a manor, parish, or similar region. The word survives in place names. Examples include Dibden Purlieu in Hampshire,  on the border of the New Forest and Bedford Purlieus, once part of Rockingham Forest. ” 


Merriam Webster defines Farouche as wild or marked by shyness and lack of social graces. “In French, “farouche” can mean wild or shy, just as it does in English. It is an alteration of the Old French word forasche, which derives via Late Latin forasticus (“living outside”) from Latin foras, meaning “outdoors.” In its earliest English uses, in the middle of the 18th century, “farouche” was used to describe someone who was awkward in social situations, perhaps as one who has lived apart from groups of people. The word can also mean “disorderly,” as in “farouche ruffians out to cause trouble.”


If you’re known as being Pawky, you’ve got a sly, mischievous sense of humor. The pawky one in your group of friends is probably good at making everyone laugh while barely cracking a smile. You’re most likely to encounter the word pawky in Scotland, but it’s a good way to describe someone who’s got a sardonic wit, wherever you happen to be. You might surprise people with your pawky wit if you’re usually quiet and retiring. Pawky is Scots, and it’s also used in Northern England, from the Northern English pawk, or ‘trick.'” (


il_340x270.711669650_83yj.jpg Wikipedia tells us that Pinchbeck is a form of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, mixed in proportions so that it closely resembles  gold  in appearance. It was invented in the 18th century by  Christopher Pinchbeck, a London clockmaker. Since gold was only sold in 18-carat quality at that time, the development of pinchbeck allowed ordinary people to buy gold ‘effect’ jewellery on a budget. The inventor allegedly made pinchbeck jewellery clearly labelled as such. Pinchbeck jewellery was used in places like stagecoaches   where there was a risk of theft. Later dishonest jewellers passed pinchbeck off as gold; over the years it came to mean a cheap and tawdry imitation of gold.  Pinchbeck is typically composed of copper and zinc in ratios of 89% copper to 11% zinc; or 93% copper to 7% zinc.

Also check out Pinchbeck at World Wide Words for a more complete telling of its origins. 


From World Wide Words, we learn that Rodomontade is a mass noun meaning boastful talk or behavior. The term is a reference to Rodomonte, a character in Italian Renaissance epic poems Orlando innamorato and its sequel Orlando furioso.  

  • A 17th-century example of the term exists in Don Tomazo by Thomas Dangerfield, with a slight alteration of spelling. As the titular protagonist heads towards Cairo with a number of stolen treasures, he is informed by an acquaintance that:
. . . he could, in that heathenish city, command a thousand pound – which was at that time no rodomontado, in regard the jewels were worth above four times the value. 
  • A 19th-century example of the use of the term can be found in The Adventures of Captain Bonneville by Washington Irving. Irving used it to describe the behavior of “free trappers”, fur trappers who worked freelance and adopted the manner, habits, and dress of the Native Americans. When free trappers visited Bonneville’s camp, he welcomed them and ordered grog for everyone:
They [the free trappers] pronounced the captain the finest fellow in the world, and his men all bon garçons, jovial lads, and swore they would pass the day with them. They did so, and a day it was, of boast, and swagger, and rodomontade.
  • Another 19th-century example can be found in Thomas Carlyle’s 1829 essay Signs of the Times:
We have more Mathematics than ever; but less Mathesis. Archimedes and Plato could not have read the Mécanique Céleste; but neither would the whole French Institute see aught in that saying, “God geometrises!” but a sentimental rodomontade.

“English borrowed the word rodomont in the sixteenth century as a way to describe an extravagant boaster or braggart. Our form appeared in the following century. At first it meant a single brag or boastful act, so that one could speak in the plural of rodomontades. In that form, the first known user was John Donne, in 1612: “Challengers cartells, full of Rodomontades.” Later it became both an adjective and a verb and a mass noun that refers to the whole business of making your point by laying it on rather too thick.

“In that sense, it turns up in many works of literature, including The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë: ‘She knows what she’s about; but he, poor fool, deludes himself with the notion that she’ll make him a good wife, and because she has amused him with some rodomontade about despising rank and wealth in matters of love and marriage, he flatters himself that she’s devotedly attached to him.'”


ham-getty-images-ftr.jpg Gammon has several meanings. First, gives us the game of backgammon; a victory in which the winner throws off all his other pieces before the opponent throws off any; verb (used with object) to win a gammon over. Next we have a smoked or cured ham or the lower end of a side of bacon. Origin 1480-90; Old French gambon ham ( French jambon), derivative of gambe; see jamb Finally, deceitful nonsense; boshto talk gammon;to make pretense; or (verb)to humbug.

Gammon is the hind leg of pork after it has been cured by dry-salting or brining.  It may be sold on-the-bone or without bone, or as steaks or rashers. It differs from ham in that ham is cured after being cut from the carcass but not cooked, and the curing process for ham may be different. Gammon hock (or knuckle) is the foot end of the joint, and contains more connective tissue and sinew. Joints of cooked gammon are often served at Christmas or Boxing Day. 

“Gammon is often purchased to be further cured into ham – this is carried out by immersing the joint in water, then adding sugar, salt, spices, and other ingredients, and bringing it to the boil. The words gammon, ham and bacon are sometimes used interchangeably. Particularly in the U.S., the word ‘ham’ may refer to raw, uncured hind leg of pork. The word ‘gammon’ is related to the French word jambon, meaning ham, which in turn is derived from Late Latin gamba, meaning leg.” [W K H Bode; M J Leto. The Larder Chef. Routledge; 25 June 2012. p. 178.]


800px-Travellers_attacked_by_brigands.jpg “Brigand refers to the life and practice of brigands: highway robbery and plunder. A brigand is a person who usually lives in a gang and lives by pillage and robbery. The brigand is supposed to derive his name from the Old French brigand, which is a form of the Italian brigante, an irregular or  partisan soldier. There can be no doubt as to the origin of the word bandit, which has the same meaning. In Italy, which is considered the home of the most accomplished European brigands, a bandito was a man declared outlaw by proclamation, or bando, called in Scotland “a decree of horning” because it was delivered by a blast of a horn at the town cross. The brigand, therefore, is the outlaw who conducts warfare after the manner of an irregular or partisan soldier by skirmishes and surprises, who makes the war support itself by plunder, by extortion, by capturing prisoners and holding them to  ransom, who enforces his demands by violence, and kills the prisoners who cannot pay.


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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