As I'm noodling with a story idea set in (gasp!) early 20th century America, I'm realizing it will take a major re-set of my 19th century British-obsessed brain to maintain historical accuracy. Which is why I thought it would be fun to revisit this post, which originally aired in November 2008. Answers will once again appear in the comments section, if you want to keep score.
Regina and I have enjoyed presenting you with odd words and phrases used at different times in the 19th century. They’re fun to know and, for us, fun to use (sparingly!) in writing our books to help give them that early 19th century “flavor”.
But we’ve discovered that an important part of using authentic slang is sounding authentic. As I’ve researched the words and terms I’ve discussed here in Nineteenteen, I’ve found some that sound very 19th century but aren’t, and others that sound quite modern but are indeed, old—sometimes far older than the 19th century. So I’ve put together a bit of a quiz for you: below is a list of words or phrases and how they’re used. Can you tell if they’re genuinely 19th century (or before), or more recent inventions? Answers will be in the comment section so you can test yourself without peeking. Good luck, and have fun!
1. Nuts or nutty: To be infatuated. (“Sir Steven is quite nutty over Caroline, despite her appalling taste in millinery and that regrettable moustache.”)
2. Lily-livered: Cowardly. (“We thought Cecil was going to offer for Amelia, but the lily-livered lad hid in the library reading Cicero all evening instead.”)
3. Nitwit: A fool or simpleton. (“Did you hear that Freddy Hamilton ordered six mauve waistcoats with orange stripes from his tailor? He’ll look quite the biggest nitwit in all of Mayfair!”)
4. Kick the bucket: To die. (“That scoundrel John lives in daily anticipation of his uncle’s kicking the bucket so that he’ll inherit his fortune, but the old man looks quite healthy to me.”)
5. Pig: A derogatory term for a police officer. (“As he marched around Hyde Park carrying his “Give Peace a Chance: Wellington Out of Spain Now!” sign, George worried that he and his fellow anti-war protesters would be arrested by the pigs.”)
6. Fussbudget: A complaining person. (“Aunt Gladys is such a fussbudget that I’ve sworn that I shan’t take her out in my high-perch phaeton ever again!”)
7. Put the kibosh on: To stop an action. (“Mama put the kibosh on Annabel’s dancing with Lord Speen a third time by calling for the carriage.”)
8. Smashing: Splendid, wonderful. (“The refreshments at Lady Herman’s Christmas ball were simply smashing! Where did she find strawberries like that in December?”)
Don't forget, answers are in the comments section. So how did you do?