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Archive for May, 2018

Regency Trivia – Thieves Cant
 
Can was popular among the younger men of the ton. They picked it up a boxing matches, cock fights (none of my heroes attend them), low taverns, and gaming hells.
 
Cant is not rhyming cockney which is Victorian. Here are just a few examples of Cant.
All -a -gog – Anxious, eager
All-a-mort – Confounded
Mort – A queen or great lady can be used for any lady.
Fartcatcher – footman
Bantling – young child
 
A fabulous free resource for Cant and lower class slang is the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. https://amzn.to/2K1Al5A
Another resource is Cant, A Gentlemen’s Guide. This is, unfortunately, not free, but here’s the link. https://amzn.to/2whpguU
 
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This is a fabulous post by Angelyn!

Angelyn's Blog

George, Lord Belfast, had a brother six years younger–Lord Spencer Stanley Chichester (1775-1819). Spencer Stanley was the last child born to the old Marquis and his beloved first wife, Anne. He was only four when his mother died.

Lord Spencer Stanley Chichester Lord Spencer Stanley Chichester

When George came of age in 1791, he had already declined an education at his father’s alma mater, Oxford, and left home for the gaming tables and the turf:

“I had the whole story of Lord Belfast and a sad one it is….the foolish young man had been bamboozled out of 40,000 pounds in the space of nine months by some villainous people..” — 1791 letter from Lady Newdigate

Sixteen year old Spencer Stanley remained at Fisherwick, companion to a perplexed father puttering about his shells and books in between trips to London for Parliament and the Season. One can easily speculate how his lordship, despairing over his absent elder son’s dissipation, should turn…

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regency swearing

Swearing was vastly different during the Regency than it is today where pretty much anything goes. Gentlemen would have learned early on not to swear in the presence of ladies not matter how vexed they were. Ladies, by and large, were simply not exposed to swearing or vulgar language such as Cant. Do go thinking that servants would swear around them. That was a quick way to unemployment.

So, what words did gentlemen use when they swore? Here is a list of swear words and oaths I complied over the years”

Devil it, Bollocks, Bloody, Hell, Damn his eyes, Damme, (Egan uses Demmee), Devil a bit, Devil it, The devil’s in it, Hell and the Devil, Hell and damnation, Hell and the Devil confound it, How the devil . . ..

As opposed to words that could be used around a lady:

Perdition, By Jove’s beard, Zounds, Curse it, Balderdash, By Jove, Confound it, Dash it all, Egad, Fustian, Gammon, Hornswoggle, Hound’s teeth, Jove, Jupiter, Lucifer, ‘Pon my sou, Poppycock, Zeus.

Oaths appropriate for ladies were:

Dratted (man, boy, etc.), Fustian, Heaven forbid, Heaven forefend, Horse feathers, Humdudgeon, Merciful Heavens, Odious (man, creature, etc.), Piffle, Pooh, What a hobble (bumble-broth) we’re in.

You’ll notice that the word “bastard” is not listed. The first written usage appears to have been in 1830. Here are the examples from the OED:

1830   N. Scatcherd Hist. Morley 339   Bastard, a term of reproach for a mischievous or worthless boy.

1833   C. Lamb Let. 27 Apr. (1935) III. 367   We have had a sick child, who sleeping, or not sleeping, next me with a pasteboard partition between, killed my sleep. The little bastard is gone.

The first written usage of the word as it is used in modern day English is this:

1937   J. A. Lee Civilian into Soldier i. 29   ‘He’s a bastard.’ Guy used the term not for its dictionary meaning, but because among New Zealanders no term expressed greater contempt.

This makes sense. Being a bastard during the Regency was not a horrible thing. If one was fortunate to have been born to a king, he could become a duke.

So, it appears that the word as we use it today comes from New Zealand.

The word “bloody” was used frequently and was not considered offensive until sometime around 1750 when it began to be considered vulgar and profane. In 1755, Johnson calls it “very vulgar”, in 1888 the Oxford English Dictionary states “bloody now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered ‘a horrid word’, on par with obscene or profane language.”

It is unclear when the term “bloody hell” was first used, but during the Regency and beyond, it would only be used by the disreputable people.

Fuck is also not on the list. Although the word has been around forever, Shakespeare used it, it was not used in its current context until 1929.

Researching swear words take a lot of work as they were not normally used in written form. However, the OED online is a great source because they keep updating their dictionary.

Next – Insults

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During the Georgian era, cosmetics (mostly lead based) were used in abundance. However, during the Regency the style changed to a natural look. The beauty emphasis focused on a natural complexion spurring a variety of creams and other stratagems for the much desire milky complexion. Here are some of the products popular at the time. Milk of Roses, Olympian Dew, Gowland’s Lotion, The Bath Lotion, Bloom of Ninon. Home remedies included crushed strawberries and cucumber.

Instead of resorting to the rouge pot (still used by older ladies) for a healthy bloom in their cheeks young ladies were encouraged to “take the air” in the form of outdoor exercise: walking, riding a horse, riding in an open carriage were all the rage. Suntans and freckles—no one wanted to be labeled ‘bran faced—were definitely not in fashion, therefore large brimmed hats and parasols were highly encouraged for outdoor jaunts.

For older ladies who needed some help, Pear’s Almond Bloom was a popular foundation that guaranteed a light delicate tint. Rice power or fine talcum powder were of the few cosmetics not frowned upon. To give one’s skin a shiny look, finely ground bismuth in the form of Pear’s White Imperial Powder was used. As with most cosmetics, this was used by more mature ladies.

Power, liquid, and cream rouges could be used in a pinch.

Eye makeup was frowned upon, but it did exist. Burnt cork and mixing lamp-black with oil could be made into a paste that was applied to eyebrows and lashes. In Georgette Heyer’s, The Infamous Army, the heroine admits to darkening her lashes.

Darkening one’s lips appeared to be roundly condemned, although, cosmetics did exist in the form of Rose Lip Salve made of almond oil, white wax, and a coloring agent. Rigge’s Liquid Bloom was also popular. It apparently gave lips a rosy glow. Again, these would be used by older ladies.

Washing not only one’s body but ones teeth became much more important. Helpfully, the first commercial tooth cleansers became available. One product was called Essence of Pearl. Some of the products promised to stop decay, fasten loose teeth, and cure gum infections.

The first book on beauty, The Mirror of the Graces or The English Lady’s Costume, was published by A Lady of Distinction in 1811.

It encouraged ladies thusly, “Combining and harmonizing taste and judgment, elegance and grace, modesty simplicity, economy with fashion in dress. And adapting the various articles of female embellishment to different ages, forms, and complexions; to the seasons of the year, rank and situation in life: With useful advice on female accomplishments, politeness and manners; the cultivation of the mind and the disposition and the carriage of the body: offering also the most efficacious means of preserving health, beauty and loveliness. The whole according with the general principles of nature and rules of nature.”

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