The fun of this is, of course, that the Victorians had such delicious profanity: like pea-brain, lack-wit, and ninny-hammer. (What exactly, one wonders idly, is a ninny-hammer? Perhaps better not to ask.) Or, if you are Miss Alexia Tarabotti, you might get overly enthusiastic and use all three at once: “You pea-brained lack-witted ninny-hammer!”
My research has shown (don’t ask) that many of the slightly less common, but still repulsive, short-syllable expletives of the current day were in use during Victorian times as well. (Oh, all right, I’ll tell you: court records from the seedier end of town faithfully record the sailor and soldier lingo as hurled at some poor bobby from the dock.) But what is fun, is finding the ones that will past muster in printed matter under the eagle eye of my editor, and, it-goes-without-saying, also not lower the tenor of the book – like poodle-faker. (Yes poodle-faker – a young man too much given to taking tea with ladies.)
The thing is (and there’s always a thing) the English language is peculiarly rich with luscious words: like kafuffle, tatterdemalion, curdle, spelunking, frippet, pollock, macerate, waddle, shenanigans, plonker, booby, and kumquat. I wonder often about other linguistic cultures: do they have equally satisfying words? Do they enjoying saying them the way we do? Or is it just us, with our eccentric enthusiasm for alliteration and ruthless penchant for scrumping words from other cultures, who can take satisfaction from the mere word itself? (Speaking of which, whoever could possibly have thought “vacuum” a good idea?) Or am I being linguistically superior and speaking nothing more than preposterous twaddle?
Gail’s Daily Dose
Quote of the Day:
“For your born writer, nothing is so healing as the realization that he has come upon the right word.”
~ Catherine Drinker Bowen