On the Satisfaction of Victorian Profanity (Parasol Protectorate Special Extras)

Warning, this post, may, or may not, be considered explicit. Judge for yourself, you poodle-faker!
I don’t know what it says about me as an author, Gentle Reader, but as I move along through this series, I seem to find myself in need of more and more swear words. (And, before you ask, no that does not mean Alexia has suddenly taken to canoodling with the blowhards down dockside.)
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?

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Posted by Gail Carriger

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  1. Anonymous said:

    (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.)

    …Where could one find this?

  2. Gail Carriger said:

    Gosh that's a pretty old blog, I don't know if I kept the link and if I did if it's still active but I'll check…
    I can't find the case I'm referring to, which means it's a written (probably library), not internet, source. Sorry, I just don't remember.
    Another good resource is "The Vulgar Tongue Dictionary" 1811 by Captain Grose (ha ha) a friend of mine sent me pdf of that.

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