A few of us were having a grand old time on Twitter recently with the OED. Yes, we’re geeks of first order. It was brought on by my semi-regular #RegencySlang postings, wherein I highlight words from A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785
; yes the editions are different). I’m often surprised by words that were clearly in use at the time. Bedfordshire, for example (as in “I am for Bedfordshire”, i.e. going to bed) seems very modern to me (it’s also one of the words that’s in the 1811 edition, but not the 1785 edition). I also like to highlight strange or fun words that I think should be added to our collective Georgian/Regency vocabularies. Beau Trap is one that I love. It’s that loose stone in a cobble street that splashes dirty water onto your shoes and stockings when you step on it. Brilliant! And Bedizened (over-dressed, awkwardly ornamented, gaudy). Sounds like “bedazzled” and I think in context any reader would get it (as in this quote from the OED: “I took him for a Captain, he's so bedizen'd with Lace.”).
The discussion segued (as happens on Twitter) into a mea culpa discussion about words that we knowingly use even though they’re not period. One of my main contenders is Mount. The act of climbing into the saddle (1330) or sexual intercourse (1475) are both perfectly period for my 18th century settings, but—and this is a big but for me—the use of mount as a synonym for horse is Victorian (1856). Even knowing this, I use it anyway, as I tend to write “horsey” characters and the need for synonyms is pressing.
I don’t make this decision lightly. It comes down to whether or not I think the usage breaks the historical mood and is likely to make the reader stumble and think, “When the hell was this book set again?”. And I don’t think it does. I think you could get away with “His mount snapped his teeth at the rider beside them.” in a book set in Roman Britain as well as a 21st century Texas.
Are there any words that you know aren’t period, but you can’t resist using? Come on, fess up?
From the OED
a. intr. To get up on to the back of a horse or other animal (occas. on a person's shoulders) for the purpose of riding. With on, upon, †to.
c1330 (1300) Arthour & Merlin (Auch.) (1973) 9230 Þo mounted Arthour, Bohort, and Ban Wiþ alle her wi't compainie.
a. To climb on to (a partner or mate) for the purpose of sexual intercourse. Also intr.In early use freq. with punning allusion to sense 13c; and in quot. c1564 to sense 5b.
[implied in: a1475 in F. J. Furnivall Jyl of Breyntford's Test. (1871) 31 The leste fyngere on my honde Is more than he [sc. the penis], whan he dothe stonde‥Sory mowntyng come there-on. [at mounting n. 1]
a. orig. colloq. A horse, bicycle, etc., on which a person is mounted or which a person rides or drives; a horse, etc., provided for riding.
1856 ‘Stonehenge’ Man. Brit. Rural Sports 363/1 The jockey‥receiving information from the trainer as to the peculiarities of his mount.