Regency and Research

Glossary of Wacky Words I Love (And Use)

This week’s post is technically just about the Regency Period. Instead, I wanted to provide a brief glossary of words I enjoy, and which I use (sometimes to the confusion of others).  Please forgive my definitions, as any mistakes are certainly my own.

Bow Street – reference to the Bow Street Runners or Bow Street offices, which were formed in the late eighteenth century and disbanded by 1827 with the arrival of the London Metropolitan Police. They were somewhere between a private detective company, thief-takers, and formed one of the primary methods of crime investigation prior to Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police.

breeches – a type of men’s clothing, these were often a very tight pair of pants (guess skinny jeans have brought that back), and if “knee-breeches” came just below the knee, often help up with bracing. Black breeches were an essential part of formal attire for a good portion of the Regency era, especially in more conservative settings, before thankfully being replaced by black trousers (thanks to the style of Beau Brummel).

chocolate house – chocolate finally reached England in the 1650s, and the cost meant it was a treat only for the wealthy. There were shops dedicated to serving this as a beverage (the drink formed from blocks of solid cocoa), served alongside ale, beer, snacks, and coffee. One of the most famous Gentleman’s Clubs, White’s, originated as a chocolate house when it first opened in 1693.

flip – a hearty drink consisting of beer plus some variety of stronger alcohol mixed with sugar than energized by a red-hot iron thrust into the middle of it.

gold sovereign – not just gold-painted royalty (sorry, couldn’t resist), this was a description for a one pound coin, a decent amount of money at the time.

greatcoat – although this can reference other types of men’s clothing, when I use it in  a Regency setting this refers to a multi-caped long coat (with sleeves, it wasn’t a cape) that was an essential in most Regency bucks wardrobes. This is a generic term, describing coats that were long and room, had big pockets, and were usually waterproof (handy in London).

hell – in Regency terms, this could refer to both the Christian hell, and a place of gaming and vice, that is, a “gaming hell.”

rake – not useful for clearing leaves, this was a slang term for men during the Regency (a shortened form of “rakehell”) who were known for their vices, especially seducing and bedding numerous women. From this reputation, despite the modern romantic connotations, I suspect they were also rife with various STDs.

sidhe – in the most basic of terms, a fairy. Pronounced “see-lee.” This harkens back to mythology and different groups of fairies, amongst them the Tuatha, and you had the “seelie” and “unseelie” court.

The Watch – Another form of law enforcement / prevention in England and London.  These were men who were on guard to “watch” for crime and take reports of fires and other crime when it came to them in their watch-boxes, positioned throughout London. While they had a reputation for being inept and essentially useless, there were some men within the Watch who were very effective at their duty.

topper – another slang term used to describe a beaver hat, ie the classic black top hat.

über – actually a German word, but used in informal English as a prefix usually for emphasis. It means above, over, or across, but can also be meant as the best, ultimate, superiority or excess.

So what about you – any favorite words? What about those that people confuse or misunderstand all the time? Do share, so then we won’t make the same mistake!

Thanks for reading, and wishing you a fantastic week.

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