Say What?

“It seems to me that once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to.” ~ Thornton Wilder, OUR TOWN

I’m getting ready to leave for the Netherlands today, and I’ve been assured that I’ll find plenty of people in Holland who speak English very well, but Mrs. Gibbs wistful statement from the wonderful play OUR TOWN has always resonated with me. (She never did get to travel, BTW. A tragedy for one who quietly wished for it so ardently.)

I’ve always been impressed with how many Europeans are bi-lingual, but sometimes, we Americans have enough difficulty understanding English. Language changes constantly. Witness the evolution of slang. As soon as most people understand the newest jargon, it changes in order exclude some and include others in the communication.

It’s always been so. Historical slang is just as bewildering as the latest string of letters being used as shorthand by teenage texters. Try some of these Regency and Victorian sayings for example:

Pockets to let ~ out of money

Become leg-shackled ~ to get married

Make a cake of one’s self ~ make a fool of one’s self

Barking irons ~ dueling pistols

Cock up one’s toes ~ to die

on dits ~ gossip, literally, they say

Niddicock ~ not a bright person

Bit of muslin ~ a woman of easy virtue. Also synonymous with bachelor fare, barque of frailty, Bird of Paradise, convenient, Cyprian,Demi-rep, game pullet, lady-bird, light-skirt, Paphian, peculiar, prime article, trollop, and wanton. With so many ways to describe them, it’s obvious these women were the talk of the town!

When I use slang in my stories, I try to put it in a context that makes it easy for readers to figure out. Without context, slang can be incomprehensible. For example, what do you think it means to draw someone’s claret?

No Googling. Leave your guess in the comment section. I’ll post the correct answer tomorrow.

Have fun!

11 thoughts on “Say What?

  1. librarypat says:

    I was familiar with most of the ones you listed, but this one had me stumped. I thought quot;draw bloodquot;, but figured that was a bit vampirish. Never thought of a punch in the nose. Effective in drawing blood.

  2. MiaMarlowe says:

    Great guesses! So many were very close. To quot;draw someone#39;s claretquot; means to give them a bloody nose in a fist fight.

  3. Teddyree says:

    I#39;m going with to draw blood. Enjoy your trip to the Netherlands :)

  4. Carol L. says:

    It#39;s a toss up between pouring them some wine or drawing blood. I#39;ll go with wounding them and drawing blood. :)Have a safe and Happy trip.Take pictures :)br /Carol /

  5. Saranna DeWylde says:

    Have a great trip! br /br /I love quot;Brit-pickingquot; no matter what era it comes from. :)

  6. MiaMarlowe says:

    Some great guesses here. Of course I won#39;t tell the ansqer till tomorrow. We#39;re inDC waiting for our flight across the Pond in about an hour ttys

  7. Refhater says:

    My guess for quot;draw someone#39;s claretquot; is to call their bluff. br /br /~Joelle

  8. Barbara Britton says:

    I#39;ll guess to brush someone#39;s hair.

  9. Heather D says:

    my guess is to pour someone wine.

  10. Linda Henderson says:

    I#39;m going to say it#39;s to make someone /br /seriousreader at live dot com

  11. Nynke says:

    Drawing someone#39;s claret? Sounds like it might be about killing or wounding someone… Unless it#39;s about actually stealing their red wine :).br /br /(PS please don#39;t include me in the draw!)

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