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Questions tagged [nineteenth-century-english]

For questions about English in the 19th century (1801 to 1900)

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What would actual victorian swears sound like?

Holmes tore it open, and then with a bitter curse hurled it into the grate. With a bitter curse I shook my fist at it as I gazed. “With an oath Miss Winter darted forward, “That will do,” said he, ...
Chiffa's user avatar
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Meanings of "carriage" in Enola Holmes

The following conversation takes place near the beginning of the movie Enola Holmes Mycroft: We didn't send for you silly girl, we sent for the carriage. Did you at least bring it? Enola: The ...
Starlight's user avatar
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2 answers
132 views

What does 'haply' mean in Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale'?

The following line occurs in Keats's poem 'Ode to a Nightingale': And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne It seems to me that 'haply' means either, as Merriam-Webster says, 'by chance', or, ...
EulerSpoiler's user avatar
-1 votes
2 answers
267 views

What does 'pards' mean in Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale'?

John Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale' contains the line "Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,". Away! away! for I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the ...
EulerSpoiler's user avatar
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Was “who’s she, the cat’s grandmother” common in Scotland? [duplicate]

My mother’s retired Scottish nanny, who was born in 1888, and grew up near Ullapool, on Loch Broom, would say this. She also took care of me when I was a child. She would correct me when I spoke of ...
Sassy's user avatar
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5 votes
5 answers
482 views

Origin of the word "blackbirding" for a type of slave trade

I read about blackbirding on Wikipedia and tried to figure out why it is called blackbirding. I could not find anything in that article about its etymology, just this simple introduction: The owners, ...
pipe's user avatar
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28 votes
2 answers
3k views

At a 2:40 rate — slang for high speed

I've run across the phrase "at a 2:40 rate" in mid-19th Century sources. The context suggests that it means "at high speed," but I'd like to know the derivation. If it means a mile ...
Seth Masia's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
96 views

1850s English equivalent to "Ladies and Gentlemen" for introducing an act to a working class crowd?

I'm working on a script for a story set in 1850s London and in it my main characters visit a music hall. I had originally been planning on including some background monologue to the effect of "...
mattihase's user avatar
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2 votes
3 answers
246 views

Meaning of 'purpose' in this passage from Dickens

From A Tale of two Cities, chapter 2: Reins and whip and coachman and guard, however, in combination, had read that article of war which forbade a purpose otherwise strongly in favour of the argument,...
anjan 's user avatar
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1 answer
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"learned" vs. "learnt" in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

I have seen the answers to this question, yet I am not entirely sure how to interpret the difference between "learned" and "learnt" in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice says &...
SwedishOwlSerpent's user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "get on" mean in this sentence from Walden?

In the first chapter of Walden, Thoreau writes: I cannot but perceive that this so-called rich and refined life is a thing jumped at, and I do not get on in the enjoyment of the fine arts which adorn ...
John Smith's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
101 views

'As that they may have the trouble of saying as little as possible'

There is a quote from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which is as follows: “It would look odd to be entirely silent for half an hour together, and yet for the advantage of some, conversation ought ...
Maria's user avatar
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21 votes
4 answers
4k views

In Indian English, did the word 'griffin' ever mean newcomer or novice?

I recently came across a definition in the dictionary Hobson-Jobson. It's basically a big collection of English words and anglicizations used or found in India. The entry that's been stumping me is ...
Florian's user avatar
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7 votes
5 answers
7k views

What do 'flat-chested' and 'unromantic' mean when speaking of a house?

I am quoting from the Return of Sherlock Holmes, The Six Napoleons, by Arthur Conan Doyle: In half an hour we had reached Pitt Street, a quiet little backwater just beside one of the briskest ...
aissam's user avatar
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1 answer
260 views

Who is Augustus De Morgan's "New Zealander"?

Augustus De Morgan's A Budget of Paradoxes (1863–1867) contains several references to an apocryphal "New Zealander," without explanation. What's the in-joke here? I grok from context that ...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
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What does “This might easily be, the house having been long deserted” mean?

This passage is from Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit, chapter 29: There was a fair stroke of business doing, as Mistress Affery made out, for her husband had abundant occupation in his little office, ...
anjan 's user avatar
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30 views

History of "three quarters" as a period of time

With the current political crisis in the UK, I was reading about the history of short-lived administrations on Wikipedia, and came across the Earl of Bath, who tried and failed to set up a government ...
ajd138's user avatar
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1 answer
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Possible reading of a visually obscured word used in Indian newspaper from 1876

I am going through old English speaking newspapers and found the following from a newspaper called "THE PIONEER" that was published in Allahabad, India on August the 11th, 1876: From what I ...
A Dark Divided Gem's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
37 views

Derivation or historical existence of the phrase: "I will do my possible."

I've been reading Georgette Heyer again and find this sentence coming up: "I will do my possible." The Reluctant Widow Chapter 17 “Perhaps. I shall do my possible. You have been troubled ...
Rivah's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
212 views

What is Meant by the Usage of "line", and "resetting" in this Passage from an 1870 Treatise?

I am reading a reprint of, "Caldwell’s Treatise On Hedging, History Of Hedging: Giving A Complete Theory Of Its Culture", written by Joseph A. Caldwell, and first published in 1870, in the ...
LuminousNutria's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
492 views

Meaning of “rubber” in “You might put ME into a Jail, with genteel society and a rubber, and I should never care to come out.”

In David Copperfield, Mrs Markleham: “You might put ME into a Jail, with genteel society and a rubber, and I should never care to come out.” What is the meaning of rubber here?
J Kremer's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
101 views

What is the meaning of "physical character of of the people"?

Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet published the book "Travels in China" in 1804. In Chapter VII. Government—Laws he said It is sufficiently evident, that the heavy hand of power has completely ...
Qiulang 邱朗's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
79 views

What is the meaning of "native" in a seafaring / fishing context?

I stumbled upon the use of the word "native" in a way that I am unfamiliar with / which I don't understand. In The piscatorial atlas of the North Sea the word "Native" is ...
ao1910's user avatar
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6 votes
4 answers
11k views

Who are "bully boys" in sea shanties?

In various sea shanties the term "bully boys" comes up now and again. Here for example in The Wellerman, first verse: There once was a ship that put to sea The name of the ship was the ...
fgysin's user avatar
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0 answers
91 views

Is this “by this time” in “On Liberty” a typo for “at this time”?

Here is a passage from On Liberty, written by J.S. Mill: This mode of thought, or rather perhaps of feeling, was common among the last generation of European liberalism, in the Continental section of ...
user8507985's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
347 views

Looking for a single word for 'not meaning what you say' [closed]

I'm trying to find a word which conveys the meaning that the speaker knowingly uses empty words, or words to a specific effect, that he does not believe in. I have gone through all the possible ...
Diana Lima's user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
349 views

Is "honor is satisfied" correct and have the meaning I think it has?

I'd like to verify the correctness of a verbal statement or phrase that I might have heard or read somewhere but I don't have the source anymore. The context is the conclusion of a duel in the ...
Wabbitseason's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
967 views

Is "harlot" considered to be a derogatory word?

I'm working on a short story based around the Victorian age where the protagonist is a prostitute by profession. I was keen on using the word "harlot" in my title as it not only describes ...
user11845919's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
237 views

Why is there a space in the bowdlerised "L– ." in Jane Eyre?

I have been reading Jane Eyre recently and came across a sentence the other day: ...and away we rattled over the “stony street” of L— . There is a blank between "–" and the full stop, which ...
Sophie's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
34k views

Was "The 'F' Word" in common usage in the 1800s?

I started watching "Deadwood" a few days ago and only got a few minutes into it before I shut it off. The reason I hit the "ejector seat" was that a character in the show used &...
B. Clay Shannon-B. Crow Raven's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
212 views

Addressing a person by occupation

In Dorothy Gladys “Dodie” Smith’s 1956 children’s novel, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, the author writes: But though you can call a cook ‘Cook’, the one thing you cannot call a butler is ‘Butler’ ...
Leon Conrad's user avatar
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0 votes
0 answers
52 views

Usage of "see" in English 1800s, stereotype or real?

When people are jokingly imitating how those in the 1800's USA are speaking they often use "see" at the end of a sentence instead of at the beginning like we might do so now. An example ...
joshx1's user avatar
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2 votes
3 answers
189 views

Olden pejorative/word for a "fancy-pants"

What word would someone around the era of the Wild West (1850) use to describe a "posh fancy-pants"? I see that "fancy-pants" first known usage was in the twentieth century, so it'...
A. Kvåle's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
80 views

19th-century phrasing: Her sympathy was ours

The following is an extract from Frankenstein; I'd like to know what the clause in bold means. Does it have anything to do with being saintly? Does the word sympathy refer to a two-way or one-way ...
Apollyon's user avatar
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0 votes
0 answers
40 views

"Knave upon the Cross" and lines by Edward Bulwer-Lytton origin

My great-grandfather included the lines below in an entry in his Civil War diary dated 4/17/1863 to note the 6th Corps of the Army of the Potomac added a white cross to their hats. I believe it's by ...
Kathy Bell's user avatar
0 votes
0 answers
30 views

"his" usage in Victorian English [duplicate]

From Pride and Prejudice: “My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.” What is the function of "his" in this ...
Amazing's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
547 views

What is the meaning of the sentence "I'll serve you out" from Dickens' Great Expectations?

In Chapter 18, Mr Wopsle is at the Three Jolly Bargemen, giving his audience a theatrical rendition of a murder case as reported in the newspaper: The victim faintly moaned, "I'm done for," and the ...
JoyRLee's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
60 views

What did daughters (roughly 19 and 11) affectionately call their mothers in the 19th century (1883ish)?

I'm writing a short historical fiction essay on Mercy Brown and family, and was wondering what Mary Brown (19) and Mercy (11) would have called her while she was on her death bed with consumption. ...
Aubrey's user avatar
  • 11
3 votes
5 answers
5k views

Where does 'talking through your hat' come from?

I've looked it up on phrases.org.uk, which gives the following quote as the first usage: This began life in the USA, in the late 19th century, with a slightly different meaning from the present one....
marcellothearcane's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
229 views

What does Scandinavian Home mean? Late XIX, early XX century. Great Britain

Joseph Conrad, "The Nigger Of The "Narcissus": A Tale Of The Forecastle": the two young Norwegians looked tidy, meek, and altogether of a promising material for the kind ladies who patronise the ...
P. Vowk's user avatar
  • 539
0 votes
1 answer
63 views

Difference Between "letter" and "paper in 19th century English

Recently, I found a civil war journal of a family member of mine who fought and eventually died for the North in the US Civil War. He notes what he receives from home, and he talks about receiving ...
user avatar
13 votes
3 answers
3k views

Is "Who art" correct?

I came across these lines in a hymn: Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,Which wert and art, and ever more shalt be. I noticed that "wert", "art", and "shalt" were used with the subject ...
ElliotThomas's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Ad­dress­ing boys and girls dif­fer­ently in (Vic­to­rian?) English schools

In Jane Eyre by Char­lotte Brontë I read: “Burns” (such it seems was her name: the girls here were all called by their sur­names, as boys are else­where)... So my ques­tion is: were there (or ...
v_2e's user avatar
  • 201
0 votes
2 answers
3k views

What does "d-d" mean? Possible 19th century profanity?

I have several quotes of late-19th-century speech (by British men) which use the abbreviation "d-d" for a word. I'm not sure what it means, but from the context I assume this is profanity of some sort....
J-J's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
34 views

What did it once mean to "get up" a chapter of history?

In John Henry Newman's article (circa 1854) entitled Discipline of Mind, he writes "what a lesson in memory and discrimination it is to get up, as it is called, any one chapter of history" What ...
Doubt's user avatar
  • 419
-1 votes
1 answer
83 views

What does this Victorian sentence mean?

Talking about guns and shooting in the 19th century what does the following mean? I have seen no good shots among them ; and they look on a shot flying as a great performance.
M Dean's user avatar
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-1 votes
1 answer
151 views

What does John Stuart Mill mean when writing the following: [closed]

Those who admit any limit to what a government may do, except in the case of such governments as they think ought not to exist, stand out as brilliant exceptions among the political thinkers of ...
Brook93's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
5k views

Was Zink ever valid spelling for Zinc?

On the Genealogy & Family History Stack Exchange I asked What might 'pitt Zink' in 1873 South Australian diary mean? and the first answer I received more or less aligns with my thinking that Zink ...
PolyGeo's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
126 views

"Boards are made of wood; they are long and narrow."

What is the origin of the English phrase "Boards are made of wood; they are long and narrow.", and what is its general connotation? I just ran across this quotation in Edward Everett Hale's The Brick ...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
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0 votes
2 answers
2k views

Help me undersand what Emily Dickinson means in this letter [closed]

From Dickinson's correspondence with Thomas Higginson: I smile when you suggest that I delay "to publish" -- that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin. If fame belonged to me, I ...
gia's user avatar
  • 9