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Pet names for Poppas

fatherhood

Any reference to the notion of Victorian fatherhood typically brings to mind an image of a distant and sever man. Dr. Julie Marie Strange challenges that image in her new book: Fatherhood and the British Working Class, 1865-1914″ (2015), and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) supports her findings.

Strange found that Victorian fathers were as hands-on as today’s dads, talked about the same way, and had affectionate relationships with their children. Likewise, the OED indicates that more synonyms for “dad” were created during the nineteenth century than at any other point in history.

The long list of Victorian pet names for dads may simply reflect the fact that more words were created during the Victorian Era, or it could be a reflection of a broader trend in the history of fatherhood. Words like “paw” (1826), “governor” (1827), “pop” (1828) and “bap” (1842) sound overwhelmingly affectionate, leading me to conclude that Victorians must have been talking, reflecting, and writing about fatherhood more than ever before.

But this “more than before” aspect is part of the trend, as Strange’s research found that Victorian dads were being praised as “new men” and better parents than their fathers had been, something every generation of fathers has been told since.

Lost for words to describe how you feel about this? A few more synonyms for dad might help.

da (1851) a pet name for dad in the nursery, or around the house

baba (1863) a way to call one’s father, when speaking babytalk

pops (1893) also used to address a jazz musician

poppa (1897) a pet name for your dad, lover, or husband

Whatever your kids call you now, I hope all the dads out there have a happy Father’s Day this weekend.

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday: cursing and swearing

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The fact that English speakers have been using the word ‘fuck,’ since the sixteenth century is part of what inspired the Dictionary of Victorian Insults & Niceties. Yet, like so many other words, it remains taboo.

According to John Ruskin’s explanation, on this Writer’s Quote Wednesday, one might even go so far as to suggest that the F-bomb is both a curse and a swear word. One would be wrong to do so, but one might try. The word is capable of inflicting suffering, as well as (even simultaneously) making a statement, but that doesn’t mean that the word is or invokes a spirit, certainly not from within the religious context of Ruskin’s life.

John Ruskin, like Thomas Carlyle, George Eliot, Robert Browning, and John Henry Newman, was raised as an Evangelical Anglican, and although he abandoned his earlier religious beliefs by 1858, his thought and writing long retained the mark of his early religion. – The Victorian Web

The very notion of cursing has religious roots, though curse words are obviously quite different from curses, or hexes, but, as Ruskin explains both have roots in the unChristian practice of wishing, or inflicting, harm on another person because, according to parts of the Bible, to do so is to act against God.

Likewise, swear words don’t really have anything to do with swearing an oath (which also has religious roots).

The earliest swear words were identical to curse words — taking the Christian God’s name in vain, or speaking of acts that were considered sinful. – Dictionary.com

While the act of cursing is different from the act of swearing, a ‘curse’ and a ‘swear’ are simple synonyms of explicit language. OMG most people don’t consider taking the Lord’s name in vain a curse anymore and a ‘cuss’ is just an early-nineteenth century bastardization of a ‘curse.’

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Baby Cake to Patty Cake

oldcake

If you want to learn about a different culture, learn its language. Even if the language is the same, the time and context of otherwise familiar words can change their meaning. At least, this has been my experience when studying French and German, as well as in my investigation of the late Victorian era. That being said, some people will tell you that if you want to learn about a different culture, you have to eat its food.

Victorians loved their cake. The word cake has Scandinavian roots and, in Middle English, described a flat bread roll. The first thing I find, when searching the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for 19th-century words containing “cake,” is ash-cake, which first appeared in English in 1809 and refers to a cake that is cooked in the ashes of a fire. This recipe was popular in English colonies, where resources were scarce. Looking over that recipe, I think it needs more butter, and then, I want a scone!

Through colonizing the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek People, English-speakers learned to make corn cake, a cake often associated with the American South, which actually belonged to its indigenous people.

“Baby-cake” doesn’t mean what you think it means, but is a seventeenth-century word that was still popular in the nineteenth century and used to describe cakes with a prize baked inside. The prize might be a bean, though I can’t imagine being pleased to find a bean in my cake, but coins were popular hidden treasures as well. I remember my mom baked me a birthday cake like this once when I was a child.

Sponge cake recipes date back to the seventeenth century, but they weren’t called such until one was named after Queen Victoria, who ate them every day! Saturate that cake in alcohol, or cordial, for a chance to use another Victorian word: “tipsy-cake.” If it’s saturated in booze, you’d think it would be properly drunk, but “tipsy” is a more delicate word by a mile.

vanhouten

In 1801, Coenraad Johannes van Houten was born in Amsterdam. He would grow up to be a chemist, who would make chocolate cheaper, saltier, sweeter, and easier to use, introducing Dutch Chocolate to the world and allowing the creation of modern conceptions of chocolate, like chocolate-, or “cocoa-cake,” an 1883 word.

The OED places the coining of the term “pat-a-cake” back to 1883, but, if you view the term as a variation of “Patty Cake,” it goes back to Thomas D’Urfey’s The Campaigners (1698).

Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man, Bake me a cake as fast as you can; Pat it and prick it, and mark it with a B, Put it in the oven for baby and me.

In nineteenth-century American slang, however, “patty cake” referred to the pastry, while “pat-a-cake” described the game played with clapping hands. “Patty cake” might have been used to describe one of America’s greatest inventions, until the term “cupcake” was invented. The first American cookbook writer, Amelia Simmons invented the cupcake with her publication of American Cookery (1796), but Eliza Leslie (also American) coined the term in 1828.

Now, if you will excuse me, I might just go and bake a cake with one of, my friend, Lili’s amazing recipes!

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday: eggcorns wrecking havoc

Hawthorne

Words are wild unpredictable tools. That’s why (no matter how slowly the fundraising is going) I love writing a dictionary. The wild unpredictability of words is why I’ve chosen this Nathaniel Hawthorne quote for Writer’s Quote Wednesday.

Hawthorne is right that words are potent in the hands of those who know how to combine them, but people who know how to use words are like lion tamers because words are still a potent force in the mouths of people who have no idea what they are saying. That’s why we sometimes want to take words back after we’ve said them.

Hawthorne knew this. That’s why he wanted to take his first novel back after he published it. As an older more experienced writer, he no longer felt that Fanshawe (1828) reflected his ability, or his brand, as a writer. Hawthorne went so far as to destroy every copy of the book he could get his hands on. After his death, his wife even denied he had ever written a book by that title.

I also have a first novel that I don’t feel entirely comfortable sharing with the world. It’s a politically-charged drama that was the result of my thesis writing as a student. I only want to write historical fiction now, so I empathize with how Hawthorne must have felt.

On a smaller scale, the wild unpredictability of words causes this kind of embarrassment whenever we have to stand helpless watching an unchecked phrase that we’ve unleashed wreak havoc in the world.

wreak havoc: to cause or effect chaos (1817)

On point, wreak is such a weird word, meaning to cause or effect, as in the definition above. A common eggcorn of the idiom “to wreak havoc” is “to wreck havoc.”

eggcorn: a linguistic term for an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase that also bears a phonetic likeness (1844)

I like to imagine that eggcorn sprung from the use of ear horns, but that’s another story.

eggcorn

The notion of wrecking havoc is so far off of what people are meaning to say with “wreaking havoc” that it actually means the opposite. Havoc means chaosWreak means to causeWreck means to break, or otherwise ruin. Consequently, to wreck chaos would be to end/destroy/break chaos, thereby restoring order.

See why it is so important to know how to combine your words?

Have you ever written/published something you were embarrassed by? Know any good examples of an eggcorn? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Snugified!

snuggly2

It’s the weekend, which means it’s time to grab a nice person, pet, or blanket to curl up with and escape the winter blues for a few days. It turns out there were some great Victorian words for that.

If you ‘snugify’ someone, that means you are making them comfortable. If you make yourself comfortable with them, you are ‘snoozling.’

snoozle v. when napping and cuddling happen simultaneously.

‘Spooning’ is also a Victorian word, though it referred to doing a little more than just curling up on your sides back to front. No… not SEX! But sentimentality. Someone who was overly sentimental in love might be called ‘spoony,’ or a ‘spooner.’

‘Mollycoddle’ is another great Victorian word, though it involves more pampering and less lazing about. It’s kind of like snugifying, but involves extras, like snacks, or whatever the person wants. Mollycoddling is the same as spoiling; it just sounds more Victorian.

Wherever you are, I hope you have someone to snuggle with.

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Catawampous

catawampous

Catwampous is a hysterical word. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) first places it in an 1840 printing of the Spirit of the Times, which was a New York publication. However, lexicographers guess that the word came about as a British lampoon of the way Americans spoke. It has two alternative spellings: ‘cattywampus’ and ‘catawampus,’ which is chiefly American.

There’s something poetic about Americans taking a word that the British used to make fun of them and spelling it differently.

In the OED, the catawampus (with the American spelling) became a fierce imaginary animal, like a crocodile that could fly. If my imagination could magnify the no-see-ums in Florida, they would look like catawampuses.

noseeum2

American dictionaries define the word as askew, awry. Catawampus is messed up. With an O and a British accent it becomes fierce. I recommend it as an intensifier.

Intensifier. a word, especially an adverb, or other linguistic element that indicates, and usually increases, the degree of emphasis or force to be given to the element it modifies, as very or somewhat; intensive adverb.

However, in this case, I still feel it understates how horrible those tiny invisible bugs in Florida are.

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Ten of the Most Romantic Words You Never Knew

Romantic Words

The Dictionary of Victorian Insults & Niceties celebrates the coming of Valentine’s Day by sharing ten of the most romantic words you never knew… or have I too underestimated your vocabulary?

  1. numinous adj. describing an experience that makes you fearful yet fascinated, awed yet attracted; the powerful, personal feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.
  2. serein n. a fine rain falling from a cloudless sky.
  3. cordiform adj. heart-shaped.
  4. eudaimonia n. human flourishing; a contented state.
  5. sweven n. a vision seen in a dream.
  6. selcouth adj., adv., n. (to make or be/the state or characteristic of) unfamiliar, unusual, rare; strange, marvellous, wonderful.
  7. trouvaille n. something lovely that was found by accident.
  8. basorexia n. the overwhelming desire to kiss (this is a medical term).
  9. philocaly n. the love of beauty.
  10. redamancy n. the act of loving someone who loves you; a love returned in full.

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