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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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Mock Turtle Soup and Brain Balls

zombiesoup

Jane Austen’s dearest friend Martha Lloyd once wrote this recipe for mock turtle soup:

Mrs. Fowle’s Mock Turtle Soup:

Take a large calf’s head. Scald off the hair. Boil it until the horn is tender, then cut it into slices about the size of your finger, with as little lean as possible. Have ready three pints of good mutton or veal broth, put in it half a pint of Madeira wine, half a teaspoonful of thyme, pepper, a large onion, and the peel of a lemon chop’t very small. A ¼ of a pint of oysters chop’t very small, and their liquor; a little salt, the juice of two large onions, some sweet herbs, and the brains chop’t. Stand all these together for about an hour, and send it up to the table with the forcemeat balls made small and the yolks of hard eggs.

If you only just skimmed over that quote, you might have missed the part about “the brains chop’t.”

Victorians were crazy for mock turtle soup, which was made from calves’ heads and used actual brains to simulate the texture of turtle meat. The brains were, as Lloyd recommends, chop’t, then formed into balls – called brain balls. Yes, brain balls. I’m not sure which is more revolting to me: the idea of eating a turtle, or the idea of eating brains.

Yet, this was such a popular soup that, in an interview about Campbell’s discontinued soups, Andy Warhol apparently said that their mock turtle (which contained real brain balls) was his favourite.

mockturtlesoup

For more creepy victorian foods, click here.

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Victorian Bicycle Slang

hurdling

A great article in the Atlantic today tells us that Presidents Day in the US was associated with the bicycle craze at the end of the nineteenth century. This late nineteenth-century craze also fuelled the women’s suffrage movement, as women cycled, “wheeled,” and “hurdled” their way across landscapes toward more independent lifestyles.

It’s not difficult to imagine how cycling looked like hurdling to eyes that were seeing it for the first time.

As with any culture craze, a slew of new words were invented to speak of cycling, cyclists, and the things with which they surrounded themselves. Here are a few of my favourites.

1. pedal pusher n. this word might be used to describe the pantaloons worn by early woman cyclists, or the women themselves.

pedalpusher

2. wheelman/woman n. a man/woman who rides a bicycle, or tricycle.

headache

3. century n. a ride of 100 miles in 12 hours, or less.

4. bicycle face n. the mythical and unpleasant physiognomy caused by cycling (also a bit of propaganda used to scare people off of bicycles).

BicycleFace

5. scorcher n. one who cycles furiously.

Scorcher

There’s so much more on scorchers and “scorching” here! Scorchers were also called “road hogs” and “sprinters.” The term “road hog” is still applied to cyclists today, usually by motorists, who occupy much more space on the road.

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Happy Valentine’s Day: Victorian Etiquette Manuals Reinforced Performative Gender Roles

heteronormative

Roses are red/Gender is performative/Mass Market Romance/Is heteronormative

This little gem started circulating throughout my social network last night and I couldn’t be happier.

“Roses are red” gives it a fun Valentine’s Day theme.

The nineteenth century illustrates how performative gender is even if they didn’t know it yet. The Victorian’s obsession with etiquette famously fuelled manuals on how to properly be a lady, or a gentleman.

Look up “homosexual in the OED Historical Thesaurus and the words begin in 1892 with Richard von Kraft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis. Though they didn’t have the language to express it clearly, Victorian England periodically had homophobic heart attacks, as is evidenced in the case of Fanny and Stella, a pair of flamboyant trans-women.

Cross-dressing was popular in the nineteenth century and naturally part of the LGBT community. Yes, although they didn’t use that term for it, nineteenth-century England had an LGBT community. Women, like Fanny and Stella, were called “Mollies,” by people in the know, and could meet kindred spirits by frequenting “Molly Houses.”

Other words that emerged for homosexuals in the 1890s included: “Uranian” and “invert.” It was more polite to call your gay friend a “confirmed bachelor.” My other blog has more on the sexual orientation of men in the 1890s.

Lesbians were female “companions,” as in the case of the best-selling novelist, Marie Corelli, and her female companian, Bertha Vyver. People didn’t generally start worrying much about what lesbians were doing until the 1920s. Though, “Sapphism” became a thing in the eighteenth century. This term originated with the Greek poet Sappho who lived on Lesbos Island. All the terms related to Sappho can be traced through the Victorian Era and Wonder Woman comics.

Mass-market romance is still heteronormative even if gender-neutral terms of endearment have permeated our language throughout history. I’m happy to say that the digital era is making everything more democratic and entertaining. This Valentine depicts love between the Hulk and the Beast (of Beauty and the Beast). I love this one with Catwoman and Wonder Woman, but who doesn’t love Wonder Woman?

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Love Tokens

tokenThis Valentine’s Day, the heroine in the novel you’re writing dutifully cut a lock of her hair and tied it in a bow for her beau. In return, he’s given her some token of his love, but did you know that means he might literally be giving her some token of his love?

Love tokens originated in the 1700s, but were very popular in this sentimental era – especially in the 1880s. The hero in your novel would visit a jeweller, or some other metal worker, and have the coin decorated at the one pictured above. On the reverse, Nellie might find her beau’s initials and the date. To make it more special, Nellie’s beau has included a picture. If he could afford it, he might have embellished her love token further with precious stones, raised enamel, or cut-out designs within the coin.

The tokens might be made of any metal and became souvenirs, or mementos, of a special time. They might be maid out of actual coins, like a nickel or a dime, and they might have a hole punched in them to allow Nellie to wear it on a chain around her neck. The great variety in Victorian love tokens illustrates how they could be given by a beau of any class. One might take a copper coin and engrave it themself.

tokens2

Nineteenth-century Nellie may have given a love token to her best friend, her sister, brother, or any other member of her family. They’re making a comeback and are a popular item on sites that sell handmade goods, like Etsy.

Are you giving someone you love a love token on Valentine’s Day?

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Writer’s Quote Wednesday: Boiled Socks

SocksEmily Gerard was a late-nineteenth century Scottish author, who married a Polish cavalry officer and moved to Transylvania to be with him. This move inspired her most notable work on Transylvanian folklore, which is believed to have greatly influenced Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula.

My Writer’s Quote Wednesday features a proverb from Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest. As she explains, the proverb is rooted in folk magic.

‘Still more infallible [as a love-charm] is to procure a piece of stocking or shoelace of the person you desire to captivate, boil it in water, and wear this token night and day against your heart. This recipe has passed into a proverb, for it is here said of any man known to be desperately in love, that “she must have boiled his stockings,”’ Emily Gerard. The Land Beyond the Forest : Facts, Figures and Fancies from Transylvania (1888).

I’ve chosen the proverb, “she must have boiled his stockings,” as a means to explore the underrated romance of washing your lover’s socks.

Believe it, or not, the romance in washing your lover’s socks is not immediately obvious to everyone! Meet Diane and Ted, a couple portrayed as seeking marriage counselling in John Elderedge’s The Sacred Romance:

‘At this point Diane asked Ted about his deepest desires: “If I could be more of what you wanted in a woman, what do you secretly wish I could offer you?” It’s a question that most men are dying to be asked. His response? Clean Socks. That’s all he could come up with. Life would be better, his marriage would be richer, if Diane would keep his drawer filled with clean socks.’ John Elderedge, “The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God” (1997).

Neither Diane nor the therapist are happy with Ted’s answer. People should want more than clean socks; Ted should want “intimacy and adventure.” I concede that there isn’t much adventure in the romance of clean socks, but the intimacy is clear.

Actively caring for the person you love is an intimate act.

In an average day, how many people see your socks? Some people so seldom show their socks to anyone that they don’t bother to match them and don’t care if their socks are filled with holes. What about the smell? Who would let anyone get close enough to smell those?

Providing someone access to your dirty socks involves trust. Beyond sex, caring for someone is the desire to keep them well, to ensure their happiness. Socks are an intimate and necessary part of our lives, washing them and putting them away in our drawers is something we learn to do for ourselves. When we begin to do that for a significant other (regardless of gender), we become a team that looks out and cares for each other in the most basic way.

It may not, as Gerard’s proverb suggests, indicate that one is “desperately in love,” but it does indicate that one is trying to be a caring partner. Sometimes those little things are the most romantic things we can do for each other and no one likes waking up without clean socks.

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