Showing posts with label Victorian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Victorian. Show all posts

Feb 5, 2016

Victorian Words

The Victorians had much influence on common terms - The avoidance of plain terms for bodily parts commonly is associated with the prudery of our Victorian ancestors though many of the evasions predate Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne in 1837.

People started saying darn instead of damn, to employ dashes (d – – –) when writing the harsher word, to perspire instead of sweat, to wear unmentionables  instead of trousers and breeches, to have stomachaches instead of bellyaches, to use nude rather than naked when referring to human figures in painting and sculpture, and to be laid to rest, not buried in a cemetery.

The taboo on breast was so strong that it was replaced by bosom in many contexts during the following century. Decorative breast knots on dresses became bosom knots, breast pins became bosom pins, and even otherwise earthy English farmers were known to refer to the breast, or forward part of the moldboard of a plow, as its bosom.

Most likely, the reluctance to say breast also explains why William Congreve’s line in The Mourning Bride, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,” is often misquoted as “Music has charms to soothe a savage beast.”

Jul 27, 2012


This unpleasant term is used these days to refer to an immoral or sexually promiscuous woman, but the origin of the term had a more innocuous meaning. It actually meant a woman who did not keep her room tidy. Another early meaning was kitchen maid or drudge. Only later did it begin to mean immorality of a sexual type. In Thomas Hoccleve’s 1402 Letter to Cupid, “The foulest slutte of al a toune.”

In Victorian English, sluts wool referred to the little piles of dust that gather on the floor if it was not swept.