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Are You Familiar With Regency-Era Slang?
Oh la: there are few things on this fine planet so divine as Regency-era slang. This period in history was distinguished by men obsessed with good form, women obsessed with flitting their fans, and a leisure class obsessed with keeping itself amused.
Imagine a sizable group of wealthy, landed English people. Now, imagine all of the social events they had. Imagine the London season, and all the related balls, visits, assignations, and copious amounts of conversation.
These are optimal conditions for the creation of slang.
Let's have a look at some of the Regency era's best hits, shall we? I've collected my personal favorites from classics such as The Scarlet Pimpernel, various Jane Austen masterpieces, and some contemporarily written, but well-researched, historical fiction novels set in the period.
I might delve into some terms and phrases that were popular before 1811 as well. Honestly, everything going on, culture-wise, from 1790-1820 was pretty awesome, so let's not alienate anything simply because it was not in vogue when George IV was Prince Regent.
Eh Wot? / Eh... what?
This is one of my favorites.
Typically uttered by pompous, posh men, "eh, wot?" was the Regency era equivalent to "you know?" or "Right?" (the word "wot" means "to know") and is used in the same sort of conversational context.
Here are some modern use examples:
- The Colbert Report was hilarious last night, eh wot?
- He's got a fine backside, eh wot?
- Nasty cell phone reception out here, eh wot?
A word of caution to the enthusiastic: "eh wot" is highly addictive, and its users have a tendency to overdo it. Keep this term in check.
See it in action!
La! / La, Sir!
It seems like "la" was the Regency equivalent of the Valley Girl "like" - not in usage and meaning, but in the sense that it was often overused as a sort of verbal crutch by airheaded (or seemingly airheaded) or flirtatious young women.
La, simply put, is an exclamation. Close modern equivalents include god, jeez, dude, man, gosh, wow, and golly (and yes, I am trying to bring back golly, so it's totally modern!).
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"La" can fit in splendidly with modern language. Observe:
- Oh la, Shirley, you are such a slut!
- La, Officer... I was just borrowing it.
- Oh la, don't be silly. It's not broken. It's just different!
See? Very modern! Though I do invite you to invoke the classic "La, sir, you are so droll!" whenever you like.
"Faith," used as an exclamation, plays a similar role as "la," but is typically used to express a greater sense of wonderment. Similar modern equivalents include "my goodness" and "dang."
Here are some examples of "faith" in action:
- Faith, that dog is gassy.
- Faith, what a phone bill I've got this month.
Use your imagination! This is a relatively easy word to play with.
Zooks is a mild, exclamatory oath that emerged in the 17th century. It's the shortened version of gadzooks, which could be a word for God's hooks (e.g. the nails used to pin Jesus to the cross). So essentially, when one says "zooks," one is saying hooks. Which is hilarious.
Some examples to get you started:
- Zooks! Did you see how many sweaters he was wearing!
- Zooks! I hope you can get the rabies shots in time.
- Zooks! You paid how much for that watch??
The word "deuced" refers to rolling a two in dice, which is the lowest possible score one might get. For this reason, the word is used to refer to things of less-than-ideal luck and generally has the same meaning as "damned" or "cursed."
Here's the word in action:
- I couldn't get off that deuced buss soon enough. It smelled like armpit plus Abercrombie on a Friday night.
- That deuced idiot tried to give me a full-fat latte. Like I couldn't tell.
- That deuced ferret had it in for me all along.
References to "bad form" are all colors of fabulous. They're the old-timey equivalent of FAIL, which has become one of the most celebrated slang words of the late naughts!
"Bad form" is additionally the 19th Century equivalent of "not cool, dude" and "party fowl!" So feel free to use it in the exact same manner. You might also use it as a stand-alone exclamation to express indignation!
- Bad form, dude.
- Oooooh. Bad form!
- He got mint chip ice cream all over my bed. Bad form.
Mix and Match!
Feel free to mix and match all the above slang words as you like. They go quite well together:
- La, shirley, that deuced cat of yours isn't a human! Faith! You need a hobby.
- Zooks, Chuck! You know it's bad form to pee in public, eh wot?
Be creative! You're more than welcome to add new, modern spins on these old gems. The most important thing is that you have fun. Get to it!
Stacy Birch on April 03, 2020:
Bad form didn’t see your picture at the top, faith I need to pay more attention.
Stacy birch on April 03, 2020:
Bad form to craft your entire article on someone else’s YouTube.
Jennifer Mugrage from Columbus, Ohio on February 19, 2017:
La! Your research is fabulous, and Faith, the modern examples are terrific.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 16, 2015:
This was pretty darn interesting, Simone. Thanks for sharing and voted up!
HowdyHo on December 28, 2013:
The phrase bad form was pretty common in my household growing up e.g. " use your knife and fork to eat your spaghetti! It's bad form!" Or "it's bad form to not write thank you letters!" Or "Quit sulking, it's bad form!". You definitely make it sound more fun!
Jennifer Vasquez from Long Beach, CA on September 14, 2013:
Oh La, I'm taking a Jane Austen course and must share this with my classmates, eh wot! I first came across the "oh la" expression in Sense and Sensibility. Love the hub!
Gail from Small Town Tennessee on March 17, 2013:
Very funny! :-) I can see easily slipping these into my everyday conversation.
HubPages from San Francisco, CA on February 01, 2013:
Oh, I HAVE!!! Love them, especially the audiobook versions. Have read most multiple times. ;)
Saire Schwartz on January 28, 2013:
Regency era novels? Try The Pink Carnation novels by Lauren Willig. You won't be disappointed.
Rachel Vega from Massachusetts on November 30, 2012:
How in the zooks did it take me so deuced long to see this? Simone, you rock!
opiningminion on April 19, 2012:
You are killer. This is hilarious!
Michael Leddy on March 28, 2012:
I found myself typing “eh wot?” today and decided that I had to learn more. Thanks for this funny compendium of words and sample sentences.
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on October 13, 2011:
I say is this hub good ton? Excellent overview of some Regency slang - Georgette Heyer uses it to very good effect in all her novels
JSParker from Detroit, Michigan on October 06, 2011:
hahahahahah! This is SO good. I loved your video! I like to read your hubs just to get my writing juices going. Thank you so much.
Rehana Stormme on September 27, 2011:
Faith! It's always great reading original hubs that tickle yer funny bone, eh wot?! Hahaha, loved this hub! Voted up and funnyyy!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 26, 2011:
Yeah, Jeff Berndt. Mighty is a wonderful word!! Let's bring "mighty" and "key" BACK!!!
And you're SO RIGHT, Cloverleaf! My bad is a definite cousin of bad form! Though usually bad form is used to refer to someone else, whereas my bad is more of an excuse one makes for one's own gaffe.
You rock, jboland. That. Is. Hilarious.
jboland from Chico, CA on September 23, 2011:
Funny story: I had a boss (whom I very much disliked) that used to say "My bad" (when he made a mistake, which happened all too often), but he thought the saying was "My bag." I never corrected him.
Cloverleaf from Calgary, AB, Canada on September 23, 2011:
Do you think that "my bad" might be another new version of "bad form"? I love these old slang phrases, it's interesting to see how they've changed over the years.
Voting up and interesting!
Jeff Berndt from Southeast Michigan on September 23, 2011:
Heh, you're probably right, Simone. I like "key" as well, but my personal favorite is "mighty," as an adjective, not an intensifier, as in: "This article of yours is mighty!"
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 23, 2011:
I do, too, prairieprincess! I just can't get enough Regency into my life. It's so fab!
To be honest Jeff Berndt, I think people already do.
Hehee, thanks so much Lalulinho!!
OOH! Ripping! Nice one, Robwrite!! I should definitely add to this overview. So many good vintage slang words out there, eh wot?
Hehee, isn't it an awesome phrase, Robin??? I had never thought about the Canadian spin to it though... now *I'm* giggling! Also, I love "key". I'm going to have to take that for a spin!
I really do hope that some snooty snobs still use these words, Nell Rose. And I hope more will do so soon!
You. Are. Awesome, drbj. And I am certainly of that opinion, though "ya think" does have an excellent ring to it when delivered sarcastically.... hehee!
drbj and sherry from south Florida on September 22, 2011:
Zooks, Mrs. Brooks, looks like you were hooked by that crooked cook selling his fraudulent book.
Thanks, Simone, for this new, to me, lexicon of expressions. Eh wot, has so much more class than ya think?
Nell Rose from England on September 22, 2011:
Hi, brilliant! lol I actually believe some of the snooty snobs in England probably still use them! one of my favorite is 'by gad sir, you are a cad!' really funny, cheers nell
Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on September 22, 2011:
This Hub made me laugh out loud multiple times! My favorite is the eh wot! It reminds me of my Canadian neighbors who always say eh at the end of every sentence! They are living up to the stereotype! I remember in Junior High the thing to say was "key" instead of cool. Your Hub is so key!
Rob from Oviedo, FL on September 22, 2011:
Ripping! Nicely researched. I'm sure there are plenty more. I'd like to hear some others.
Lalulinho on September 22, 2011:
A simply capital hub!
Jeff Berndt from Southeast Michigan on September 22, 2011:
D'you reckon that in about a hundred years, people will be romanticizing the social conventions of Ivy League college students?
Sharilee Swaity from Canada on September 22, 2011:
Faith, I loved this and Oh la, you are so very creative, my dear! Such a cool and interesting read, especially since I love anything from that era, anyway. Zooks!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 22, 2011:
Thank you asmaiftikhar!
After reading the Scarlet Pimpernel, I was reminded of all the great Regency-era words I love- and hence had to write this Hub! The fun thing about these words is that one need not bandy them about intelligently at all. They're slang words, and as such, are inherently informal. Gotta love that, eh wot?
50 Caliber from Arizona on September 22, 2011:
Aye, yet another original topic, Simone, where do these come to you from? I enjoyed this one and will have to check out a bit of further use to be able to throw them about intelligently,smiles, Dusty
asmaiftikhar from Pakistan on September 22, 2011:
simone that is really a useful ,beautiful and interesting hub.That is bascially the unique gem of your unique mind.thanks a lot for sharing this information.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on September 21, 2011:
Glad you enjoyed it, missolive!! Thanks!!
LearnFromMe - Peter Pan also served as my inroduction to 'bad form', although it was from the book, not Hook, that I first became familiar with the phrase. Oh, how I love it! I'm very intrigued by 'Hayna or no' - thanks for giving me something new to poke at!
That you embarrass your daughter out of amusement is actually excellent good form, Becky Katz. Well played!
La, jboland. Thank you ever so!
Isn't the etymology of zooks fascinating, FloraBreenRobison? I'm so pleased to hear you occasionally use "bad form" - it's splendid!
I cannot thank you enough for your fabulous pronounciation notes, Jeff. Hahaa, I wish I had known them sooner! I've been saying (and hearing) zooks incorrectly for quite some time! Looks like a bunch of us are going by the spelling instead of the origins! It makes perfect sense, now that you bring it up. Thank you!!
Jeff Berndt from Southeast Michigan on September 21, 2011:
Fun hub! If I might add a pronunciation note? "'Zooks" or "Gadzooks" should have the short-o sounds of "hooks" or "crooks," not the long-o sound of "spooks" or "dukes."
Likewise, "Zounds" being short for "God's Wounds," should have the long-o sound of "wounds" or "spoons" not the diphthong we hear in "sounds" or "frowns."
Voted up and interesting!
FloraBreenRobison on September 21, 2011:
I actually use the term Bad Form from time to time. When I am feeling pedantic I use "eh, wot!" I remember reading "deuced" a lot in books. I never knew the meaning of "Zooks!" before.
jboland from Chico, CA on September 21, 2011:
Zooks, this hub isn't bad form at all.
Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on September 21, 2011:
La, this was a cute hub. Zooks just sounds like a fun word to use. I can see my daughter is going to accuse me of having 'deuced bad form', instead of telling me that I am embarrassing her(I embarrass her because it is funny). I am a terrible person sometimes.
LearnFromMe on September 21, 2011:
La, this is hilarious! I remember 'bad form' from the movie Hook with Robin Williams... "Bad form, Peter", I believe. Golly should certainly come back as a modern term. And "Eh, wot?" reminds me of "Hayna or no?" from the coalmining time period.
Great hub! Voted up!
Marisa Hammond Olivares from Texas on September 21, 2011:
Love this! I have a few co-workers that I am sending this to
Interesting Hub and topic :)